Climate Change, Migration, Health and Hygiene – Adapting to a WATer-SCARCE future WatScarce

Project summary

The UN estimates that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in places with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be facing water stress. This lack of water is likely to cause an increase in diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases. In addition, Climate Change disruption of people's livelihoods is forcing millions to migrate from rural areas to seek a better life in low-income areas of large cities.

Bangladesh is one of the worst affected countries by climate extremes, and people’s health is heavily affected as a result. In Dhaka alone, the annual half a million new migrants moving from rural areas have to compete with more than 15 million people over diminishing groundwater resources, with water levels sinking 2-3 meters per year.

Until recently, we thought we had a good understanding of the transmission routes of pathogens related to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and simple interventions could prevent diarrheal diseases. However, rigorous randomized trials of household WASH showed no effects on linear growth, and only one study showed a modest impact on pediatric diarrhea. Thus, the complex interplay between these various factors is still not fully understood, and a holistic and interdisciplinary WASH approach integrating One Health is needed for households, especially in low-income countries, in order to adapt to a future impacted by Climate Change.

WatScarce will study 450 households of new migrants and “old” residents in an informal urban settlement on the outskirts of Dhaka. Using the direct impacts of the water-stressed realities as proxies for a Climate Changed future, we can study how people cope and adapt to a changing environment. Watscarce focuses not only on extreme events such as droughts and floods but also on the everyday realities of households experiencing water stress. With an interdisciplinary approach and methodology, as well as developing strategies for Climate Change adaptation and policy recommendations, the Watscarce project will aim to alleviate the strain on communities suffering the most due to Climate Change.

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