Equilibrium & Sustainability

Solving water insecurity could be key to global hunger crisis: study

FILE – Young girls pull containers of water during a drought as they return to their huts from a well in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya on, May 12, 2022. Better climate-related research and early weather warning systems are needed as extreme weather — from cyclones to drought — continues to inflict the African continent, said the Sudanese billionaire and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, who heads up his own foundation. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

People who have trouble obtaining water resources are nearly three times more likely to face food insecurity than those who have reliable access to hydration, a new study has found.

This strong link between water and food insecurity suggests that improving access to water could be instrumental in solving the global food crisis, according to the study, presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting on Tuesday

Dependable access to water is crucial not only to hydration but also to cooking, farming and hygiene, the authors stressed. More than two-thirds of people who were water insecure in 2020 were also experiencing food insecurity, they noted.

“Water insecurity is a major global health issue and its impact on biological and social well-being is only likely to grow with climate change,” Hilary Bethancourt, a research associate at Northwestern University, said in a statement released ahead of the presentation.

About one-tenth of the global population is suffering from hunger, while nearly a third is facing food insecurity, according to the authors.

To draw their conclusions, Bethancourt and her colleagues analyzed data collected in 2020 by Northwestern University and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The data was taken from a sample group of more than 31,000 people ages 15 and older in 25 low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

They found that about 18 percent of participants were classified as water insecure — ranging from about 15 percent in Asia to more than 34 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

The occurrence of water and food insecurity presented a strong link overall, according to the study. The authors acknowledged, however, that this relationship varied from region to region — which they attributed to differences in climate, social services and water infrastructure.

“These data suggest that we have seen just the tip of the iceberg of understanding the role that water insecurity plays in food, nutrition and well-being in general,” Bethancourt said.

Although the study did not evaluate the root causes of this linkage, the researches hypothesized that several factors could be playing a role.

The need to spend money on water could mean fewer funds for food, while water insecurity could also reduce resources for crop irrigation, the authors suggested. If considerable travel is required to acquire water, less time and income might be available for food preparation, they added.

Based on their results, the researchers stressed the importance of measuring and addressing food and water insecurity in tandem in the future. Doing so, they explained, could help ensure that deficiencies in water supplies do not pose an added obstacle to achieving food security.

“In some cases, the most sustainable way to improve food security may be through improving water security,” Bethancourt said.

Tags American Society of Nutrition water management water resources water shortages
See all Hill.TV See all Video