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How poor water management contributes to the rise of terrorism

The rise of Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram is inextricably linked to poor water management, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General told attendees at the opening of World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, this week.

Amina J. Mohammed, who was previously the Nigerian Minister of Environment and Chair of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, said she has seen firsthand the connection between environmental degradation, poverty and violence.

Lake Chad, whose basin covers parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, once provided food and economic opportunities to nearly 30 million people. The lake has shrunk by 90% since the 1960s, disrupting everything from trade routes to agriculture and fishing.

This has affected food security and health, and caused poverty by taking away farmers’ livelihoods.

“Taken together, all these factors have contributed to increased insecurity in a region already affected by violent extremism,” Mohammed said.

“I believe the rise of Boko Haram is inextricably linked with poor water management. And the solution to conflict in the region must include equitable ways of using water resources.”

This includes implementing better policies and working together to distribute risk. For example, the African Risk Capacity helps African nations share the economic impacts of severe drought. Participating countries pay an insurance premium into a pool and receive a payout when they need it.

With 40% of people around the world affected by water scarcity, and over two billion people forced to drink unsafe water, Mohammed urged World Water Week attendees to come up with creative solutions to address the Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to clean water and sanitation.

“There is sufficient fresh water in the planet to secure clean and accessible water for all. The current challenges have to do more with our failure to deliver the right policies and incentives,” she said.

“It is time to bring together fragmented policies, coordinating our efforts and collaborating to meet the central pledge of the 2030 Agenda: to leave no one behind.”