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Water Scarcity May Add to Instability in Africa, Kufuor Says

The worsening problem of water scarcity may contribute to political instability in sub-Saharan Africa, said John Kufuor, the head of a World Bank-affiliated effort to improve living conditions in poor countries.

“People migrate to find water anywhere if there’s a scarcity situation,” Kufuor, a former president of Ghana who now leads the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, said today in an interview in Washington. “People have fought wars to access water,” he said. The organization includes more than 30 developing countries, the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Competition for water in the next decade will fuel instability in parts of Africa, South Asia and the Middle East that are important to U.S. national security, according to a U.S. intelligence report released last month. Nations will be more likely to use water as a bargaining chip in international negotiations, according to the report.

Kufuor, 73, received the World Food Prize in 2011 for his work to alleviate hunger in Ghana, the West African nation that he led from 2001 to 2009. Water supplies and sanitation conditions may be more important than food security in poorer countries partly because of the public-health risks they pose in growing urban areas, he said.

The sanitation and water partnership meets at the World Bank every two years.

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