1.2 BILLION PEOPLE FACE WATER SCARCITY AFRICA
Water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one-quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).
Water scarcity is among the main problems to be faced by many societies and the World in the 21ST century. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and, although there is no global water scarcity as such, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water, meaning that we should not rule out the possibility of global water shortage.
Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.
As of 2006, one-third of all nations suffered from clean water scarcity, but Sub-Saharan Africa had the largest number of water-stressed countries of any other place on the planet and of an estimated 800 million people who live in Africa, 300 million live in a water-stressed environment. According to findings presented at the 2012 Conference on “Water Scarcity in Africa: Issues and Challenges”, it is estimated that by 2030, 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will be living in areas of high water stress, which will likely displace anywhere between 24 million and 700 million people as conditions become increasingly unlivable.
The most immediately apparent impact of water scarcity in Africa is in the continent’s health. With a complete lack of water, humans can only live up to 3 to 5 days on average. This often forces those living in water-deprived regions to turn to unsafe water resources, which, according to the World Health Organization, contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases including typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery and diarrhea, and to the spread of diseases such as malaria whose vectors rely on such water resources, and can lead to diseases such as trachoma, plague, and typhus. Additionally, water scarcity causes many people to store water within the household, which increases the risk of household water contamination and incidents of malaria and dengue fever spread by mosquitos. These waterborne diseases are not usually found in developed countries because of sophisticated water treatment systems that filter and chlorinate water, but for those living with less developed or non-existent water infrastructure, natural, untreated water sources often contain tiny disease-carrying worms and bacteria. Although many of these waterborne sicknesses are treatable and preventable, they are nonetheless one of the leading causes of disease and death in the world. Globally, 2.2 million people die each year from diarrhea-related disease, and at any given time fifty percent of all hospital beds in the world are occupied by patients suffering from water-related diseases. Infants and children are especially susceptible to these diseases because of their young immune systems, which leads to elevated infant mortality rates in many regions of Africa. Water scarcity has a big impact on hygiene.
When infected with these waterborne diseases, those living in African communities suffering from water scarcity cannot contribute to the community’s productivity and development because of a simple lack of strength. Additionally, individual, community and governmental economic resources are sapped by the cost of medicine to treat waterborne diseases, which takes away from resources that might have potentially been allocated in support of food supply or school fees. Also, in term of governmental funding, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) estimates that in Sub-Saharan Africa, treatment of diarrhea due to water contamination consumes 12% of the country’s health budget. With better water conditions, the burden on healthcare would be less substantial, while a healthier workforce would stimulate economic growth and help alleviate the prevalence of poverty.
AGRICULTURE & HUMAN CONSUMPTION
The Human Development Report reports that human use of water is mainly allocated to irrigation and agriculture. In developing areas, such as those within Africa, agriculture accounts for more than 80% of water consumption. This is due to the fact that it takes about 3,500 liters of water to produce enough food for the daily minimum of 3,000 calories, and food production for a typical family of 4-24 which is typical in the northern region of Nigeria, West Africa, takes a daily amount of water equivalent to the amount of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Because the majority of Africa remains dependent on an agricultural lifestyle and 80% to 90% of all families in rural Africa rely upon producing their own food, water scarcity translates to a loss of food security. At this point, with less than a third of the continent’s potential using irrigation most of rural African communities are not tapping into their irrigation potential, and according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa and New Partnership for Africa’s Development, “irrigation is key to achieving increased agricultural production that is important for economic development and for attaining food security”. The doubling of Africa’s irrigated land is currently high on many political agendas, which can potentially be addressed through markets, commodity selection, ownership, land tenure, reliable water storage, and international agreements.
But for many regions, there is a lack of financial and human resources to support infrastructure and technology required for proper crop irrigation. Because of this, the impact of droughts, floods, and desertification is greater in terms of both African economic loss and human life loss due to crop failure and starvation. Additionally, lack of water causes many Africans to use wastewater for crop growth, causing a large number of people to consume foods that can contain chemicals or disease-causing organisms transferred by the wastewater. Thus, for the extremely high number of African areas suffering from water scarcity issues, investing in development means sustainably withdrawing from clean freshwater sources, ensuring food security by expanding irrigation areas, and effectively managing the effects of climate change.
WOMEN SOCIAL POSITIONS AND NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF WATER SCARCITY
African women and men’s divergent social positions lead to differences in water responsibilities, rights, and access, and so African women are disproportionally burdened by the scarcity of clean drinking water. In most African societies, women are seen as the collectors, managers, and guardians of water, especially within the domestic sphere that includes household chores, cooking, washing, and child rearing. Because of these traditional gender labor roles, women are forced to spend around sixty percent of each day collecting water, which translates to approximately 200 million collective work hours by women globally per day and a decrease in the amount of time available for education. Water scarcity exacerbates this issue, as indicated by the correlation of decrease in access to water with a decrease in combined primary, secondary, and tertiary enrollment of women.
For African women, their daily role in clean water retrieval often means carrying the typical jerrycan that can weigh over 40-60 pounds when full for an average of six kilometers each day. This has health consequences such as permanent skeletal damage from carrying heavy loads of water over long distances each day, which translates to a physical strain that contributes to increased stress, increased time spent in health recovery, and decreased ability to not only physically attend educational facilities, but also mentally absorb education due to the effect of stress on decision-making and memory skills. Also, in terms of health, access to safe and clean drinking water leads to greater protection from water-borne illnesses which increases women’s capabilities to attend school.
The detriment water scarcity has on educational attainment for women, in turn, affects the social and economic capital of women in terms of leadership, earnings, and work opportunities. As a result of this, many women are unable to hold professional employment. The lost number of potential school days and education hinders the next generation of African women from breaking out of the vicious cycle of unequal opportunity for gainful employment, which serves to perpetuate the prevalence of unequal opportunity for African women and adverse effects associated with lacking income from gainful employment. Thus, improved access to water influences women’s allocation of time, the level of education, and as a result their potential for higher wages associated with recognised and gainful employment.
THE CASE OF CHILDREN IS SADDENING
In addition, the issue of water scarcity in Africa prevents many young children, especially girls, from attending school and receiving an education. They are expected to not only aid their mothers in water retrieval but to also help with the demands of household chores that are made more time-intensive because of a lack of readily available water. Furthermore, a lack of clean water means the absence of sanitary facilities and latrines in schools, and so once puberty hits, this has a more serious impact on female children. Young girls learning the idea of the menstrual period often mismanage it and end up getting infected with toilet and general diseases due to lack of water and adequate knowledge. In terms of lost educational opportunity, it is estimated that this would result in 272 million more school attendance days per year if adequate investment were made in drinking water and sanitation.
For parents, an increase in access to reliable water resources reduces vulnerability to shocks, which allows for increased livelihood security and for families to allocate a greater portion of their resources to care for their children. This means improved nutrition for children, a reduction in school days missed due to health issues, and greater flexibility to spend resources on providing for the direct costs associated with sending children to school. And if families escape forced migration due to water scarcity, children’s educational potential is even further improved with better stability and uninterrupted school attendance.
PRODUCTIVITY AND DEVELOPMENT
Poverty is directly related to the accessibility of clean drinking water- without it, the chances of breaking out of the poverty trap (see link for more…) are extremely slim. This concept of a ” Water Poverty Trap” was developed by economists specifically observing sub-Saharan Africa and refers to a cycle of financial poverty, low agricultural production, and increasing environmental degradation. In this negative feedback loop, this creates a link between the lack of water resources with the lack of financial resources that affect all societal levels including individual, household, and community. Within this poverty trap, people are subjected to low incomes, high fixed costs of water supply facilities, and lack of credit for water investments, which results in a low level of investment in water and land resources, lack of investment in profit-generating activities, resource degradation, and chronic poverty.Compounding on this, in the slums of developing countries, poor people typically pay five to ten times more per unit of water than do people with access to piped water because of issues – including the lack of infrastructure and government corruption – which is estimated to raise the prices of water services by 10% to 30%.
So, the social and economic consequences of a lack of clean water penetrate into realms of education, opportunities for gainful employment, physical strength and health, agricultural and industrial development, and thus the overall productive potential of a community, nation, and/or region. Because of this, the UN estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion potential work hours per year collecting water
WATER INSIGHT ON Conflict
The explosion of populations in developing nations within Africa combined with climate change is causing extreme strain within and between nations. In the past, countries have worked to resolve water tensions through negotiation, but there is predicted to be an escalation in aggression over water accessibility.
Africa’s susceptibility to the potential water-induced conflict can be separated into four regions: the Nile, Niger, Zambezi, and Volta basins. Running through Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, the Nile’s water has the potential to spark conflict and unrest. In the region of the Niger, the river basin extends from Guinea through Mali and down to Nigeria. Especially for Mali – one of the world’s poorest countries – the river is vital for food, water, and transportation, and it’s over usage is contributing to an increasingly polluted and unusable water source. In southern Africa, the Zambezi River Basin is one of the world’s most over-used river systems, and so Zambia and Zimbabwe compete fiercely over it. Additionally, in 2000, Zimbabwe caused the region to experience the worst flooding in recent history when the country opened the Kariba Dam gates. Finally, within the Volta River basin, Ghana is dependent on its hydroelectric output but plagued by regular droughts which affect the production of electricity from the Akosombo Dam and limit Ghana’s ability to sustain economic growth. Paired with the constraints this also puts on Ghana’s ability to provide power for the area, this could potentially contribute to regional instability.
A Short Story from one
Hajia Maryam Mustapha
who was interviewed
“I don’t know why the government is asking us to stop begging in the street, I am not educated and I don’t have any skills except farming going back home for me is not an option. Before I came to the City I used to manage with my poor husband, Alhamdulillah- (thanks be to God), In my village, water is very scarce, me and my children have to trek 10 several kilometers just to get few gallons of water, when I finally lost my husband to a brief illness, life became so difficult. My husband was the breadwinner and a he was a big support to us, I have to stop my children who were attending primary school in one of the Government schools in our village, so that they can help with housework and to attend to the livestock’s which is our main income. When we finally migrated to the city due to hardship. The city had its own challenges but it was way better than the village. We resorted to begging and sleeping in the streets all four girls, one boy and myself. Nothing will make me go back because I have nothing to back home to, and I have no support from anywhere. I will rather stay with my children in the city and beg to go back home and starve to death!!” Afterward, she walked away and refuse any attempt to communicate with us. Sadly there are much more like her in the streets., we need to protect them from dangers such as abuse or rape.
Thank you for reading please share on your social feeds/pages and donate if you wish to help.
REFERENCES AND DATA SOURCES: WIKIPEDIA & UN
Family Water Poverty Trap” (FAWPOT)
Are you looking for a reputable organization
for an online volunteer job? Contact Us