Lack of clean water for drinking affect many people in every continent. Around one-fifth of the population in the world stays in areas of physical scarcity while five hundred million people are said to be approaching this situation. This problem is more serious in Africa than in any other continent.
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Lack of safe water for drinking is explored in the accompanying paper. In this paper, results of lack of clean drinking water in Africa is assessed more so in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper also explores the impact of water scarcity on stability of Africa and the World. It further evaluates how United Nations have helped solve the problem and ways in which developing countries can ensure they have adequate clean water.
Lack of safe water for drinking is a one of the leading problem in the world. It has an impact on over 1.1 billion people all over the world. Safe drinking water is defined by World health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund and Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation as water that has microbial, physical and chemical characteristics that meet the guidelines of National standard on quality of drinking water (Campbell, Caldwell, Hopkins, Heaney, Wing, Wilson, et al. 2013).
Lack of safe drinking water is looked through a population to water equation treated by hydrologists as 7,700 cubic meters per person. This is the threshold for meeting water requirement for every industrial, agricultural production and the environment. It is said that a threshold of less than 1,000 cubic meters of water represent water scarcity and below 500 cubic meters of water represent a state of absolute scarcity.
Inadequate safe drinking water is a major challenge to many countries. It is a major problem for developing countries that are racing forward towards physical limits of expansion of fresh water, expanding urban settlement, commercialization of agriculture and industrial sectors. Fresh water is a crucial resource in development of Africa. It is said that Africa continent has a population of 800 million people. 405 of the total population in Africa lack access to safe drinking water. It is argued that half of people living in rural areas of safe drinking water. It is reported that Sub-Saharan Africa has more water stress than other parts of the world.
Sub-Saharan Africa has a population of over 320 million people have no access to quality water. It is said to be the only region in the world that will not be able to meet the 2015 millennium development goal. In 2012, a Conference on ‘’Water Scarcity in Africa: issues and Challenges” was presented with information that by 2030, 255 million to 760 millions in Africa will be staying in areas with high water stress (Barone, 2008).
Scarcity of safe drinking water has lead to poor heal in Sub-Saharan Africa. People in water deprived areas use unsafe water that causes spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid fever, malaria, trachoma, typhus and plague. Scarcity of safe water forces people to respond by storing water in their households. This further increases chances of water contamination and spread of malaria due to mosquitoes.
Infected people with waterborne diseases reduce chances of community development and productivity due to lack of strength. Government resources are used to buy medicine for these people. This takes away funds meant for food supply, school fees and other development projects. It is estimated by Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council that treatment of diarrhea caused by water contamination in Sub-Saharan Africa takes away 12% of countries’ health budget. Government in the areas channels their energy and part of fund allocated for other expenditures to helping people affected by lack of water at the expense of other essential services like maintaining peace and security in the region.
Human Development report suggests that use of water by human is mainly on agriculture and irrigation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural activities account from over 80% of the total water consumption. Majority of people in this region depend on agriculture. In rural areas, 90% of families rely on producing their own food hence water scarcity leads to loss of food security.
Conflict arises in this region due to political interferences in irrigated land due to land tenure and ownership problems. Governments in this part of the world lack funds and skilled human resources that can support technology and infrastructure needed for good water management and crop irrigation. Scarcity of safe water makes people use waste water for irrigation. This makes a lot of people to eat food with disease causing organisms.
Women in this part of the world are burdened by lack of clean water for drinking. They are the collectors, managers as well as guardian of water in domestic spheres which include household chores such as washing, child rearing and cooking. They spend a considerable amount of time fetching water (Dreibelbis, Winch, Leontsini, Hulland, Ram, Unicomb, et al., 2013). This causes a decrease in the time available for education. Their health is also at risk of skeletal damage caused by carrying heavy loads of water every day over long distances. Loss of potential school days and education prevents the next generation of women from holding professional employments.
Access to safe water for drinking will make women in Sub-Saharan Africa increase time allocated to education which will make them take leadership positions. Scarcity of water makes many children in this region drop out of school to help in household chores which are made more intense by lack of water. Increase in population in Africa and lack of safe water for drinking has caused a lot of strain and conflict on relations between communities and between countries.It has been argued that Nile River is a source of conflict in nine countries. Water fro Nile River is the only source of sustaining life in both Sudan and Egypt. Egyptians use military force to make sure they retain control over Nile River because she has no other source of water. This conflict runs from the colonial era when England textile factories depended on Sudan and Egypt agricultural activities.
After the colonial era, Egypt continued to create political instability in Ethiopia. It blocked international financing agencies from giving loans to Ethiopia in order to finance projects on the river. The conflict is now real because Ethiopia has now managed to carry out water projects on her own like building hydro-power dams and irrigation programs. Egypt has been reported to issue threats of war to Tanzania and Ethiopia. In 1970s, Egypt armed Somalia separatist rebels in Ethiopia in the Somali invasion. The nine involved states have had agreements and treaties in a bid to control conflict.
However, treaties and agreements have resulted to inequitable rights of using water from Nile River between countries. An example is a treaty between Great Britain and Ethiopia, Emperor Menelik II, king of kings of Ethiopia. He agreed with the government of His Britannic Majesty not to construct or permit construction projects across Blue Nile, the Sobat and Lake Tana in 1902. In 1906, an agreement between Britain and Government of Independent state of Congo would not construct or permit any construction of projects over or near Semliki or Isango rivet that would reduce the amount of water entering Lake Albert. In 1925, conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia escalated because Ethiopia opposed earlier agreements (Dreibelbis et al., 2013).
The League of Nations demanded Italy and British government give an explanation on sovereignty of Ethiopia on Lake Tana. The League of Nations did not help resolve the conflict because there was no self enforcing and reliable mechanism to protect the property rights of stakeholders which is necessary for international water development to be applied. Due to failure of United Nations to help solve the Nile basin conflict, nine riparian states formed a partnership called Nile Basin Initiative. Its mandate is to develop Nile River in a cooperative way, sharing social-economic benefits that promote regional security and peace. World Bank agreed to support the work of Nile Basin Initiative as a development partner as well as an administrator of multi donor Nile Basin Trust Fund.
Disputes have also erupted in Niger River Basin. Disagreements and disputes in this basin are caused by limited access to safe drinking water. The disputes are between communities in Mali, Nigeria, and Niger. River flows and rainfall have reduced from 1970s leading to tension between two communities that live in the basin. The two communities are pastoralists and farmers. Pastoralists are forced by lack of water to travel farther with their herds. On the other hand, farmers expand their cropland to take care of increasing population. This reduces pathways that are available to herder and their livestock. Tension increased due to poor policy decisions. In Lokoga in Nigeria, government started dredging Niger River in early 2009 to increase commercial shipping (Huang, Jacangelo & Schwab, 2011).
The government of Nigeria argued that dredging would help reduce flooding but late farmer suffered from floods in 2010. Farmers resulted to building homes and cultivating land away from the river leading to reduction in land available for grazing. This has facilitated conflict between the two communities greatly. New dams rose built by the government of Nigeria raised ecological issues that provoked hard negotiations over sharing of resources equitably in Niger Basin (Loftus, 2009). It was reported that Mali and Niger did not support construction of dams across the river. Navigation of the river was also constrained by the availability of large boats when water is deep enough. Climate change in Niger Basin has caused a high degree of variability in river flows, rainfall and temperature. The international community is doing little in helping the conflicting countries in the Niger Basin resolve the conflict.
Scarcity of safe drinking water has also led to a lot of competition in Volta River basin. Volter River basin is said to be one of the poorest part in Africa continent and is shared by six West African states. People in the basin depend on agriculture as their means of livelihood. The population in West Africa is growing at the rate of 3% thus putting pressure on water resources and land. Burkina Faso is increasing agricultural development upstream using surface resources such as water (Okun, 1991). Water development in Burkina Faso has had a negative impact on Akosombo Dam which Ghana depends on for its energy supply. In 1998, low water level caused energy crisis in Ghana which ended up blaming Burkina Faso water project. Low water levels could have been caused by other factors such as unreliable rainfall variability. Peaceful conflict resolutions could be hindered in the future by insufficient communication between Ghana and Burkina Faso (Ram, Kelsey, Miarintsoa, Rakotomalala, Dunston, & Quick, 2007).
Ghana wants to create dams for power generation while Burkina Faso plans to use water for irrigation hence causing conflicts of interest. This conflict received international community recognition which formed a major inter-governmental program to enhance regional cooperation. Green cross water for peace project was put in place to ensure full and also active involvement of representatives of civil societies across the region in generation of basin’s agreement, management policies and principles.
Developing countries can learn form developed countries on how to have adequate water supply and sanitation facilities, management of floods, pollution, management of rivers and large dams. Ram et al. (2007) argues that good governance can help address the lack of safe drinking water. He further argues that good governance is essential in procuring loans and aid for water projects form international organizations like world bank, International Monetary Fund, Africa Development bank and from developed countries like Britain, Germany, china, France, united Sates of America and Russia (Rosenberg, 2010).
An example of a country that applied good governance to address water problem is South Africa. After Apartheid, the government of South Africa inherited huge problems of access to safe drinking water. It had a population of over 15 million people lacked access to clean water. The government managed to commit itself to high standards and investment subsidies to achieve its goal. From that time South Africa has made good progress to a point where it reached the universal access to improved water source in its urban centers. Similarly, the percentage of people in rural areas with access to clean water increased from sixty six percent to seventy nine percent from 1991 to 2010 (Loftus, 2009).
Good governance will help government in developing countries partner with institutions that will help turn all underperforming utilities into good service providers. They would also benefit from the expertise in local, national and international sectors. Research has shown that it is difficult to change processes in water sectors. There has been friction between stakeholder and partners in determining priorities. This led to ambiguities in the role and responsibilities allocation resulting to the high cost of transaction. Just like in developed countries, good governance in developing countries will enable providers and policymakers are accountable to water users. This assists in improving services and enhancing consumer understanding the need for changes and the possible contribution of public private partnership (Ram et al., 2007).
Great relationship with international financial institutions will enable developed countries have an adequate supply of safe water. World Bank is known to finance building of infrastructure such as funds to dig boreholes. It usually subsidizes the cost of infrastructure through inter-governmental transfers, donor projects and social development funds (Okun, 1991).
Developing countries should consider the use of use Decentralized Mebran Filtration system. This technology provides safe drinking water that is clean. This system employs effective ways of removing surrogate bacteria and parasites from drinking water hat is responsible for contamination of water. This method is affordable to low income countries. Decentralized Mebran Filtration system is appropriate where central municipal water treatment is not possible. It aims to apply integrated bench scale and field scale approach in evaluating sustainability of Decentralized Mebran Filtration system in providing safe drinking water (Huang et al., 2011).
Another possible solution is applying desalinization technology. This technology is said to filter salty water through membranes and removing salt through a process of electro dialysis and the reverse osmosis. The technology has worked in over one hundred and thirty countries in Middle East and in North Africa. With this technology, countries that are currently using it produce over six billion gallons of safe drinking water a day. Recycling and filtration should also be encouraged because the two methods are easy and cheap. Conserving water can also be achieved on a smaller scale beginning with improvement in homes (EMD, 2009).
Developed countries should explore and exploit underground water. A country like Kenya and Namibia has discovered a 10,000 year old supply of water in underground aquifers. This underground water can satisfy the needs of Namibia for over four hundred years. Researchers argue that throughout Africa, there is twenty times more underground water than volume of surface water. The population of Africa is expected to increase to over two billion in 2050. This implies that countries need to explore other sources of water since traditional sources of fresh water are affected by changes in climate, lack of rainfall and rises in temperature that evaporate lakes and rivers.
Other methods that developing countries should encourage their citizens to use include boiling water. It is an efficient method of water sterilization though boiling is costly in terms of fuel use. Another method is solar disinfection by use of ultraviolet radiation. This method is cheap and less damaging. It involves putting water in transparent plastic bottles and exposing it to sunlight for about forty eight hours. This technology cost people nothing by only plastic bottles full of water on corrugated metal roof.
Low income countries should also start water projects like water dams and rain catchment systems. These methods are simple and inexpensive. A well close to a village or in a village ensures people do not walk long distances in search of water. It saves time hence making sure there is enough time allocated for other things like learning (Barone, 2008).
Campbell et al. (2013) argues that integrated research can help countries achieve adequate supply of safe water for drinking. He attributes the lack of water to fear and inadequate reorganization by communities. He points out that global research can help solve the problem of water scarcity and proper sanitation. This implies that United Nations should put more effort in bringing solutions to water problems. African countries can achieve adequate supply of clean water if they invest in integrated research and funding. They should also put in place policies and infrastructures that attract foreign investments from developed countries such as United States of America, France, China and Russia.
Lack of safe water for drinking is a global problem. It affects both developed countries as well as developing countries. United Nations should look for ways to deal with water scarcity and amicable ways of resolving political instabilities resulting from water stress. Developing countries should learn from developed countries on the most appropriate ways of providing clean water. They should maintain good governance and a good environment that can attract foreign investors as well as donors. Through collective effort from all stakeholders, the problem of water can be solved.
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