How Many People Lack Access to Clean Water?
If you’ve heard anything about water stress or a global water crisis, you may be wondering how many people lack access to clean water. According to the World Water Council, the number is 1.1 billion.1 In addition, the United Nations estimates, “4 billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.”2 A recent study by World Resources Institute revealed “17 countries—home to one-quarter of the world’s population—face ‘extremely high’ levels of baseline water stress.”3
What does this lack mean for the billions who suffer from it? Often, it means disease, wasted hours and decreased livelihoods.
In developing regions such as Asia and Africa, many people rely on surface water from sources such as lakes, ponds or rivers that may contain fecal matter, arsenic or other contaminants.4 Drinking water from these sources may lead to waterborne diseases, including cholera, typhoid, polio, diarrhea and dysentery. Every year, such water-related diseases lead to approximately 3,575,000 deaths, most of them children.5
And that’s when water is available. These water sources can easily dry up in times of drought. Africa, for example, faces the highest water risk in the world, with 1 in 3 Africans facing water scarcity.6 Narrow gaps “between supply and demand leave countries vulnerable to fluctuations like droughts or increased water withdrawals,” said World Resources Institute.7 Without water, people risk dehydration—for themselves and their livestock.
The lack of access can also drain precious time and energy. In regions such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, many people—typically women and girls—must walk 30 minutes or more to collect water for the family’s daily needs.8 This arduous task is sometimes repeated multiple times a day. Collectively, women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa spend approximately 40 billion hours every year collecting water.9
Water is also essential for agriculture, and thus many livelihoods. According to the World Bank, approximately 65 percent of the world’s poor in some way depends on agriculture for their livelihood.10 In sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 90 percent of the rural population’s livelihoods are dependent on unpredictable rainfall.11 Without water, their crops may fail, which then don’t provide the necessary income or sustenance for their families.
There are many organizations helping those suffering from water stress and unclean water. GFA World, for example, provides people in need with Jesus Wells and BioSand water filters. Beginning its efforts in Asia, GFA World has helped more than 38 million people gain safe, pure drinking water through these clean water initiatives. The ministry hopes to soon expand these efforts to Africa.
1 “Water Supply & Sanitation.” World Water Council. https://www.worldwatercouncil.org/en/water-supply-sanitation. Accessed August 11, 2021.
2 “The United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: Leaving No One Behind.” United Nations. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367306/PDF/367306eng.pdf.multi. 2019.
3 Rutger Willem Hofste, Paul Reig and Leah Schleifer. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
4 Luby, Stephen. “Water Quality in South Asia.” Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2740663/ . June 2008.
5 “Dirty water causes the death of a human being every 10 seconds.” The World Counts. https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/freshwater/deaths-from-dirty-water/story. Accessed October 25, 2021.
6 Holtz, Leo and Christina Golubski. “Addressing Africa’s extreme water insecurity.” Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2021/07/23/addressing-africas-extreme-water-insecurity/. July 23, 2021.
7 Rutger Willem Hofste, Paul Reig and Leah Schleifer. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/17-countries-home-one-quarter-worlds-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress. August 6, 2019.
8 Felter, Claire and Ka“Water Inequality.” National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/water-inequality/. Accessed August 12, 2021.
9 Odonkor, Alexander Ayertey. “Water crisis in Africa: Scarcity amidst abundance.” CGTN. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-10-19/Water-crisis-in-Africa-Scarcity-amidst-abundance-UGMXwgwhkA/index.html. October 19, 2020.
10 “Agriculture and Food.” The World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agriculture/overview. Accessed August 30, 2021.
11 Holtz, Leo and Christina Golubski. “Addressing Africa’s extreme water insecurity.” Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2021/07/23/addressing-africas-extreme-water-insecurity/. July 23, 2021.