Africa’s Water Crisis: What The World Doesn’t Want To Know

One of the most immediate concerns the world has is water. The state of things has pressed the issue and people are now forced to face the realization that we have limited resources. Although easily overlooked, it is one of the most basic needs that are to be met in order to live another day.

Water scarcity is a rapidly growing issue that has only now been addressed. It is defined as the state of not having enough water or having no access at all. The US is experiencing what is called a physical scarcity, where the demand is far greater than the supply.

A more terrifying type of scarcity exists in less developed parts of the world, however. The populace of a considerable part of the African continent has what is known as economic scarcity. This implies that there is enough untapped water resources in the area, but not enough time or money to develop it.

For this reason, there are a lot of organizations that seek to help the current state of African water. But first let’s have a look at the way things are right now.

Water Issues in Africa

Water Collection

There is no indoor plumbing. The water that they use every day needs to be collected from a water source that could very likely be miles away from their homes. As it is, 40 billion hours in manpower are used up every year just to collect water. That comprises 6 precious hours for ever person every day that could be used to do something else.

The fetching of this water is mostly done by women and girls. For 64% of the population, girls under the age 15 are twice as likely to carry what is known as a jerry can. It weighs almost 20 kilograms when full. Alternative containers used by women are pots that could easily be 31 kilograms. This they have to ferry out every day for the whole year for the time equivalent to the annual labor conducted in France.


Of the effects of the water crisis in Africa, this is the most immediate. On average, people can only live up to 5 days maximum without water. The result of this is the consumption of water coming from sources that are unsafe.

The scarcity also leads people to storing water in case of shortages which only makes the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Food security is another problem caused by water shortage in Africa, not to mention that their crops are also grown on the same wastewater that they constantly put inside their bodies. The chemicals and diseases contained within the water, and their food as a result of agriculture, is a cause for concern as a lot of diseases are carried this way.


Holistically, there are 739 million people that are subjected to unclean water every day. That means that 1 in 9 people are denied a necessity, a human right. The most affected region, comprising 37% of that big number, is sub-Saharan Africa.

Water in Africa causes diseases like typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhea, and recurring stomach pains to be more prevalent in the population. It is also not far-fetched to say water collection by girls and women would eventually contract them permanent skeletal damage besides the diseases in the water they themselves collected. This water, when stored, is also perfect breeding grounds for disease such as malaria or dengue fever that are spread by mosquitoes via stagnant water.

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Due to poor health and the demand for water collection, there are a lot of school days missed especially for young girls. In addition to this, there is a lack of money for supplies that they may need for their education as well as co-ed toilets in most schools. Women aren’t allowed by their society to be seen going inside these toilets. That coupled with menstruation results to lower attendance or dropping out of school altogether.


Economists observing the water problems in Africa have developed what they call the water poverty trap. It is a cycle that correlates the poverty of the continent to the lack of clean water. This also leads to the loss of food security, diseases, and unfinished education especially in areas in sub-Saharan Africa.

People cannot afford the high price of clean water due to low income, the primary source of which is agriculture. Half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than $1 per day. Clean water in Africa typically costs 10 to 30 percent more for people without access to piped water, the cause of which is lack of infrastructure and government corruption.

So they consume disease ridden water collected by women, who are of better use in the fields, and girls, who should be in school.

The food they eat are grown from crops that are fed disease-ridden water. When a member of their family contracts a disease, most likely a water-borne one, women are expected to care for them. That means 2 people in a family aren’t productive and are stuck at home.

Another factor that makes it worse is that less than 1 in 3 people have proper toilets. For 76% of the rural population and 66% of the urban one, the practice of toilets closer to nature is still alive. Adding to this, women and girls are not allowed by their society to be seen answering nature’s call. For this reason, they are more likely to contract kidney problems and create a breeding ground for bacteria inside their bodies.

They cannot afford the medicine to cure one disease or the other.

The result of the water poverty trap is a lack of activities to generate profit, degradation of resources, little to no investment to resources in land and water, and chronic poverty.


Diseases caused by storing water is one of the leading causes of death. In developed countries like the US, this doesn’t usually apply because of water taps installed in people’s homes and the processing of the water that comes from it. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, these diseases often go uncured when contracted.

The abundance of death in children is also devastating. As it is, in the whole world, 1 child dies every 21 seconds from a disease relating to water. Their susceptibility is higher because of undeveloped immune systems, which directly results in a very high mortality rate. Due to dirty water and little to no knowledge of sanitation, water borne diseases cause 1 in 5 child deaths.

Every year, the number of people who die due to water borne diseases are higher than that of the different types of violence. Even war. Of these, 5 million could have been prevented. The lack of monetary resource, clean water, and knowledge in sanitary practices is the cause.

There is also the matter of there having no global target to improve hygiene.

Water Source Conflicts

In the African continent, there are 276 transboundary river basins, 92.7% of this is shared by 2 to 4 countries, 7.2% by 5 countries, and then there’s Danube river basin. It is shared by 18 countries.

As a result of this, a lot of conflicts arise. It is predicted that by 2030, half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress. Semi-arid to arid regions like sub-Saharan Africa may include 24 to 700 million people.

The potential for armed conflict by 2022 due to water scarcity is very high. By then, it may be used as a weapon for war. Worse, even, is the probability that it be an a tool for terrorism especially in Northern Africa.

Africa: Water Crisis

The African water crisis has been a common cause for the world at large. As it is, there are a lot of resources and independent organizations that are trying to change the situation.

There are different focuses for the people who seek to procure clean water for Africa. The Water Project, a non-profit organization, for example donates facilities like rain catchment systems, wells and water pumps made form locally sourced materials, and teach people how to maintain them.

World organizations have also taken notice. Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, for example is a program spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The main function of this is to monitor the progress of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on water which is supposed to end this year.

Goal Target 7c of the MDG means to halve the number of people without access to sustainable and safe drinking water by 2015. The program started in 2005, and it has been found out that by 2006, the largest number of countries that are water-stressed are in sub-Saharan Africa. The water pollution in Africa resulted to 300 million people who live water stressed conditions. For a breakdown by country, you can check this site.

There is also the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa which deals with the need for investments in potential water resources. Its goal is also to reduce the number of people that experience water scarcity in Africa, and also to protect economic gains and ensure food security. Their primary concern are infrastructures that include clean water service tanks.

The United Nations also has the Water for Life ‘Decade’ that also seeks to reach the DMC goal. They developed the concept of gender mainstreaming which seeks to benefit both the men and the women equally in assessing any action plans. There is also green economy that involves aims for the economy of Africa to improve in terms of well-being, lessening inequality, reducing unnecessary environmental risk, and preventing ecological scarcities. Their primary concern are the economical implications of the African water crisis.

People on the continent also have grant giving organizations like African Water Facility by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW). They give grants ranging form $55,000 to $5,500,000 with a focus on the designing of products and small scale pilot projects. The organization is now said to have helped 29 million people across Africa. Their primary concern is with the economic and social aspects of clean water.

AMCOW is also a council that focuses on water on the post-DMC development agenda. They are concerned in all the concepts that involve providing clean water for Africa that includes sanitation, sustainable development, wastewater management, water quality, and disaster risk management.

Clean Water: Africa and Its People Need It

The erection of infrastructures that would provide water nearer 15 to 30 minutes away from each home would increase the girls’ attendance to school by 12%, and frees up the women to help in the maintenance of crops. The better education would inform the children of the facts which may very well lead them to resolving the water issues their societies face.

In all likelihood, clean water in Africa will also create more and better job opportunities for them to raise their families out of poverty. The inclusion of women in the agricultural industry may increase yields by 20 to 30%, and may lead the thread to food scarcity to be reduced and 150 million people not being hungry.

According to the UN, the human development in any community can be indicated by the state of sanitation and hygiene. There are 1.5 million children that could be saved if they know how to practice good hygiene and draw from safe water supplies.

This, in turn, will reduce water related deaths by 21%. Proper sanitation can reduce it by 37%, and hand washing alone can lower the number of fatalities by 35%. For that matter, according to WHO, a dollar invested in water and sanitation has an economic return from $3 to $34 dollars. This will create funding for better water programs in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Altogether 413 million sick days may be avoided. Conflicts may be resolved due to the diplomacy of the areas that both need water basins. There is also the potential for spillover benefits that introduce diplomacy in these areas.

Future Facts

The truth of the matter is, there is still a lot of work to be done. Despite the above mentioned potential for good, there is also the potential for things to get worse than they are now. Take a look at some interesting facts about water issues in Africa:

  • It is said that there would be a 19% increase in agricultural water consumption by 2050.
  • The water demand is said to increase by 55% by the year 2050.
  • As it is, roughly 70% of fresh water withdrawals globally is already allocated for the growing of crops. Not to mention the population increase that may require 60% more food by that time.
  • For the cleaning of water alone, there is a predicted 85% increase in the needed energy for this endeavor.
  • Another type of scarcity, the most extreme kind, is called absolute scarcity. It is predicted that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living with this type of scarcity every day. That is two thirds of the population in water stressed conditions.
  • Africa is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, despite being least responsible for it. The water cycle intensifies the dryer seasons due to rising global temperature, which increases the risk for extreme and frequent droughts. The northern and southern extremities of the continent experiences this the most.
  • People tend to forget that Africa is a continent, and treat it as a country. In recent years, it has been the world’s charity case for both good and bad reasons, only to be reminded that North Africa has 92% coverage of clean water, so close to the 94% goal that should be reached by this year. That two percent, though, remains to have very severe water conditions.
  • However, sub-Saharan Africa only has 40% clean water coverage, and there is still the 21% difference the the DMC goal needs to be met by this year.

How Can You Help?

There are also organizations that seek to help but do not consider the social ramifications of building wells, which until now seem to be the most popular track with non-profit organizations who want to help with water scarcity in Africa.

If you are thinking of joining one of these organizations yourself, seek one that works with the leaders of the community and fits their help to whatever they may need. The better of these organizations also have absolute transparency. The lax rules in Africa leave a lot to be desired when it comes to NGOs.

Donating money isn’t the only way to help people with less than favorable water conditions. For people who truly wish to help, there’s another way you can. Time, skills, and willingness are also as valuable to these organizations.

Another cause for concern are the already erected infrastructures that have fallen to disrepair. People are more hesitant to raise money for the upkeep, one of the main reasons being that it costs more. Nowadays, however, there are more and more organizations that use locally available materials that can be cheaply and readily bought by the community themselves.

As mentioned above, there are organizations within Africa that can and does help with the development of their system for a more widespread consumption of clean water.

There is still time left. Donate to an organization. Make a difference today.



It all started out with a concern: combating negative perceptions of Africa and helping cultivate grassroots development; and an idea: to put a spotlight on small non-profit organizations helping Africa defeat poverty. Aid for Africa brought together nineteen charity organizations in January 2004. At present, the alliance now includes over 80 non-profit organizations working together to provide the best solutions to Africa’s complex and interrelated difficulties. Several organizations under the alliance focus on the provision of clean water to those who do not have access to it. Any form of help that you course through Aid for Africa will definitely have a huge impact on building a better future for Africa’s children, families and communities.

Founded in Kisumu, Kenya by the Churchill and Wilde families in April 2012, Just One: Africa brings basic necessity aid to orphans and widows in the form of water, food, clothing, education, and more. They strive to create sustainable and viable solutions for those in need and are more than capable of making your donation count.

The organization started in September 2009 during John Rose’s surf trip to Indonesia. Earthquake struck the city of Padang, leaving a thousand people dead and a hundred thousand people homeless. It was at that time that the founder realized that the need for an organization such as Waves for Water has become concrete. Aiming to provide clean water to every single individual in need, they have partnered with different organizations and individuals, such as Sean Penn, in delivering clean water to tragedy-stricken countries. They have already raised thousands of dollars which they used to fund clean water projects in African countries such as Liberia, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Your donations would definitely go a long way through the efforts of Waves for Water.

Bread and Water for Africa UK started its fight against poverty, hunger, and disease in African countries in dire need in 2004. They helped fund programs for clean water, education, healthcare, and shelter for abandoned and orphaned children through partnerships with local organizations. One of the core thrusts of Bread and Water for Africa UK is to provide access to clean water for the people of Africa and they do this in collaboration with grassroots-level organizations to allow communities to take charge of their own future as well as to ensure sustainability of the projects. Your donation will definitely help their efforts reach more people across Africa.

Having funded water programs in over 20 countries the across the world, Charity Water tracks your donations and ensures that it gets to actual infrastructure professionals who will truly know how to make a difference. At the time of this writing the organization has successfully funded over 16,000 different projects and initiatives.

In Africa, a lot of people would have to walk long distances just to be able to get water – dirty and disease-ridden. The experience of having seen young girls walk miles for a number of hours a day just to get water carried in buckets on their heads broke the founder’s, Kurt Dahlin, heart when he went on a trip to Malawi on September 1994. This inspired him to start the Water Wells for Africa project. They have been building wells since 1996 in rural Africa. The key to their projects’ sustainability is empowerment and giving the community members a sense of ownership of the projects they do. This is done by Water Wells for Africa by finding un-imposed and unmolested motivation for having a well within a community. Your donations to this organization will be of huge help in funding sustainable clean water projects for rural Africa.

Bread and Water for Africa started as a project of Christian Relief Services in 1986. Its aim is to promote positive change in Africa through efforts to foster self-sufficiency, health, and education. In December 1997, they officially became an international non-governmental organization. Up to this day, they remain an affiliate of Christian Relief Services to sustain their operations and to ensure that they devote more of their financial resources to their projects in Africa. One of their major programs is clean water development where they aim to provide access to clean water and educate Africans about the link between clean water and disease prevention. Your donation will surely help save thousands of children at risk of dying from waterborne diseases.

In 2003, a group of philanthropic business executives founded Water for Africa. With their model, the donor becomes a stakeholder enabling them to keep track of donations and monitor the impact of their outlay. They have also invested in capacity-building of the local teams so they would be able to repair and maintain the water systems they have installed thus ensuring sustainability and the ability to maintain their projects for the succeeding generations. Through private donors and established infrastructure, they were able to keep their operational expenses at a minimum ensuring that 100% of your donations go to building clean water projects. Your help will enable Water for Africa to continue their work beyond the 120 villages they have already served in the region.

Phil Hepworth, founder of Water for Africa Australia, wanted to do something about the statistic that “One Child Dies Every 21 Seconds” from water-borne illnesses. In 2010, he started Water for Africa cognizant of the fact that billions of hours a year are spent walking for water. Having a sustainable source of clean water enables people, especially the women, to pursue new opportunities to improve their lives. Water for Africa Australia aims to shape and harness the capacities of the communities and assist them in bringing self-help, self-reliance, and sustainable change to individuals, families, and the communities. The donations you put in through Water for Africa Australia will certainly make a big difference one person, one family, one village at a time.

Water is Life is founded by Ken Surritte with a mission to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene education programs to communities in Africa. They provide portable water filtration devices such as the water filter straw as a first step to addressing the urgent need for clean and safe drinking water. Aside from their clean water projects, they have also integrated sanitation and hygiene education programs to communities to save thousands of lives from diseases preventable by hand-washing and other simple hygienic practices. Your commitment to aid Water is Life will assist them in developing community-driven initiatives that are sustainable for years to come.

PureMadi is an interdisciplinary collaboration of students and faculty members from the University of Virginia working in partnership with various organizations to deliver sustainable programs to address worldwide water problems. They advocate the development of sustainable, ceramic water filter factories in South Africa. The ceramic water filters produced use local materials and local labor thus ensuring sustainability. The technology employed in the production of the filters is highly effective, as evidenced by research, and are socially acceptable to the communities in developing nations. Donations you make to PureMadi will go a long way to support their commitment to prevent water-borne diseases through education, training, and empowerment of local communities to produce and distribute innovative point-of-use water treatment technology in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

A Pastor named Peter Chasse, along with a group of students, started The Water Project in 2006. This non-profit organization unravels human potential through provision of reliable water access to Sub Saharan Africa communities. The Water Project is one of the first organizations to uphold transparency by reporting about the impact of donations through photos, in-depth project descriptions, stories, GPS coordinates, and follow-up updates. They help dig wells, construct sub-surface dams, catch the rain, protect freshwater springs, filter surface water, and maintain proper sanitation and hygiene practices. You can be a part of this team that does all those previously mentioned by donating to their cause.

The Marathon Walker is a project of Water for Africa that aims to collect funds through donations of distances that have corresponding monetary value. Every time The Marathon Walker reaches 42 kilometers (a distance of a full marathon), a borehole is built in a different village in Gambia. Women in Gambia have to walk the length of a marathon just to be able to obtain clean water for their families. This project aims to shorten the distances these women have to travel by building clean water sources nearer to them. When you donate to The Marathon Walker, you help shorten the distance for every woman in Gambia.

The beginnings of could be traced as far back as the founding of WaterPartners International in 1990. The merger of WaterPartners and H2O Africa in July 2009 launched which was founded by Gary White and Matt Damon. They pioneer in innovative, sustainable solutions to the worldwide water crisis, giving women hope, children health and communities a future. They are driven by their vision of having safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all, in our lifetime. You take part in the transformation of lives through the provision of safe water and sanitation programs in Africa and other parts of the world when you donate to

WaterAid has over 30 years of experience as they have officially been established as a charitable trust on 21 July 1981. The organization envisions a world where everyone, everywhere has safe water, sanitation and hygiene by the year 2030. At present, there are millions of people living without access to clean and safe water such as those in Africa. WaterAid pours its efforts into transforming lives of the poorest and the most marginalized by addressing the water and poor sanitation crises with the help of local partners through locally-owned, long lasting projects. Your donation allows them to be one step closer to their vision of changing the lives of millions.

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