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Water Scarcity in Africa

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Problem Statement Widespread poverty, is one of the most pressing problems that our world today faces, especially in the African region, where majority of the poorest live and the scarcity crisis is the most severe. The main reason why Africa is unable to escape from the vicious poverty cycle is due to its water issues (The Water Project, n. d. ). Water is essential for human’s very survival and development, where it is required for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses.

Its importance is reflected in the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as target 7C, which is to halve the proportion of world population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 (United Nations, 2012).

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The first step to achieving this would be the provision of water before there can be access to safe drinking water. However, in the situation that we are in today, the issue of water scarcity is worsening, not only in Africa, but also in developing and developed countries.

Some of the main reasons for the failure of current efforts to alleviate water scarcity are political tensions with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), widening income gaps, lack of road network development as well as lack of concrete plans to tackle water scarcity. In light of these, future efforts should seek to overcome the problems mentioned above such that the African community can benefit enormously from the availability of water and achieve UN MDGs target 7C before 2015. Introduction / Background

Water scarcity is defined as the situation whereby the aggregate impact of all users impinges on the supply or quality of water under prevailing institutional arrangements to the extent that the demand from all sectors, including the environment, cannot be satisfied fully (Water Scarcity, n. d. ). In general, there are two forms of water scarcity: physical and economic water scarcity. The first type is the situation whereby there is insufficient water to meet both human demands and those of the ecosystem to function effectively.

The second is caused by a lack of investment or insufficient human capacity to satisfy the demand of water. In the case of Africa, its water scarcity is caused by a combination of both forms of scarcity. Physical causes include climate change, rapid population growth while economic causes include the lack of infrastructure in safe extraction and distribution of water to villages. In today’s world, up to 780 million people still lack access to clean water, which is 2. 5 times the entire population of America. Annually, 3. 4 people die from water related diseases, almost equivalent to the entire city of Los Angeles.

More significantly, a child dies from a water related disease every 20 seconds (Water. org, n. d. ), which could simply be prevented with the provision or access to safe drinking water. This issue is of great significance as the water crisis claims more lives in the form of diseases than any other war fought on this planet. The situation is set to worsen with the rapid population explosion, with most of the growth occurring in Africa, where the current environment is extremely hard to handle such a large population and their needs.

The current water scarcity problem is also one of the major stumbling blocks in Africa’s developmental progress to pull its citizens out of the poverty cycle. So, if the problem of water scarcity is well-tackled, it would yield numerous benefits for Africa, such as access to safe drinking water and sanitation, higher standard of living and even economic progress. Impacts of water scarcity on Africa Water scarcity has resulted in a wide range of impacts, from health, agricultural, conflicts, productivity and development to women, children and education. One of the most severe impacts is the health threats posed by unsafe drinking water.

Due to water scarcity, many in Africa have resorted to unsafe water sources, despite knowing that the water is usually contaminated and full of disease-carrying pathogens, as it is impossible for human beings to live without water. This eventually contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases being the leading causes of death in Africa, even though many of them are actually treatable and preventable. Worldwide, 2. 2 million people are dying due to diarrhea related diseases (UNICEF, 2004) and people suffering from water-related diseases occupy 50% of the world’s hospital beds (SAFE Water Now, n. . ).

This situation has placed a strain on countries’ health budgets as more resources are required to treat and contain the spread of these diseases, which has achieved limited success. For instance, in Sub-Saharan Africa, treatment of diarrhea alone due to water contamination consumes 12% of the country’s health budget. In addition, this situation also contributes to a reduced productivity and development in African communities. It is estimated by the United Nations (UN) that Africa alone loses 40 billion work hours annually, equivalent to the entire workforce of France (The Water Project, n. . ). In fact, it is even said that the issue of water scarcity has led to a reverse in development in Africa. Amongst the various groups in Africa, the issue of scarcity has the most impact on women and children, especially young girls in their pursuit of an education. Due to the traditional mindset, women are disproportionately burdened, whereby they have to take on multiple roles, from collectors, managers to guardians of water. On average, an African woman spends roughly 60% of a day collecting water using a typical jerry can weighing over 40 pounds and walking an average of 6km.

As for young girls, the absence of proper sanitary facilities and toilets prevented many from continuing education after the start of puberty, along with the expectation to help mothers in daily chores, including water retrieving. This resulted in the hindrance of women breaking out from the viscious cycle of gaining equal employment opportunities in the workforce. In a situation whereby there is already insufficient water for human consumption, there would definitely be a shortage of water for agricultural uses as well, translating to a loss of food security.

This is due to irrigation potential not being maximized in Africa and also the lack of resources to support the infrastructure and technology required in proper crop irrigation. As a result, many farmers resorted to wastewater, causing many to consume food containing chemicals or disease-causing organisms, contributing to the spread of diseases. Therefore, the shortage of water for agricultural uses in Africa in directly causes the increased rate of contracting water-related diseases, similar to the health threats posed by unsafe drinking water.

Lastly, the explosion of population in Africa is causing severe strain within and between African nations. Studies have shown that the growth rate of water use is double of the rate of population increase. It was also predicted that that by 2025, water usage figures would be doubled from 2007 in developing countries (Zabarenko, 2011). To make matters worse, most of the increase in usage would originate from the poorest countries with increased rural-urban migration, which is on the rise in Africa.

With the current water quantity already unable to support the population of over 1 billion in Africa, the population explosion occurring as of now would simply worsen the present situation. Consequently, it would create a larger group of extreme poor that faces other issues such as poor sanitation, increased susceptibility towards diseases and malnutrition or starvation. The above mentioned impacts clearly shows that the impacts of water scarcity are interlinked in a cycle that is extremely hard for Africans to escape from unless drastic changes were made or revolutionary plans implemented to alleviate the water scarcity crisis.

Current Solutions Numerous efforts have been made at the international level through bodies such as the United Nation (UN). For instance, the “Water for Life” Decade is the coordination between UN and partner water agencies to respond to water scarcity challenges in various countries. This initiative is aimed at overall guidance and coordination of actions to tackle water scarcity by individual agencies and partners and relies heavily on the expertise and knowledge accumulated them to alleviate the situation.

Apart from efforts solely from international organisations, countries have also made efforts to tackle water scarcity through the aid of an international platform to launch partnerships and attract more participation by making such programs known at major conferences (UN-Thematic Initiatives, 2006). A recent example would be the global launch of the U. S. Water Partnership at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, that was held earlier this year in June.

Through this launch, it has successfully attracted more organisations to be part of the partnership to help water scarce countries, through the uniting and mobilizing of U. S. expertise, resources and ingenuity to address water issues in the developing world, not just African communities alone (U. S. Water Partnership, 2012). This clearly shows that there have been consistent efforts at the international level to help developing countries, especially Africa, to tackle not only water scarcity but also other developmental issues as well.

Apart from efforts by the international community, numerous NGOs have also been actively contributing to alleviating the water scarcity situation in Africa. Some of the NGOs involved focused on the aspect of water contamination by sewage waste through simple or innovative methods incorporated in toilets and water pumps. For example, Pump Aid, a NGO involved, implemented the “Elephant Toilet” and “Elephant Pumps” in Africa. The “Elephant toilet” is constructed from locally sourced bricks as the pit and thatched roof covers to create a completely private enclosure.

The pit is 3 metres deep and uses the idea of segregating solid waste from liquid waste to promote decomposition rate and reduce groundwater impacts (Pump Aid, n. d. ). As for “Elephant Pumps”, derived from 3,000-year-old Chinese design, uses simple materials, ropes, rubber washers, plastic pipes and a winding wheel, to extract water (Pump Aid, n. d. ). The device is strong, reliable and sustainable, with the ability to lift water up to 50m in depth and produce 1 litre of water per second. Apart from tackling sewage contamination, some NGOs also tackled the issue of the lack of safe drinking water in Africa.

For example, a NGO known as Water is Life, created The Straw, a portable water filter that purifies water through a 3-step filtration system simply through the sucking of water (Water is Life, n. d. ). The usage of The Straw is extremely easy and does not require any complicated maintenance. Each straw costs only $10 and can last up to a year, which is relatively affordable compared to large, complicated water filtration systems that are costly and requires high maintenance. Till today, 52,000 straws have been distributed in 31 countries, not limited to just Africa but worldwide.

Apart from distribution of The Straw, Water is Life also helped to repair pumps, drill wells, provide home filters, install water systems and provided school and village WASH programs, which is a program that aims to provide basic water, sanitation and hygiene to the developing countries (Water is Life, n. d. ) At the national level, there is limited effort in tackling the issue of water scarcity as countries have limited resources and finances to develop their country holistically so in most African countries, economic development is being prioritized over tackling water scarcity.

However, there is still presence of actions taken to tackle water scarcity in certain countries. For example, in South Africa, the country is divided into 19 water management areas under the National Water Act enacted in 1998 (Mike Muller, 2009). The Act aims to ensure that South Africa’s water resource is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled for sustainable use in the long term. Water management is carried out at the catchment level, which is easier and more efficient in managing scarcity and associated problems as the problems faced varies with individual catchments.

As for other African countries, many of them lack the appropriate policies to manage water scarcity efficiently, which led to the stagnation of development in these countries in the non-economic aspects. This indicates that there is still much room for improvement in addressing the issue of water scarcity in Africa, especially at the national and community levels. Future Solutions Not only is Africa one of the largest regions if not the largest region facing water scarcity, most of the countries are extremely hard to reach in terms of water aid.

This is due to the fact that large parts of Africa are rural areas with undeveloped road networks which make the transportation of water aid difficult. Prevalence of villages in many parts of Africa meant that large parts of Africa lacked the necessary industrial technologies in order to ensure sustainability of water scarcity solutions. Wide income gaps between the rich and the poor also come into play, especially in urban areas, where the poorest pay up to 10 times more for sanitary water.

Such discriminatory acts hinders equal access to clean water technologies and efforts to the poor, which is no longer a result of being unable to afford water but rather, being prevented from gaining equal access. Fortunately, there is still hope for Africa as it was estimated recently that the groundwater storage capacity is 100 times the amount available on the surface annually (AlertNet, 2012) Experts believe that with adequate development and sustainable management of Africa’s water resources, ample supply would be available for all and enable them to achieve their ater-related development goals in the near future. For a start, more emphasis and efforts can be injected at the national level as there is a general lack of concrete plans by governments to tackle water scarcity in most African communities. This was also one of the main contributors to the failure of NGO’s water projects. So, instead of the continuation at international and NGO levels to tackle the issue, change from bottom up must take place.

Since one of the main reasons for the negligence is the differentiated priority in the aspect of development, education or relevant programs should be conducted for the African communities to raise awareness and instill in them the notion that economic progress can also be achieved via a cleaner water supply and sanitation. The link should also established that with cleaner water and sanitation, numerous other benefits, such as achievement of food security through improved irrigation and protection of previous gains of economic development with effective management of droughts, floods and desertification, can be attained.

It can also be highlighted to all that such a form of development would be more sustainable and would leave a better environment for their future descendants. Upon achieving the change in perception towards improving water supply, local governments can then effectively work with NGOs and international bodies in implementing various projects to tap into undeveloped water resources throughout Africa. However, this has to be done with caution to avoid the over-use of water resources, which could bring us back to the exact same problem of scarcity that we aim to resolve in the first place.

This would naturally lead to increased efforts and even if the level of contribution at higher levels remains the same, it could at least ensure increased success of various water projects. The change may not mean be drastic, but it is definitely a significant first step and also an indication of what more that would come successively. Apart from the change in mindset of local leaders and the communities as a whole, simple water purifying technologies can be imported near to villages or water sources to provide access to purified water.

For instance, solar powered water pumping systems can be installed in communities, which does not require heavy maintenance and electricity can be readily supplied form the solar cells attached to power the system. A good example would be the solar powered pumping systems developed by Aqua Sun, which caters to different types of water sources such as the Deep Submersible Pumps and Surface and Ground Mount Pumps.

One of its solar powered pumps, The LiftMaster, is designed in such a way that it is able to lift water from deep wells and one of the best options to obtain clean and stable water supply (Aqua Sun International, n. . ). Since the pumping system uses solar power, a renewable source of energy, communities would not face the problem of unavailability of electricity to power the pumps. Thus, a more or less stable source of clean water supply would be available to people who obtain water from the water source. However, it is insufficient to simply provide water pumps to solve the problem as some form of maintenance would still be required. Therefore, in this aspect, funds can be allocated to local communities utilising the water pumping systems to maintain and service the water pumps.

This would give them a sense of responsibility to take good care of the water pumps to ensure their continual supply of safe drinking water, so that they would be more pro-active in protecting the clean water source and ensure their continual access to clean drinking water. Conclusion In conclusion, the water scarcity crisis is very much solvable. All it requires is the active participation of both local governments and communities in Africa and NGOs, or even international bodies in the implementation of water projects to alleviate the crisis.

Strong communications must be established such that tensions and misunderstandings can be avoided in order not to hinder the development progress of water projects. The benefits of alleviating Africa’s water scarcity crisis would not only be the improved health of Africans, but also increased labour participation and productivity that is a result of a more robust workforce. As such, this crisis should be dealt with as early as possible in order to bring about development in Africa, not only in the economic but also non-economic aspects.

Cite this Water Scarcity in Africa

Water Scarcity in Africa. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/water-scarcity-in-africa/

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