Approximately 748 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. Almost half of these individuals live in Liberia or other sub-Saharan African nations, where roughly 40% of the population lacks clean water. Tens of thousands of people die each year due to water-related diseases or other sanitation issues and of these, up to 90% are children under the age of five. Here are the many different ways in which the global water crisis primarily afflicts young African children.
Long-Distance Travel For Water Sources
Women and children in Africa often have to spend hours walking several miles just to gain access to clean water from wells, sand dams and natural springs. Other times, African children have no choice but to fetch water from polluted sources like rivers. The Pan Africa Chemistry Network revealed in a report that 75 percent of drinking water in Africa is derived from groundwater that is either minimally purified or not at all, which often leads to the dissemination of fatal diseases across the continent.
According to World Vision, women and children in developing countries walk an average of 3.7 miles every day just to secure water that may not always be free of contamination. That is roughly equivalent to walking 15 laps around a football field or five times the number of steps needed to climb the Empire State Building.
The lack of access to safe drinking water in African countries has many adverse effects on the continent’s population, including decreased levels of maternal health, higher infant mortality rates, and children spending less time in school.
Decreases In Maternal Health In Africa
According to several charitable organizations, women around the world spend a combined 266 million hours each day finding sources of water and collecting it. It’s no surprise that pregnant women are especially at risk of suffering from major health effects due to the long distances and heavy loads of water they carry, which can weigh upwards of 40 pounds. Many African mothers also are often forced to transport water in extreme heat or under other adverse weather conditions, and women and young girls can also be physically or sexually assaulted while carrying water back to their homes. Expecting mothers who drink bacteria-contaminated water also can give birth to unhealthy newborn babies.
African Child Mortality Increases
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs reports that every hour, roughly 115 people in Africa die from diseases tied to unsafe drinking water that is often contaminated with toxic chemicals like Fluoride, Manganese and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). A large proportion of these are children, who often fall victim to illnesses like Salmonella, E. Coli, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis and dysentery. According to UNICEF data, around 5.3 million children under the age of five died in 2018, and approximately half of those deaths happened in sub-Saharan Africa. The organization found that diarrhea was one of the leading causes of death last year among children in this age group, with around 8% of kids dying from this disease. Water.org also notes that a child dies from a water-related illness every two minutes, and many of these children live in Africa. The World Health Organization has also cited 2017 data to estimate that African children are eight times more likely to die before the age of five (with 74 deaths per 1,000 live births) than their European counterparts (9 per 1,000 live births).
The Water Crisis And Education in Africa
African children — especially girls — who help their families by fetching water also spend less hours in school on average each day than their counterparts in other parts of the world. Children who become infected with diseases because of contaminated water only suffer further delay and detriment to their education, as they can sometimes become afflicted with developmental disorders. Water.org notes that around 570 million children worldwide lack safe drinking water at their schools. The Water Project also estimated in 2016 that 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.
How To Help End The Water Crisis In Africa
Texas-based charity The Last Well is one of multiple organizations that helps combat the water crisis in Africa, particularly Liberia, which is one of the five poorest nations in the world. There are several different ways you can get involved in assisting The Last Well to provide safe drinking water to African countries. Among these are sponsoring clean water projects in African villages, making cash or property donations or volunteering through fundraisers like athletic events. The Last Well has reached more than 2 million Liberians over the past decade thanks to more than 8,000 clean water projects. The charity has also set a goal of reaching more than 2,500 communities in Liberia by the end of 2019. The Last Well has partnered with organizations like Water4, Assembly of God and the Christian Revival Church Association (CRCA) and counts Access, K.E. Andrews and Lime Media among its business partners.