The water crisis in Africa manifests itself in various ways, including the proliferation of water borne diseases. These are illnesses caused by drinking dirty or contaminated water. Up to 80% of diseases in developing countries are tied to faecal polluted drinking water. According to the family-owned global health company Vestergaard, water-related diseases lead to 3.4 million deaths every year. These types of illnesses are most prevalent in sub-Saharan African nations such as Liberia, where there is poor-quality infrastructure. Institute Water for Africa also estimates that polluted drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa alone causes major losses via a decline in working hours and rising expenses in health costs at a value of approximately $28 billion per year.
The pathogens of water borne diseases — combined with heavy rainfall, flooding of water and sewage treatment facilities, and major climatic occurrences — can significantly impact the quality of drinking water. Young children are often the most susceptible to water borne illnesses because of their weak immune systems, and their education can often suffer as well because of these types of diseases.
Indirectly, a lack of water can also cause pressure on agriculture productivity, malnutrition, starvation, resource conflict, and population displacement. Additionally, changes in ocean and coastal ecosystems — including changes in pH, contaminant and nutrient runoff, water security and salinity — can lead to degradation of freshwater, especially in regions where a large proportion of the population consumes untreated surface water.
Types of Water-Borne Diseases
Cholera is an intestinal infection that often hits overcrowded communities in Africa the hardest. Although it is typically painless, it can quickly lead to dehydration and death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly half of people with severe cholera currently die from the illness.
Diarrhea is marked by the passage of three or more liquid or loose stools each day. This illness is also typically a symptom of an intestinal infection that can be caused by various types of viruses, bacteria, and parasites. If the condition persists for several days, diarrhea can leave the body without the water and salts it needs to flourish and survive. A majority of people who die from diarrhea actually die from severe dehydration and fluid loss. According to a recent report from Business Connect, roughly 2.2 million people die from diarrhea each year.
Hepatitis A and E, two different types of liver inflammation, typically occur as a result of poor hygiene and insufficient water supplies. Fatigue, fever, jaundice, and a loss of appetite are among the symptoms of these diseases. A majority of Hepatitis cases develop in early childhood, and bouts can last anywhere between a few days and several months.
Another type of intestinal infection, dysentery — which can be either amoebic or bacillary — can cause diarrhea. Symptoms of this disease include nausea, diarrhea, and fever, and the most efficient prevention methods include clean water and improved sanitation.
This is an inflammation of the intestinal lining caused by bacteria, a virus, or parasites. This illness is typically spread through contaminated food or water, and symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, abdominal pain, fever, headache, and chills.
Guinea worm is caused by a parasite found in contaminated drinking water. According to Vestergaard, 3.5 million people in Africa and Asia were affected by this disease in 1986. However, the number of people impacted by this condition has dropped by more than 99% since then. In 2012, only four nations reportedly had inhabitants affected by Guinea worm: Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, and South Sudan. This type of disease can incapacitate people. LifeStraw is one type of water filtration system that has helped decrease the amount of cases of Guinea Worm.
A parasitic infection of the small intestine, cryptosporidium enteritis is often caused by drinking dirty water. The condition most frequently affects people with weak immune systems like young children and those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Symptoms of this disease include malnutrition, abdominal cramping, weight loss, diarrhea, and nausea.
How to Help End Water borne Diseases in Africa
Donate to The Last Well to help end the proliferation of water borne illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa. The Last Well, a nonprofit based in Rockwall, Texas, is dedicated to providing access to safe drinking water and the Gospel for the entire nation of Liberia by the end of 2020. Donations can be made via cash or check, or through online crowdfunding campaigns. You can also shop at AmazonSmile, and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to The Last Well.
Additionally, you can sponsor a village or a family in Africa by helping with the construction of a significant project, such as a well, a pump, or a dam. These types of projects can significantly help improve water sanitation infrastructure in the continent, especially in overpopulated rural areas.