Contaminated water is a major threat among communities throughout Africa. Every hour, an estimated 115 people die in Africa from diseases linked to improper hygiene, poor sanitation, and contaminated water, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). What causes water pollution in Africa, exactly? There are a number of contributors to water scarcity, ranging from the dumping of industrial waste to rising temperatures due to global warming. Learn more about the causes of water pollution in Africa, the effects of pollution on the people of Africa, and how you can get involved in the fight to end water pollution.
Main Causes of Water Pollution in Africa
- Poor Sanitation
Agriculture plays a major role in water contamination. Farming results in the release of large quantities of organic matter, agrochemicals, sediments, and drug residues. The use of fertilizers and excreta at farms cause nitrates and phosphates to enter bodies of water, leading to eutrophication. Pesticides commonly used in farming can also end up in water bodies, further contributing to water contamination.
While mining is a huge economic activity in many developing countries like Africa, it presents a number of challenges. The mining of coal, gold, and other natural resources has had a negative impact on air, soil, and water. Mining companies in Africa have been deeply criticized for hazardously dumping waste without thinking about the health consequences it causes. Salt and mineral content from mining is often found in large amounts in the continent’s water which has a direct effect on the water’s pH levels.
In West Africa, deforestation in the rainforests have reduced topical rainfall. It also affects wildlife, weather patterns, ecosystems, and the climate as a whole. Deforestation also causes soil erosion, forcing more soil into nearby bodies of water. This not only has a negative impact on plants and animals who rely on these water sources, but also humans who face water scarcity and must consume water that is unfit for drinking.
Rapid urbanization is continuing to contribute to the deterioration of Africa’s water quality. As more and more people migrate to urban areas, the area’s water infrastructure gradually diminishes. A larger volume of waste is going into wastewater treatment plants and the existing infrastructure is not able to keep up. A lack of financial resources from local government is also a major factor that is causing economic harm.
Without an adequate supply of clean water and proper sanitation practices in place, millions of people in Africa are falling ill or dying. Sanitation issues are one of the leading causes of disease transmission in Africa, especially with conditions like cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, and typhoid. According to the World Health Organization, more than 842,000 deaths occur annually from people in lower- and middle-income families from a lack of clean water and poor sanitation.
Effects of Water Pollution on Africa
Water is an essential resource for good health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, there are countless communities throughout Africa that do not have access to safe, clean water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene. Moreover, viruses, bacteria, parasites, and pollution contaminate freshwater sources resulting in ‘water scarcity.’ Water scarcity, coupled with poor sanitation practices, has resulted in an abundance of illnesses, diseases, and deaths.
Water scarcity can lead to a variety of water-borne tropical diseases, such as typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and diarrheal illnesses. Other conditions, such as plague, typhus, and trachoma (eye infection that can result in blindness), are also common. As the population continues to climb and contributors like urbanization affect bodies of water throughout the continent, water scarcity and pollution continue to get worse.
A lack of clean water also affects the African people in other ways. Many families have to travel further to gain access to clean drinking water. The women and girls in the family often take on this responsibility of having to carry heavy buckets of water back to their homes. Younger girls often have to drop out of school and miss out on getting an education to help their families. These journeys to collect water are also dangerous and sometimes result in physical or sexual abuse of girls and women.
How You Can Make a Difference
Eliminating water scarcity in Africa and providing communities across the continent with access to safe, clean water is an important mission that everyone should be a part of. If you are interested in taking action to help end water scarcity, there are a number of charities and organizations that work hard to provide safe drinking water to billions of people in Africa. There are many ways you can help, such as through donations or volunteering. For more information about what causes water pollution in Africa or to see how you can get involved, contact The Last Well today.