All reports indicate that situation of access to clean water and sanitation in rural Africa is dismal. In 2006, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that only 16% of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to drinking water through a household connection (an indoor tap or a tap in the yard). While the situation has hardly improved in too many regions, what is no less disturbing is that even when water is available in small towns across the continent, there are risks of contamination due to several factors.
* When wells are built and water sanitation facilities are developed, they are improperly maintained due to limited financial resources
* Testing of water quality is not sufficiently conducted to safeguard the health of communities
* Lack of education among consumers leads to the erroneous belief that extracting water from a well is safe.
* Once a source of water has been provided, the quantity of water is often given more attention than the quality of water. This is a dangerous development.
The implications of lack of clean water are widespread:
– Far too many young children die from dehydration and malnutrition resulting from diarrheal illnesses that could be prevented by clean water and good hygiene.
– Economic depressant. Women and young girls are prevented from doing income-generating work or attending school as their days are spent walking vast distances to fetch water. The UN estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa loses 40 billion potential work hours per year collecting water.
– Rapid growth of urban areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, has led to the influx of human waste into existing water sources, as demand has outpaced the development of wastewater management systems.
– Overcrowding in urban slums has proved a challenge to control sanitation.
– Exposure to raw sewage definitively leads to outbreaks of disease.
– Causes “Water Poverty”, a concept developed by economists specifically observing sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty is directly related to the accessibility of clean drinking water for without it, the chances of breaking out of the cycle of poverty is near impossible.
Within this “Water Poverty Trap”, citizens of Africa are subjected to low incomes, high fixed costs of water supply facilities, and lack of credit for water investments.