FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Challenges of Providing Water in Africa

One of the most notable changes in modern times is the rapid urbanization of our planet, which began in the 19th century. While in 1950, 29 percent of the global population lived in cities, that figure is estimated now at 50 percent and by 2030 it will reach 61 percent. In Africa, urbanization experienced a rapid shift from 15 percent in 1950 to 41 percent today. It is estimated that by 2030, 54 percent of the population in that continent will be living in cities. Not only are more people living in cities but the cities themselves are becoming larger and more densely populated. This situation poses unique problems related to the provision of water, sanitation and a healthy environment.

Africa has now 19 cities with populations of more than one million inhabitants. Because of slow economic growth, lack of effective development policies and limited resources, the development of infrastructure has not kept up with the increasing needs for shelter and services in growing urban populations.

Waste management and sanitation

This is the case for many African cities, where local governments have been unable to keep pace with change and, as a consequence, have also been unable to provide dwellers with proper infrastructures related to the provision of water and the collection, transportation, processing and disposal of waste materials.

In developing countries with economies under stress, waste management is a problem that often endangers health and the environment. In addition, this is given low priority by governments often besieged by other problems such as poverty, hunger, children’s malnutrition, water shortages, unemployment and even war.

Water supply, sanitation and health are closely related issues

Poor hygiene, inadequate management of liquid or solid waste and lack of sanitation facilities are contributing factors in the death of millions of people in the developing world due to diseases that are easily preventable. In addition, people living in un-serviced or poorly serviced areas value the increased convenience and privacy associated with improved sanitation.

For example, lack of sanitation and inadequate disposal or storage of waste near houses can provide habitats for vectors responsible for several infectious diseases such as amebiasis, typhoid fever and diarrhea. Uncontrolled and inadequate landfills are a danger to the environment and a health risk to the population since they may lead to contamination of water and soil. The health risks associated with poor sanitation tend to be higher in densely populated low-income urban areas. At a global level, more than 5 million people die each year from diseases related to inadequate waste disposal systems.

Water contamination

Contamination of water leads to a whole range of diarrheal diseases such as cholera that kills 1.8 million people worldwide. An estimated 90 percent among them are children below five, mainly from developing countries. Most of the burden can be attributed to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices.

The children that are affected the most are those living in low-income urban areas. According to UNICEF, Infant Mortality Rates (IMRs) are almost always higher in poor urban areas than the national average and than those in rural areas. A great proportion of the high mortality among the children of the urban poor can be attributed to diseases common in urban areas such as diarrhea, tuberculosis and parasitic diseases (intestinal worms) that are frequently associated with lack of safe water and sanitation. Malnutrition in children is often a consequence and a complicating factor.

Germs, particularly those present in water, food or on dirty hands are the most frequent cause of sickness worldwide. Although lack of safe water and sanitary facilities are significant problems, they are made even worse by ignorance in the general population, particularly mothers, about the connection between dirt, germs and childhood diarrhea.

Several naturally-occurring and human-made chemical substances present in drinking water can have a serious effect on health, particularly in high concentrations. Among chemicals that can be dangerous at elevated levels are fluoride, arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, nitrates and pesticides.

All these factors stress the need to implement policies that ensure the provision of safe water to the population, particularly in marginal areas lacking basic health and social services.

Sanitation needs

Africa has the lowest water supply and sanitation coverage of any other region in the world. It is estimated that one in three Africans has no access to improved water or to sanitation facilities and the number of people lacking those basic services is increasing. The majority of those lacking basic services live in informal or suburban areas and rural communities. Unless actions are taken now, the absolute number of people lacking basic services will increase from 200 million in 2000 to 400 million in 2020.

Despite progress, however, many Sub-Saharan countries will find it difficult to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set for 2015, particularly the MDG 7 which stipulates to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

It is necessary to overcome the lack of integration between the various components of environmental sanitation: excreta, domestic and industrial waste-water, solid waste and storm water which are often run by separate agencies or institutions. Better use of synergies can lead to more sustainable and cost-effective solutions.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail