SEATTLE, Washington — Amid the unprecedented pandemic, water shortages plague Africa, carrying unforeseen consequences to vulnerable populations. Among regions in the world, 40% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population does not have reliable access to clean water, according to the Last Well. This shortage means that disadvantaged communities are not able to hydrate or sanitize properly, meaning these communities are more likely to contract, spread and die from viruses and diseases. Here are the key facts about water instability in Africa.
Water Instability in Africa Amid COVID-19
- Water pollution has many causes globally, but the best microcosm of these is in sub-Saharan Africa. As reported by The Last Well organization, climate change, industrial accidents, and other forms of pollution are the largest contributors to Africa’s water crisis. Due to a lack of infrastructure and governmental support, mining, one of the largest industries in Africa, is also a major factor in destroying clean drinking water and sanitation. The Last Well sites a 2,400-ton oil spill after a carrier sank in 1994.
- While many nations face water strain, 14 nations in Africa are under particular stress and, unless major changes are made, 11 more nations could be added to that list. It is estimated that approximately 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa is without access to clean water, making it the hardest-hit area. The majority of this geographic area relies on rivers, lakes and other forms of “surface water.” While these can be reliable given the correct sanitation measures, many Africans do not have access to adequate purification tools. Furthermore, surface water is more prone to be polluted with industrial agents and biological dangers, such as cholera. Serving as yet another obstacle, surface water can be difficult to transport. Unless a village is near a river or lake, many need to travel long distances to carry the water back. This strenuous requirement limits water consumption and has no safety guarantee.
- While social distancing measures and masks are considered to be the best methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19, handwashing is also a key component. Handwashing plays a vital role in preventing the spread of other diseases. Ultimately, the lack of adequate handwashing facilities leaves children and families vulnerable to a plethora of dangers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the urgency of the situation.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), access to handwashing facilities is essential in preventing the spread of diseases, thereby preventing illnesses. The CDC estimates that washing with soap can help cut the number of children sick with diarrheal diseases by 30% and respiratory infection by 20%. These diseases can be easily prevented through access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
Disadvantaged communities are struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but many humanitarian organizations are stepping up to help improve the lack of safe drinking water. The CDC notes that educating farmers and helping them establish wells will allow the agricultural industry to retain its depleting water resources. Additionally, improved treaties between nations will help the trade of water occur more frequently and safely.