Clean Water Scarcity and a Call to Action

by Alexandra Cushman on February 21, 2014




Lack of clean water creates needless suffering for millions of individuals every day, especially in rural and sub-Saharan Africa.  “Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed” (UN Worldwide). There are two forms of water scarcity: physical and economic. Physical water scarcity is a lack of freshwater, even if resources are allocated to find and use it. Economic scarcity is a lack of resources to find and obtain freshwater, even if it is available. Both forms of water scarcity pose a major threat to survival, and both are prevalent around the world.




Women and children in developing countries bear the majority of the water scarcity burden, often spending hours a day walking miles to rivers and streams, in order to fetch water simply to keep their families alive. But this water is laden with water borne diseases, and infectious agents that make their families extremely sick. These illnesses rob children of their futures, and is what keeps over half of primary schools in Africa closed. 1 out of every 5 child deaths is the result of a water-related disease, and while over a million people in the world are struggling to obtain water simply to survive, developed countries such as our own are wasting it. By using clean water in excess, and purchasing plastic water bottle after plastic water bottle, we are depriving children and their families of their full potential. The problem of water scarcity is only growing with increasing stresses on the economy, and an ever-increasing demand for clean water.


When children are free of the responsibility of searching for clean water, they are able to return to where they should be—school. Clean hands and clean, healthy bodies lead to an improvement in every aspect of health. After all, half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with those suffering from a water-related disease—ones that are impossible to avoid in developing countries due to their invisibility to the naked eye. Without the complex water chlorination and cleaning processes found in developed countries, those fetching water in developing countries are therefore inevitably susceptible to water-borne illness, infection, and in serious cases death. Access to clean water can prevent water-borne illness, nutrient deficiencies, and malnutrition from occurring. It also allows crops and gardens planted for cultivation to flourish. Successful crop yields feed the hungry, and break the cycle of poverty in developing countries—allowing villages to prosper, grow, and truly build upon themselves.


Clean water is the key to sustainable development, and it is therefore absolutely necessary that every individual have access to it. The World Health Organization must therefore continue to work towards making clean water sources available in every part of the world. The most important way to individually contribute to eliminating water scarcity is to engage in efficient water preservation strategies, and to also protect and preserve our planet’s vital water ecosystems. We are all individually capable of partaking in these actions, because if we don’t the fate of Mother Earth is in grave danger.











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