Water is life; we can live without many things, but without water, we would die within days.
Africa is a territory that tends to be homogenized; it is often referred to as a country. Yet there are many inequalities in the region; high levels of urbanization, and access to and use of water are among the biggest problems. International organizations have expressed concern about the growth of cities since the turn of the century. There are estimates that by 2050, there will be over 1.3 billion people living in African cities. The challenges of addressing scarcity will intensify day by day.
A major issue is an access to drinking water. The situation in some countries is challenging and there is a wide gap with other countries that benefit from more privileges. For instance, 91% of Liberians lack clean drinking water, but 99% of South Africans have access to it. There are inequalities not only when comparing countries, but also within cities. Further, this affects differently based on gender, with women, who are usually in charge of household chores, being the most affected since they must spend more time and effort fetching water. Infrastructure in the different countries thus plays a significant role in addressing water scarcity and quality and preventing future crises such as the plastic crisis, which was triggered in part by the need to drink water in bottles.
How Can Water Distribution Be Improved?
In the last 20 years, freshwater resources have declined by 20% per person. United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) experts suggest developing public-private partnerships or implementing small solar-powered desalination modules to address informal settlements in coastal cities as possible solutions. Even though these solutions are intended for urban environments, rural areas are also severely affected by water shortages. Global warming and practices like large-scale mining have reduced the quantity and quality of water. Consequently, in addition to state and private sector intervention, it is imperative to consider ancestral water collection methods so that communities are not adversely affected.
Water scarcity and inequality in its distribution permeate all human activities and the functioning of the earth. In addition to being a public health problem, it also generates conflicts mainly in territories with high population growth. Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the least access to water, has seen ethnic and religious conflicts intensify, as well as violence between pastoralists and farmers over the use of water resources.
Africa is facing a situation of alarm due to the danger that a large part of the population will not have enough water to live in dignity. Colonization has had devastating effects; therefore, it is important to implement practices that benefit the people with their consent. All sectors are essential in achieving an effective and fair distribution of drinking water, and it must be considered a public problem that leads the government’s agenda.
*Based on the article IMPROVING ACCESS TO DRINKING WATER IN URBAN AREAS IN AFRICA by Joseph Nyaga y Phostine Wekesa (UNOPS)