March 22, 2014
Today is World Water Day, the culmination of a week-long series of events coordinated by the United Nations and others to raise awareness of the global water crisis and, this year, the linkage between water and energy generation. Of course, the burden of the crisis is most keenly keenly felt by the estimated 960 million people around the globe – many of them in Africa – who live on less than $2 a day.
To appreciate the full weight of that burden, consider the following statistical portrait, which was put together by the folks at the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), a six-year, $30 million initiative of the Coca-Cola Company that aims to improve access to clean water for 2 million people in Africa by 2015:
Water is a common thread between many of the most pressing challenges facing the world today, undermining development around the world.
Global water and sanitation burden
- One in nine people, or 768 million people, lack access to safe water supply globally, while 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitation. (http://water.org/water-crisis/one-billion-affected/)
- One billion people still practice open defecation globally. (http://www.unicef.org/media/files/JMPreport2012.pdf)
- Globally, more people have access to a cell phone than a toilet. (http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/03/25/more-people-have-cell-phones-than-toilets-u-n-study-shows/)
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene and Health
- Water and sanitation-related diseases collectively account for 80 percent of sickness in developing countries. (http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/sanitation.shtml) These diseases annually kill more children – a total of 2.2 million – than HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined. (WASH Advocates)
- In addition, access to safe drinking water is vital for the success of HIV/AIDS treatment. (http://www.pedaids.org/blog/entry/wash-and-hiv-aids-go-hand-in-hand)
- On average, a child dies from waterborne disease every 15 seconds.
- Half of the world's malnutrition cases are caused by water and sanitation-related diseases due to the inability to properly absorb nutrients. (http://www.unep.org/documents.multilingual/default.asp?DocumentID=617&ArticleID=6504&l=en&t=long)
- Even in the United States, water-related diseases (such as Legionnaire’s disease, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis) cost the U.S. over $500 million annually. (http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r100714.htm)
- Water, sanitation and hygiene have the potential to prevent at least 9.1 percent of the global disease burden and 6.3 percent of all deaths. (http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2008/9789241596435_eng.pdf)
- Water-related disease costs children in the developing world 443 million school days per year. (http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR06-complete.pdf)
- Improving access to clean water ranks as the top health priority among U.S. citizens for assistance abroad. (http://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/8508-f-2013-survey-of-americans-on-the-u-s-role-in-global-health.pdf)
The water crisis is an everyday reality for millions of Africans.
- 37 percent of those without access to safe water globally are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Sanitation is also a key issue in Africa: 215 million people currently still practice open defecation in Africa (almost one quarter the total African population). (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186%2F1471-2458-13-527)
- By 2020, Africa will comprise 17 percent of the world's population, accounting for 250 million new people. (http://www.bain.com/Images/INDUSTRY_BRIEF_Growing_with_Africas_consumers.pdf)
- By 2020, one out of every five people between the ages of 15-24 will live in Africa. (http://unstats.un.org/unsd/publication/SeriesK/seriesk_16e.pdf)
- By 2020, about 75 to 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to increased water stress. (http://www.unep.org/roa/amcen/docs/AMCEN_Events/climate-change/2ndExtra_15Dec/FACT_SHEET_CC_Africa.pdf)
Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, yet they are the cornerstones of their communities.
- Over two-thirds of the burden of collecting water is shouldered by women and girls in the developing world. (WHO/UNICEF JMP Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2010 Update)
- Women spend 200 hours a day collecting water globally – that's the equivalent of building 28 Empire State Buildings every day. (http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/women/)
- Women in Africa and Asia walk an average of six kilometers a day to collect and transport water for their families. (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet35en.pdf)
- The lack of gender-separated sanitation facilities is a leading cause of absenteeism and drop-out for young girls, particularly as they hit puberty and begin to menstruate. (http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index_focus_water.html)
- Without the privacy and safety afforded by separate, adequate sanitation facilities, girls and women face shame and fear and may choose to ignore their hygiene needs. (http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/monitoring/jmp04_4.pdf)
- The full participation of women in water and sanitation projects is strongly correlated with increased effectiveness and sustainability of these projects. (http://www.bvsde.paho.org/bvsarg/i/fulltext/partici/partici.pdf)
- By 2020, over 650 million women will live in an emerging Africa, constituting about 70 percent of the informal economy.
- Women reinvest an average of 90 percent of their income into their families. Therefore, WASH projects that empower women can reap the benefits of overall community development. (http://go.worldbank.org/QWPUUOPVY0)
Although the water crisis presents many challenges to global development now and in the future, water presents opportunities for global economic growth in the face of an emerging global middle class.
- As it presently stands, the water crisis is on a path to worsen: by 2025, one billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. (http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Special%20Report_ICA%20Global%20Water%20Security.pdf)
- Clean water builds healthy communities. The lack of clean water is one of the greatest obstacles to economic growth in many countries. By reaching the Millennium and Development Goal for Water and Sanitation, developing countries stand to gain about 5 percent of their annual GDP. (https://www.hsbc.com/~/media/HSBC-com/citizenship/sustainability/pdf/120723-hsbc-executive-summary.ashx)
- By 2025, annual consumption in emerging markets will reach $30 trillion – the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism.
- Africa has the fastest-growing middle class in the world. By 2020, Africa's consumer spending will double to $2.1 trillion. (http://www.bain.com/Images/INDUSTRY_BRIEF_Growing_with_Africas_consumers.pdf)
Leading companies are taking action in the water crisis.
- Water presents many risks and potential for revenue loss due to water shortages and declining water quality – resulting in a strong incentive for leading companies to take action in water. (http://wwf.panda.org/?210092/Water-Stewardship--Perspectives-on-business-risk-and-responses--to-water-challenges)
- The United Nations estimates suggest about 5 percent of the African continent's wealth is lost from lack of access to water and sanitation. If everyone had access to these services, it would add $33 billion USD a year to the continent's economies, according to a conservative 2012 estimate by economists at the World Health Organization. (http://appablog.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/op-ed-by-wateraid-africas-once-in-a-generation-opportunity/)
- According to a World Bank assessment, Ghana alone loses $290 million USD each year to a lack of sanitation services. Kenya loses $324 million, and Nigeria a staggering $3 billion.
- Investing in water and sanitation provides a strong return: for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, at least $4 is returned. (http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/SC/pdf/WWDR3_Facts_and_Figures.pdf)
- This return is primarily in the form of reduced healthcare costs and increased productivity.
- Universal access to water and sanitation could yield $220 billion in economic benefits.
Want to learn more? Join the Global Water Challenge, RAIN, the World Wildlife Fund, the McCann World Group, and others in a Toast to Water. And be sure to download this helpful list of water-saving tips.