Roughly 1 in 8 people, about 800 million in the world, do not have access to clean drinking water (source).
Over 300 million people in Africa lack access to safe water — that’s the same as the entire population of the United States.
According to the World Bank in 2012, 6,000 children die every day from preventable diseases associated with inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene, and unsafe water – more deaths than from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. That means more than two million children needlessly die each year.
Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary General, states, “We shall not finally defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or any of the other infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking water, sanitation and basic health care.” Diarrhea alone kills one child every 20 seconds. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a baby’s chance of dying from diarrhea is almost 520 times the chance of that in Europe or the United States (source).
Yet, the World Health Organization estimates that 40% of diarrheal deaths could be prevented with toilets and hand washing.
In Africa, women and children spend 40 billion hours every year walking to the nearest water source, which is often unprotected and will make them sick (source).
Women in Africa carry an average of 40 pounds on their heads and walk up to 10 miles each day to get water for their families (source).
Millions more will experience increased water stress from environmental changes in the coming decades, and Sub-Saharan Africa will suffer disproportionately due to its geography.
The 2009 UN World Water Development Report analyzes returns on investment in safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as the contribution to economic growth.
For each $1 invested, WHO estimates returns of $3-$34, depending on the region and technology. Africa alone sustains estimated losses of $28.4 billion a year due to lack of access to safe water and basic sanitation, or a staggering 5% of total GDP. In contrast, total US foreign aid to Africa in 2010 was only $648 million (source).
Most developing countries around the world are on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 7 to halve the world’s population who does not have access to clean drinking water — except for Sub-Saharan Africa:
Improved drinking water coverage in sub-Saharan Africa is still considerably lower than in other regions… [the region is]lagging behind badly…Despite the fact that 22 African countries have increased access to improved drinking water source in rural areas by 25 per cent or more, the changes are still too low for Africa to reach the [United Nations’]target of halving the number of people without access to an improved drinking water source by 2015 (source).
The number of people living in rural areas who do not use an improved source of drinking water is over five times the number living in urban areas. 84% of the world population without an improved drinking-water source lives in rural areas and 37% of people not using an improved source of drinking water live in Sub–Saharan Africa (source).
Water is not only a basic necessity, it is a human right. Without water, there is no life. Yet hundreds of millions of people do not have access to safe, clean water. Approximately 2.6 billion people lack safe sanitation facilities. Living in these conditions increases the likelihood of disease and death. It perpetuates poverty…The challenge is particularly great in rural areas. We must urgently work toward a world in which every person has access to clean, safe water every day…
Gender considerations must remain central. As primary care-givers, women spend many hours simply trying to secure water. Access to clean water and sanitation will free up time and enable mothers to provide their children with a healthy start in life. Experience also shows that girls are more likely to attend school when there are proper sanitation facilities.
–Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary General