Countries that suffer water shortages : Africa
"Water shortage is important because it is a human right"
  • Mauritania
  • Sierra Leone
  • Niger
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Somalia
  • Madagascar

It is estimated that 80 per cent of the Mauritanian territory, which is located in the Sahara, experiences extreme temperature and insufficient and sporadic rainfall. Years of drought combined with water and population growth have exacerbated this problem. Stable water sources in Mauritania are only found in aquifers situated in stony formations, inland.


Nowadays more than 1.2 billion people lack safe water and about 2.7 billion lack an adequate sanitation system. It is estimated that this figure will increase to 3.4 billion by 2025. This is the reason why there are such unfair and incredible situations as the ones lived by the people in the slums in Kibeira, Nairobi (Kenya), who pay up to five times more per litre than the average American citizen.



In Sierra Leone only 34% of the population has access to drinking water.


One of the indirect problems caused by water scarcity is the rape that women and children suffer at the hands of the rebels. A woman or a child in Sierra Leone has to travel an average of 7 km per day to get drinking water for their family and, on many occasions, they have to cross 7 miles of territory occupied by rebel troops, that cruelly abuse them with impunity.


More than 4,000 children die every day because they do not have access to clean water or adequate sanitation. At least 20 litres of drinking water per day (approximately 2 buckets) is the amount needed to ensure that a child can drink, wash his or her hands to prevent disease, and cook a simple meal. Without it, children become easy prey to many diseases caused by dirty water, water that may threaten their lives.


The scarcity of drinking water goes hand in hand with the high rates of infant mortality. In Sierra Leone, where one in five children never celebrate their fifth birthday, 43% of children drink unsafe water, risking disease and death from drinking polluted water.


The impact on children's health from drinking dirty water and having inadequate sanitation and hygiene goes far beyond the 4,000 children that die daily from diseases, such as diarrhoea or typhoid fever, caused by water. Many more millions are on the verge of death from the recurrent outbreaks of these diseases.



In the rural areas of Niger, 64% of the population doesn't have access to clean water. Many people drink water from stagnant pools they share with cattle, so it is contaminated with Guinea worm and considerable amounts of chemicals like fluoride and nitrates.


There is no doubt that most of the infant and child mortality in rural Niger is due to polluted water, poor hygiene and poor sanitation. The poor sanitation of the environment and the polluted water not only threatens the survival of children and young girls, but also their physical and mental development. Diseases like diarrhoea not only cause malnutrition, they can make it worse, and long-term exposure to it can cause stunting.




The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been ranked as the worst possible emergency in Africa in recent decades, with most of its infrastructure destroyed by war and neglect.
One of the main problems is the lack of access to safe water and sanitation facilities.


In the Democratic Republic of Congo, less than 29% of the population that lives in rural areas has access to safe water, and less than 31% have adequate sanitation.


The lack of these basic services is the direct cause of diarrhoea, which annually kills 14% of children under 5. It is also the cause of outbreaks of cholera, which, in turn, cause over 20,000 deaths a year, particularly in the eastern Katanga, North and South Kivu.



The Ethiopian regions of Oromia and the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the South, lack access to clean water and basic sanitation. Polluted water causes death and disease, and crops depend solely on rainfall, so they are scarce. Girls and women must travel long distances to fetch water, which means they cannot attend school or participate in community life. Construction of springs and wells, conservation of natural resources and promotion of hygiene and sanitation in the area are a main priority.


Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and suffers recurrent droughts and famines. Only 24% of the population has access to drinking water, despite the large amount of water available to the country, especially subsoil water, and only 13% have basic sanitation services (as reported by the 20006 United Nations Development Programme). These figures reach their worst values in rural areas.


As a consequence, hundreds of people get sick and die every day from drinking polluted water, and not enough food is produced, as crops are totally dependent on rainfall and livestock die from illnesses related to the bad quality of water. This also creates a serious social problem, especially in rural areas, as girls and women have to travel long distances to find water, so they do not have time to go to school or to participate in the life of the community.



"In Ethiopia, water is both abundant and scarce. There are many resources but they do not respond to the demands and needs of the population"


When crossing the mountainous and rocky highlands of the Ethiopian Samre region, one does not get a brief glimpse of forests or streams for hours. 70% of the population there does not have access to clean water, which means they drink and wash with brown water that causes illnesses. Women and girls spend up to 6 hours collecting water in springs and rivers.


One wonders where 85% of the flow of the Nile goes, especially as, according to hydrologists, the longest river on the planet comes from Ethiopia. As confirmed by a representative for the Water Bank program of Oxfam, Kaleab Getaneh, "the amount of groundwater and surface water in the country is sufficient to provide drinking water for the entire population (about 70 million people)."


Because of its orography, Ethiopia "could export to other countries in northeastern Africa." The problem isn't that there is no water in Ethiopia, or recurrent droughts. The problem is the lack of adequate human and material resources to build infrastructure that will deliver drinking water to all Ethiopians, and the lack of money to finance these projects. This is a vicious cycle: the country's economic poverty delays access to drinking water, which, in turn, delays economic development.




Water scarcity is one of the problems children in Somalia face. Less than 30% of the country has drinking water. Malnutrition is rising and severe malnutrition affects 17% of children.
Somalia is one of the countries of the "Horn of Africa" which is suffering the worst drought of the last sixty years, according to the UN. It is a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions: due to drought and violence in the South and Midwest, 1.8 million people have become refugees or have ended up internally displaced, warned the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva (UNHCR ).


In addition, due to drought, grain prices -that are an essential part of local food- soared and, in the case of Kenya, over the last five years the cost has increased between 30 and 80 percent above the average, depending on the region.




Madagascar is a country that suffers drinking water shortages for human consumption. It is very difficult to get water and, when they do, most of it isn't good enough to drink: in their despair, they drink it anyway to quench their thirst.


The lack of clean water is responsible for serious health problems amongst the general population and it is one of the main causes of high infant mortality in the region. The lack of infrastructure, the dispersion of resources and the fact that most of the population settle in small villages over a vast territory, makes it extremely difficult to solve the problem of lack of drinking water. The poor management of wastewater, the use of poor quality groundwater, or the pollution caused by poor administrative control are added difficulties that are sometimes imported (brought in by other countries). Political conflicts are the cause and the consequence of the above and help to entrench and perpetuate the problem of underdevelopment.




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