5 Ways the Global Water Crisis is Affecting Communities Worldwide

March 24, 2020

This blog was originally posted on Islamic Relief UK.

Water is the source of all life. It’s a sacred blessing, a gift from Allah (SWT).

In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) tells us:

We sent down water from the sky, blessed water whereby We caused to grow gardens, grains for harvest, tall palm-trees with their spathes, piled one above the other – sustenance for (Our) servants… (50:9-11)

SubhanAllah, water nourishes both our planet and maintains our own health. But sadly right now the world is going through a water crisis…

A staggering 785 million people are going thirsty each and every day. Simply because of a lack of clean, safe water.

Drought in Somalia where 2.7 million people do not have regular access to food and only 52% of people have access to a basic water supply (UNICEF; UN World Food Programme).

However, it doesn’t stop there…

In communities lacking sufficient sanitation systems or supplies of water, things were already tough. And with the increasing impact of climate change, things have gone from bad to worse.

Climate-induced drought means that millions of people across the globe are struggling to survive. But it’s not just a lack of water that causes problems: too much water through flooding can also be damaging.

That’s why, this World Water Day, we’re saying it loudly and clearly: climate change has to stop.

Global Water Crisis -Here are five reasons why…

1. Farmers can’t earn a living

Tending to the arid land in Niger, where around 1 in 5 people do not have enough food (UN World Food Programme).

As the planet heats up, communities are facing ever-increasing periods of drought. For those who earn a living from the land growing crops, this presents a huge risk to their livelihoods.

With little or no water for their crops, families cannot earn an income and face immense insecurity.

In Niger for example, over 80% of the population live in rural areas and families are heavily dependent on agriculture.

In fact, 40% of the country’s GDP comes from agriculture. However, with a short rainy season and the increasing effects of climate change resulting in higher temperatures and irregular rainfall, life is becoming increasingly difficult, putting people’s very sustenance at risk.

2. Communities are being displaced

Flooding in Sindh, Pakistan – a country where natural disasters pose an ongoing problem for local communities.

As climate change increases, natural disasters such as floods and tropical storms are becoming more frequent and severe.

Sadly, the people paying the heaviest price are the world’s poorest communities. And this is particularly true for Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

In Pakistan and Bangladesh for example, vulnerable communities living in poverty are forced to contend with the effects of floods year after year.

In Bangladesh, only a third of the population have access to safe drinking water. When flooding then hits, local communities face greater insecurity and difficulty in accessing safe water.

Water supplies become flooded with dirty water, heavy rainfall destroys water pipes and salt water from the sea destroys crops.

People are therefore forced to flee their homes. Needing shelter, security and a stable source of food, income and safe water, they are incredibly vulnerable.

3. Girls are denied an education

A young girl carrying water for her family.

As with most global crises, women and girls are the most affected by drought and shortages of clean, safe water. How?

Well, the current global gender imbalance means that they are disproportionately burdened with household responsibilities and face greater levels of illiteracy and poverty. For women and girls living in impoverished communities vulnerable to drought and other climate-induced disaster, this makes them even more vulnerable.

In countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya for example, girls often have to travel long distances alone to collect water for their families – kilometres at a time. In fact, women and girls in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend a staggering 40 billion hours a year collecting water.

That’s the same as a year’s work by the entire working population of France.

As girls are (disproportionality) burdened with household chores, they are often unable to go to school and are denied the right to an education.

Not only does this affect their future financial prospects, but it places them at immediate and long-term risk of sexual violence. Sadly, stories abound of women and girls being attacked on their way to collect water from remote sources.

4. Dirty water is creating disease

Drought in Somalia where a lack of access to safe clean water poses a major health risk.

Without safe, plentiful sources of water for watering crops, washing, cooking and drinking, men, women and children become reliant on any source of water they can find.

This sadly means that many are left to drink dirty, unsanitary water. And dirty water can kill.

In Somalia for example, many families have little choice but to consume unsafe, unsanitary water. This leads to the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera and acute watery diarrhoea.

Sadly, across Somalia, more than 900 people have died from cholera in the last three years. The majority of these were children under the age of five.

5. Families are going hungry

In conflict zones such as Yemen, communities face even greater food and water shortages due to the effects of climate change.

Without sufficient supplies of water to grow crops and take care of livestock, food becomes in short supply. Food prices therefore rise and the most vulnerable in society become even more at risk.

As families go hungry, their health suffers. Girls are even forced into marriage as parents become desperate to find a way to ensure their children can eat.

In conflict-fuelled countries such as Yemen, things are particularly challenging.

This is because the combination of conflict and climate change, presents a greater risk of famine and water shortages for communities already in crisis.

In fact, right now, almost 18 million people across Yemen are in need of water and sanitation facilities. For these communities, the effects of climate change spell even greater disaster.

It’s clear to see that the global water crisis – fuelled further by climate change – is devastating lives across the globe.

That’s why we need to act now.

Here’s how you can help:

Adjust your own habits

 consume less water at home (waste less!) and adopt more climate-friendly habits such as reducing your intake of meat, switching to plastic-free alternatives (such as re-usable bottles) and recycling your waste

Lobby your MP to take action

call on your MP to keep climate change on the agenda by completing our quick and easy form

Donate to provide water for life – support communities in urgent need today by helping to provide boreholes, water purification tablets and hygiene training

Raise awareness 

share this blog on social media and talk to your friends and family about this important issue

Water is a right. It’s everyone’s right.

So, let’s work together to ensure that everyone has access to safe, clean water for life.

Written by Maria Zafar

Campaigns and Community Mobilisation Coordinator at Islamic Relief UK