Africa: World’s Poorest Spend Most on Water – Report

by Moses Opobo


The world’s poorest people not only face problems in accessing clean water points, they also spend the biggest percentage of their earnings on this basic need.

This was revealed in a report, Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water, by the international charity organisation WaterAid as the global community marked International Water Day on March 22.

The theme for this year’s celebrations was; “Water and Jobs”; highlighting the role of freshwater in improving people’s lives and the economic development of communities and nations.

While the standard water bill in developed countries could be as little as 0.1 per cent for someone on a minimum wage, people in economically impoverished countries with poor water infrastructure have to spend as much as half of their income on just the recommended daily minimum quantity, according to the report.

The World Health Organisation recommends at least 50 liters of clean water per person per day to meet their basic needs.

The report notes that countries with poor water infrastructure are the worst affected, with nationals of countries like Madagascar having to spend as much as 45 per cent of their daily income on the day’s ration of water.

While in countries like Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors have to spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidised water points.

The report ranks nations based on rates of household access to water and on highest populations without access to water.

In the Great Lakes region, the DR Congo leads with the biggest number of people without access to clean water (47.6%), followed by Tanzania, at 44.4 %, and Kenya at 36.8 %.

Uganda has the lowest number of people without access to clean water in the region (21 %), followed by Rwanda (23.9 %), and in third place is Burundi (24.1%).

It ranks Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola as the countries with the lowest percentage of households with access to clean water in the world. India, China and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people waiting for access to clean water, while Cambodia, Mali, Laos and Ethiopia have made more progress than any other nations on improving access to water for their populations.

“Clean, affordable drinking water is not a privilege: it’s a fundamental human right. This World Water Day, let’s celebrate the unprecedented progress that’s been made in helping more people than ever before gain access to clean water. But let’s also double down on our efforts so that everyone, everywhere can exercise their basic right to clean water by the year 2030,” said Sarina Prabasi, the WaterAid America Chief Executive.

Rwanda’s water sector open for business

Meanwhile, Rwanda celebrated this year’s World Water Day with calls by the government for increased private investment in the country’s water sector.

Rwanda marked the day with an exhibition and a conference at the University of Rwanda’s Nyarugenge Campus.

The conference brought together academics, policy makers and water sector practitioners to discuss water monitoring and management, and how to boost investment in the water sector and encourage job creation, among others.

“There are enormous investment opportunities in the water sector. It is an area where the private sector can invest and both business and the community benefit. Rwanda is under-utilising its water resources and the private sector has an important role in creating jobs and contributing to our green growth ambitions,” said Dr Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Natural Resources.

Rwanda is also set to launch an Integrated Water Resource Management Programme dubbed ‘Water for Growth’, financed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A water treatment plant will also be inaugurated in Muhanga District.

Across the country, different communities joined hands to plant trees to protect rivers and water catchment areas.

Celebrations are ongoing throughout the week and bring together key ministries, including that of Infrastructure, and affiliated agencies involved in water and sustainable development, development partners, civil society, the private sector, regional water organisations as well as the general public.

Rwanda currently has water availability per capita of 670 m3 per annum, which is below the standard threshold of 1,000 m3 per annum. While the country is endowed with significant water resources, these are currently under-utilised and much water is lost through evaporation.

Currently, the country is working to develop its water resources for irrigation, domestic water supply, industry, and to preserve its valuable ecosystems.

Rwanda intends to roll out clean water to all citizens by 2018.

Worldwide, some 650 million people in the world still do not have access to clean water and more than 2.3 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation, with devastating results.

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