TOP FIVE REASONS FOR CLEAN
WATER IN ZIMBABWE AND AFRICA

HEALTH

The most immediate impact of water scarcity is the overall health of the country. With a complete lack of water, humans can only live up to three to five days on the average.  If the worse should occur, dying of thirst is a slow, agonizing death.

This often forces those who are living in deprived regions to turn to unsafe water resources, which, according to the World Health Organization contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases including malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery and diarrhea. Additionally, water scarcity causes many people to store water within the household which increases the risk of household water contamination and incidents of malaria and dengue fever spread by mosquitoes.

These waterborne diseases are not usually found in developed countries because of sophisticated water treatment systems that filter and chlorinate water.  But for those living with less developed or nonexistent water infrastructure; natural, untreated water sources often contain tiny disease carrying worms and bacteria that can maim or kill with devastating consequences.

Although many of these waterborne illnesses are treatable and preventable, they are nonetheless one of the leading causes of disease and death in the world.  Globally, 2.2 million people die each year from diarrhea related disease and at any given time 50% of all hospital beds in the world are occupied by patients suffering from water related diseases.

Infants and children are especially susceptible to these diseases because of their young immune systems, which contributes to elevated infant mortality rates in many regions of Africa.

When infected with these waterborne diseases, those living in Zimbabwean communities suffering from water scarcity cannot contribute to the community’s productivity and development because of a simple lack of strength. Individual, community, and governmental economic resources are sapped by the cost of medicine to treat waterborne diseases.  All these factors take away from resources that might have potentially been allocated in support of the food supply, school fees or any number of productive investments.

AGRICULTURE

The Human Development Report states that human use of water is mainly allocated to irrigation and agriculture. In developing areas, such as those within Zimbabwe, agriculture accounts for more than 80% of water consumption.

It takes about 3500 liters of water to produce enough food for the daily minimum of 3000 calories.  Food production for a typical family of four takes the amount of water needed to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  Because a large portion of Africa remains dependent on an agricultural lifestyle and 80 to 90 per cent of all families in rural Africa rely upon producing their own food, a process known as subsistence agriculture, water scarcity translates to a severe loss of food security.

Due to a number of factors, many rural African communities are not, or can not, tap into the great irrigation potential available to subsistence farmers.  According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and The New Partnership for Africa’s Development, (NEPAD) “irrigation is key to achieving increased agricultural production that is important for economic development and for attaining food security.”

For many regions, there is a lack of financial and human resources to support infrastructure and technology required for proper crop irrigation. Because of this, the impact of droughts, floods, and desertification is greater in terms of economic loss and more tragically, loss of human life due to crop failure and starvation.

Lack of water causes many Africans to use waste water for crop growth, causing a large number of people to consume foods that can contain chemicals or disease-causing organisms transferred by the waste water.

Thus, for the extremely high number of Zimbabwean and African areas suffering from water scarcity, investing in development means sustainably withdrawing water from fresh clean sources, ensuring food security by expanding irrigation areas, and effectively managing the effects of climate change.

EDUCATION

Available clean water for women and children in Zimbabwe translates to greater potential for education, and thus prosperity, power, literacy, hygiene, security, and equality.

Women
African women and men’s divergent social positions lead to differences in water responsibilities, rights, and access, and so African women are disproportionately burdened by scarcity of clean drinking water.
In most African societies, women are seen as the collectors, managers, and guardians of water, especially within the domestic sphere that includes household chores, cooking, washing, and child rearing. Because of these traditional gender labor roles, women are forced to spend around 60% of each day collecting water, which translates to approximately 200 million collective work hours by women globally per day and a decrease in the amount of time available for education.

Water scarcity exacerbates this issue, as indicated by the correlation of decrease in access to water with a decrease in combined primary, secondary, and tertiary enrollment of women.

For African women, their daily role in clean water retrieval often means carrying the typical jerrycan that can weigh over 40 pounds when full, for an average of 6 km each day.

This has health consequences such as prominent skeletal damage from carrying heavy loads of water over long distances each day.  The constant physical strain contributes to increased stress, increased time spent in health recovery, and decreased ability to not only physically attend educational facilities, but difficulty absorbing lessons due to physical and mental stress.  Access to safe, clean drinking water leads to greater protection from waterborne illnesses which further increases a woman’s capability to attend school.

Along with these challenges on the elementary and secondary level, water scarcity creates obstacles for women to pursue higher education. As a result, many women are unable to hold professional employment.

The lost number of potential schooldays and educational opportunities hinders the next generation of African women from breaking out of the cycle of unequal employment, and exacerbates the adverse effects associated with a lacking  advanced career opportunities. Thus, improved access to water influences women’s allocation of time, level of education, and as a result their potential for higher wages associated with developing marketable skills, obtaining gainful employment and being able to launch new business enterprises.

Children
In addition, the issue of water scarcity in Africa prevents many young children, especially girls, from attending school and receiving an education. They are expected to not only aid their mothers in water retrieval, but to also help with the demands of household chores that are made more time intensive because of a lack of readily available water. Furthermore, a lack of clean water means the absence of sanitary facilities and latrines in schools, and so once puberty hits, this has a more serious impact on female children.

In terms of lost educational opportunity, it is estimated that this would result in 272 million more school attendance days per year if adequate investment were made in drinking water and sanitation. For parents, an increase in access to reliable water resources reduces vulnerability to shocks, which allows for increased livelihood security and for families to allocate a greater portion of their resources caring for their children.

This means improved nutrition for children, a reduction in school days missed due to health issues, and greater flexibility to spend on providing for the direct costs associated with sending children to school. And if families escape forced migration due to water scarcity, children’s educational potential is even further improved with better stability and uninterrupted school attendance.

PRODUCTIVITY AND DEVELOPMENT

Poverty is directly related to the accessibility of clean drinking water.  Without access to this precious life giving liquid, the chances of breaking out of the poverty trap are extremely slim. The concept of a “water poverty trap” was developed by economists specifically observing sub-Saharan Africa, and refers to a cycle of financial poverty, low agricultural production, and increasing environmental degradation.

 

In this negative feedback loop, a link is created between the lack of water resources and the lack of financial resources. This self-perpetuating cycle affects all societal levels including individuals, households, and the broader community. Within this poverty trap, exacerbated by decades of colonial and neocolonial rule, people are subjected to low incomes, high fixed cost of water supply facilities, and lack of credit for water investments.  Over time, the results are a low level of investment in water and land resources, lack of investment in profit generating activities, resource degradation, and chronic poverty.

 

Compounding on this, in the slums of developing countries, poor people typically pay 5 to 10 times more per unit of water then do people with access to piped water.  How can this be?  Lack of infrastructure and government corruption is estimated to raise the prices of water services by 10 to 30%.

Taken together, the social and economic consequences of a lack of clean water penetrates deeply into realms of education, opportunities for gainful employment, physical strength and health, agricultural and industrial development, and thus the overall productive potential of a community, nation, and region. Because of this, the UN estimates that sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion potential work hours per year collecting water.  Many of these hours can be recovered with strategic financial investments and sustainable environmental policies.

 

CONFLICT

The Zambezi river supplies water and power to both Zambezi and Zimbabwe.
The dam was built by the colonial government in the 1950s and 60s and has had a mixed impact on the environment of the region.

The explosion of populations in developing nations within Africa combined with climate change is causing extreme strain within and between nations. In the past, countries have worked to resolve water tensions through negotiation, but there is predicted to be an escalation in aggression over water accessibility.  MANY PREDICT THAT THE NEXT MAJOR GLOBAL CONFLICT WILL BE BASED ON ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER.
Africa’s susceptibility to potential water induced conflict can be separated into four regions: the Nile, the Niger, the Zambezi, and the Volta river basins.

Running through Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, the Nile’s waters have the potential to spark conflict and unrest as nations compete for access and control.

The Niger River basin extends from Guinea through Mali and down to Nigeria. Especially for Mali one of the world’s most exploited countries, -the river is vital for food, water and transportation.  The Niger’s over usage is contributing to an increasingly polluted and unusable water source. 

In southern Africa, the Zambezi River basin is one the world’s most overused river systems.  Zambia and Zimbabwe compete fiercely over it increasing stress on an already fragile ecosystem.  In the year two-thousand, Zimbabwe caused the region to experience the worst flooding in recent history when the country opened the Kariba dam gates.

Finally, within the Volta River basin, Ghana is dependent on its hydroelectric output, but is plagued by regular droughts which affect the production of electricity from the Akosombo Dam and limit Ghana’s ability to sustain economic growth.  Paired with the constraints this also puts on Ghana’s ability to provide power for the area, this could potentially contribute to regional instability.

At this point, federal intelligence agencies have issued the joint judgment that in the next 10 years, water issues are not likely to cause internal and external tensions that lead to the intensification war. But if current rate of consumption paired with climatic stress continue, levels of water scarcity in Africa are predicted by UNECA to reach dangerously high levels by 2025.

This means that by 2022 there is the potential for a shift in water scarcity potential that could help spark armed conflict. Based on the classified national intelligence estimate on water security, requested by then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and completed in fall 2011, after 2022 water will be more likely to be used as a weapon of war and potential tool for terrorism, especially in north Africa.

On World Water Day, the State Department stated that water stress, “will likely increase the risk of instability and state failure, exacerbate regional tensions and distract countries from working with the United States on important policy objectives.”

Specifically referring to the Nile in Egypt, Sudan, and nations further south, the report predicts that upstream nations will limit access to water for political reasons, and that terrorist may target water related infrastructures, such as reservoirs and dams, more frequently. Because of this, the World Economic Forum’s 2011 global risk report has included water as one of the worlds top five risks for the first time.

 

Beyond these major threats to the water supply, corporations are seeking to control and restrict our increasingly scarce and polluted water resources. Water is a heavenly gift and a human right.  Preacherhead Ministries is working to provide clean sustainable water resources directly to the people of Zimbabwe who need it most.