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  • Writer's pictureTomilayo Oluyamo

The Water Crisis: Ensuring Access to Clean Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries

Imagine the shock, surprise, or desperation that sets in when you turn on the tap but there's no water running. This desperation can turn into frustration but this is oftentimes a daily expectation for some 1.1 billion people who lack access to clean, sufficient water in regions around the world.

Did you know that lacking access to water is one of the many water issues underserved communities have to tackle? Others include improper water management systems, inadequate sanitation facilities, shortage of rainfall, and so on which equates to water scarcity. Water scarcity describes conditions where communities and ecosystems cannot sufficiently fulfill their water needs.

Water scarcity is a pressing global issue, which is why the 21st of March has been set apart as World Water Day, to bring awareness, recognize efforts, and spur more people, governments, communities, organizations, and stakeholders at the local and international into taking action to address the disparities in water and sanitation issues across the world.

It falls into two categories:

Physical scarcity and economic scarcity. The former refers to a situation where people, communities, and ecosystems have insufficient water. The latter arises from the effects of improper investments, inadequate systems, policies, infrastructure, and human capacity put in place to meet the demands for water proportionately.

Water is life but sadly not a part of life for everyone, especially those living in the Global South.

What then are the deepening causes of this heightened reality?

  1. Climate Change: As climate change contributes to global warming, drought, unpredictability in natural patterns, and temperature, the degradation of water resources becomes intensified, which leads to water scarcity.

  2. The rapid increase in Human Population and Consumption: As the world hits 8 billion, the increased human population has resulted in the overconsumption of natural resources which, unfortunately, has not been sustainably managed over the years.

You can learn more about other causes of water scarcity here and here.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the share of people living in developing countries has increased from 66% in 1950 to 83% now and should reach 86% by 2050.

Now that you've gotten a brief overview of what the water crisis is all about, let's take a look at its effects. The impact of water scarcity is much more severe in these regions of the world due to systemic barriers, injustice, poor government, and inadequate infrastructure to develop resilient communities and sustainably manage resources. They include food insecurity, an outbreak of diseases, climate hazards, reduced economic development, inadequate sanitation, and biodiversity loss.

Water Scarcity and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

As a natural resource, water cuts across all 17 United Nations SDGs but we'll take note of a few.

SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing

According to a recent UNICEF Analysis, 190 million children in African countries are at the highest risk from three water-related threats; inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene, related diseases, and climate hazards.

Water is inextricably linked with health, sanitation, and hygiene. However, if people have to walk miles from their homes in search of clean water despite hunger, drink unclean water, and live in other extreme conditions, good health and well-being may not be guaranteed. This in turn negatively impacts their morale and productivity.

SDG 4: Quality Education

Without access to clean water and sanitation facilities in schools, ensuring quality education might be out of reach. Also, children going in search of clean water means spending less time in school.

SDG 5: Gender Equality

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by water scarcity and are often relegated to handling domestic chores. According to the World Health Organization, in 2017, women and girls were responsible for water collection in 8 out of 10 households without onsite water supply.

In regions facing water scarcity, girls have to face risking their physical, sexual, and reproductive health, and education, due to inadequate sanitation facilities and insufficient water to make use of during menstruation.

But, there is no problem without a solution. We can avert the water crisis if we are willing to put in the effort, collaborate, and explore new ways of addressing the problem.


Nothing stops us, as individuals, from advocating for access to water and sanitation. Here are a few things you can do;

  1. Do not waste water

  2. Turn off the tap when not in use

  3. Do not take so many long showers

  4. Dispose of your refuse properly and at the appropriate place in your community. If there are no adequate waste disposal systems in your area, you can mobilize your neighborhood by providing one or by lobbying the local government.

  5. Volunteer for or donate to legitimate organizations that are working to ensure access to adequate water and sanitation in underdeveloped regions.


WRITTEN BY Tomilayo Oluyamo

Tomi is an undergraduate Mass Communication student who is very interested in quality education, socio-political history, impact communications, and the social enterprise sector in Africa. She is an aspiring literary artist who enjoys working on impact-driven projects and hopes to pursue a career in international development. At the center of what she does is her belief in God and helping young Nigerians showcase their brilliance by creating access to transformative opportunities. An avid learner, Tomi is always open to exploring spaces and connecting with young people like her who are incredibly passionate about designing solutions and improving their communities.

To learn more about Tomi and her work, connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.

'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. Zulu Uwolloh is a lawyer and international development professional. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.

Want to connect with Zulu?

Follow her on Twitter, and Instagram, or connect with her on Linkedin!


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