It is the most abundant resource on planet Earth. Even so, the human race deals with the effects of water shortages everyday. While rarely a problem to obtain in the industrialized world, nearly 1 billion people living in developing countries around the world feel the effects of water shortages everyday. These effects can cause harm to health, political strife and even cause social limitations.
What is Water Shortage?
The definition of water shortage can be broken into two main categories. A quantity shortage, defined by lack of access to any water, or a quality shortage. A quality shortage is noted in areas that have access to water that is not suitable for consumption. By and large the most dire location for water shortage is centered around Sub-Suharan Africa. Of the 884 million people living without access to clean and safe water worldwide, 37% are located in this region.
Water shortage isn't always limited to areas that are often considered as dry or in financial need. World disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes can turn an industrialized nation with no previous water concerns into an area in desperate need of water support in an instant.
The health effects of water shortages are perhaps the most obvious to the everyday man. More than half of the world's hospital beds are filled by people suffering from water related diseases and nearly 20% of deaths to children under age five being attributed to water related issues. Water related diseases include a variety of well known and feared ailments including:
-Guinea Worm Disease
-Hepatitus A & B
-West Nile Virus
Further adding to the overwhelming nature of water borne diseases is that they are most often reported in the poorest parts of the world. This means that those in the most dire need to receive medical attention as a result of illness will be the least likely to receive it.
The effects of water shortages show evident in the arena of social implications as well. In areas that do not have enough water or access to clean water, there are very few toilets. In Africa fewer than one in three homes has access to a working toilet. This means that most school systems do not have toilet facilities. Research has shown that because of this factor, young girls drop out of school about the age of puberty. This leads to an under educated society.
In some cases the effects of water shortage and the need for clean water has lead to conflict and political strife. Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization recognize these conflicts as a notable and growing problem within the developing world. The issues are most often noted in areas where a clean water source separates two countries or civilizations. There are noted three hot spots for conflicts as it relates to water around the globe. These include:
-The Middle East. Nearly 5% of the worlds population fight over just 1% of the world's fresh water supply in this part of the world. Disputes often break out in villages along the Tigris, Jordan and Euphrates Rivers.
-Africa. Conflicts between tribes are known to break out over control of the Nile River through Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan.
-Central Asia. The areas surrounding the Aral Sea will break out in conflict from time to time during scarcity.
How to Help
The World Health Organization estimates that for every $1 they put towards water supply and sanitation, the economic return will range between $3 and $34 dollars. There are a variety of agencies that have been established to help combat the social, health and political effects of water shortages. The most basic way to get involved and help combat the effects of water shortages is to donate to a reputed non profit organization who can maximize the use of your donation.
Also see: Causes of Water Shortages