Unfortunately, a large percentage of the global population is, even in this day and time, deprived of basic necessities, as is evident from the countries with least access to clean water.
We may take clean water as granted, but sadly for some, it is a rare commodity. Just the fact that at least 2 billion people in the world drink water from a source corrupted by fecal matter gives me goosebumps. Surprised? Wait, there’s more. Even health care facilities in poor countries do not have a proper source of water. 38% of such facilities to be exact, meaning that even patients aren’t privileged enough to be able to acquire safe water easily. It’s no wonder that 15% of patients in the world suffer an infection while at a hospital. The Earth surely seems to be hard-pressed in the water department what with the lack of clean water, coupled with the anxiety that many countries will probably run out of water in the next 20 years. Not to mention that unsafe water is extremely injurious to health, causing diseases like severe diarrhea. In fact, countries with low access to clean water have extremely high infant mortality rates. Coincidence? Obviously not.
So before we move on to our water poor countries list, let’s consider how many countries don’t have clean water at all? Well, no nation is that far gone. On the bright side, there definitely are some places whose entire population is fortunate enough to possess improve drinking water sources, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These nations include the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan and approximately thirty-three more states who have the honor of being called the countries with the most access to safe drinking water.
In order to find out which are the countries with least access to clean water, first we are going to clarify what exactly we mean by safe water. Well, according to WHO, from where we have constructed our list and ranked countries based on the percentage of their population using improved drinking water sources, an improved drinking water source is one which “by nature of its construction and design, is likely to protect the source from outside contamination.” Interestingly, bottled water alone, unaccompanied by any other source, is not considered an improved water source by WHO, even though some large bottled water companies, which include the 10 largest bottled water companies in the world and top 10 healthiest bottled water in the world, provide very safe and healthy water. Well, this is just because bottled water is not readily available at homes, and WHO only takes into account water located on premises.
It is ironic that countries like China, USA and India that are actually the top culprits when it comes to producing water pollution are also the ones with one of the best water supplies, while countries with the worst water pollution in the world have ended up on our list as they do not have the funds to invest in the infrastructure they need for better water sources. This fact is more than unfortunate, as drinking unsafe water can cause severe illnesses like cholera, hepatitis A, and even polio. Maybe contaminated water is one of the reasons the world cannot seem to get rid of polio, a disease that the US has been free of since 1979!
So it’s no shocker that countries with least access to clean water are low-income or middle-income ones. In fact, ten of the thirteen countries on our list are from Africa. Sadly, the last available data from WHO is from December 2015, so we can’t really pinpoint the countries without clean water in 2017, but statistics are not likely to change much in a span of 2 years. Let’s finally list them down:
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 57.90%
Mauritania, a country located in the midst of Northwest Africa, has actually done quite some work in the water department as its access percentage given above used to be 42% in 2000. An increase of almost 16% is commendable but clearly, the nation still has a long way to go before it is able to provide its entire population with clean water.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 57.80%
Next on our list of countries with least access to clean water is Eritrea. Not only does almost half of population of Eritrea not receive clean water, but the government does not even proffer the citizens basic human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, Eritrea is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to human rights violation, with random arrests, lack of religious tolerance and unfair treatment in general. In fact, the nation has no independent non-governmental organizations since 2001!
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 57.70%
One of the few non-African countries on our list, Haiti was all over the news when in 2010, it got hit by a devastating earthquake, which according to different estimates caused the deaths of anywhere between 100,000 to 316,000 people! Maybe the destruction caused by the earthquake is the reason that the percentage of the population using improved drinking water sources actually reduced in the nation from 60.8% in 2000 to 57.7% in 2015.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 57.30%
We are continuing our list of countries with least access to clean water with Ethiopia that shares a lot more with Eritrea than merely a border. This African nation suffers from human rights violations as well just like its neighbor. Forced marriages are also quite the norm there. In 2003 (last available statistics), 69% of marriages in the nation was a result of abduction and coercion. A disgusting fact if ever I heard one.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 55.60%
Tanzania is a cultural and diverse nation, and although the poverty levels prevalent here are less than ideal, they are improving at a steady pace. According to the World Bank, the poorest citizens of the country, even the ones who are surviving in extreme poverty conditions, have reaped benefits from the recent upward trend the economy has shown.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 55.30%
The 8th place on our list of countries with least access to clean water goes to Afghanistan. It is one unfortunate nation – the Taliban along with constant intervention of the United States has resulted in it being counted as one of the 10 countries with the most suicide bombers in the world. On the bright side, the clean water situation has actually improved quite a lot in Afghanistan over the course of fifteen years. In 2000, this percentage of 55.3% was an abysmal 30.3%, so it seems Afghanistan’s citizens might have something to celebrate about too.
7. Democratic Republic of the Congo
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 52.40%
DR Congo, not to be confused with the Republic of the Congo, has been known to be host to various water-borne diseases. Just recently, approximately 500 people walked to their deaths due to a cholera infection that spread almost to the entire country, according to WHO estimates. This is due to the fact that not only do the citizens not have access to clean water, but 71.3% of the population is not using improved sanitation facilities either, giving epidemics like these ample chance to float around.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 51.50%
An island nation in Africa, Madagascar is famous for its unique and diverse wildlife. Its clean water situation has greatly progressed over the course of fifteen years from 38% of its population using improved drinking water sources in 2000 to 51.5% in 2015. Maybe in another fifteen years, it will be able to exit the list of countries with least access to clean water.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 51.10%
Mozambique has seen steady growth in its GDP since 2001. Its agricultural sector, industrial sector, and tourism have all been improving. However, since its GDP per capita remains low, it has sustained its status as a poor country and has not been able to provide half of its citizens with safe water.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 50.80%
Unmanageably high birth rates along with close to no progress, poverty continues to bloom in this Central African nation. According to the Global Hunger Index, Chad possesses the second highest hunger levels in the world, which has been dubbed as an “alarming” situation, and rightly so.
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 49.00%
We have arrived at the point in our list countries with least access to clean water, where more than half the country’s population does not have access to clean water, which is a very sad fact indeed. Angola hasn’t really improved much in the water department since 2000 when 45.7% of its population corresponded to the 49% in 2015. But like many other African countries, a 26-year civil war has crippled the country. Angola finally resolved its civil war in 2002 and with its new found stability, it has been doing much better. Hopefully, the country will soon be able to improve the standard of living of its inhabitants too.
2. Equatorial Guinea
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 47.90%
Unfortunately, Equatorial Guinea hasn’t improved much since 2000 in providing access to clean water to more people. It also has a high infant mortality rate and is infamous for harboring an enormous human trafficking problem.
1. Papua New Guinea
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources: 40.00%
Unexpectedly, the number one spot on our list of countries with least access to clean water has not been captured by an African country, but Papua New Guinea. What’s even more surprising is the fact that this nation is actually quite wealthy when it comes to natural resources. Due to innumerable hindrances, Papua New Guinea could not explore these blessings for a very long time. Recently, however, the country has been able to keep its economic growth rate at a stable positive percentage. The question is: will this growth assist them in generating enough resources to help the 60% of their population that does not have access to clean water? Well, I certainly hope so.