2 Billion People Lack Access to Safe Drinking Water and 3.6 Billion Lack Sanitation, UN Report 2023

Learn about why access to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation must be made a basic human right for all. Find out how innovative solutions can help tackle the global water crisis today!

Written by Rika Andini

The United Nations 2023 Water Conference held in New York from 22 to 24 March was a crucial event for showcasing international efforts in addressing the global water crisis. UNESCO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, highlighted its longstanding work in water management and conservation through a series of side events. These efforts are crucial in promoting sustainable development and ensuring access to safe and clean water, especially with over 2 billion people lacking safe drinking water and 3.6 billion people lacking safe sanitation.1

Water scarcity is a pressing global issue that is projected to become increasingly severe by 2050. Projections show that the global urban population facing water scarcity will double to 1.7 to 2.4 billion people from the 930 million who faced water scarcity in urban areas in 2016. Extreme and prolonged droughts further exacerbate the situation, stressing ecosystems and leading to dire consequences for plant and animal species.

The conference aimed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which calls for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030. It provided a platform for discussing the urgent need for innovative solutions to address the global water crisis. With the increasing urgency of the water crisis, the conference was a critical step in ensuring that access to water and sanitation becomes a basic human right for all.

The conference emphasized the need for continued collaboration among governments, organizations, and stakeholders from different sectors to find effective solutions. International cooperation and investment are crucial to address the water crisis, and the conference highlighted the need for sustained efforts in this regard. The discussions and strategies developed at the conference will guide future efforts towards achieving SDG 6 and securing a sustainable future for all.

The United Nations 2023 Water Conference raised awareness of the global water crisis and created momentum for action towards ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all. India is one of the countries most severely affected by water scarcity, with significant water stress projected in the coming years. Around 80% of people living under water stress are located in Asia, particularly in northeast China, India, and Pakistan. This underlines the critical role of international cooperation and investment in addressing the water crisis and securing access to safe and clean water for all.2

The conference stressed the significance of customizing solutions to cater to the unique requirements of communities, particularly indigenous populations and impoverished ones. These communities often encounter the most significant obstacles to accessing safe and clean water. Implementing community-led initiatives and incorporating traditional knowledge in water management were highlighted as potential solutions. Prioritizing these communities will guarantee that everyone is included in the global pursuit to secure access to safe and clean water.

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Major Causes of the Lack Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

The global water crisis has multiple causes, but poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of a reliable supply chain for clean water are some of the major factors. Poverty is a pervasive problem that negatively affects access to basic resources such as clean water in low-income countries. According to UNICEF’sWater and Sanitation report, over 785 million people lack access to an improved source of drinking water, and an estimated 3 billion people lack access to basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and latrines.3 Poverty is also linked to malnutrition, which weakens children’s immune systems and increases their risk of illnesses related to unclean water.

Inadequate infrastructure is another major factor contributing to the global water crisis. Outdated or insufficient water treatment facilities may not be able to handle wastewater adequately, resulting in contamination and an increased risk for various water-borne diseases such as cholera or typhoid fever. Furthermore, leaky pipes create opportunities for pollutants to enter the drinking supply and decrease the overall availability of clean water in certain areas. According to World Health Organization estimates, only 61% of the population in low-income countries had access to piped drinking water on premises, compared to 91% in high-income countries.4

The lack of a reliable supply chain for clean water also poses significant challenges. Many remote areas with limited access to water experience long periods without fresh supplies due to inefficient transport links or higher costs associated with transporting goods over long distances or difficult terrain. This further widens the existing disparities between urban centers with easy access and rural communities that remain underserved despite critical needs for additional resources, including potable drinking water, to be made available through efficient transport systems across all levels of society.

Long-term impacts of not having access to safe drinking water and sanitation

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is an essential service that far too many people around the world lack. Without proper access, individuals are at a higher risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever, which can lead to illness, disability, and even death. According to WHO estimates, over 2 billion people globally lack improved sources of drinking water, while 4.2 billion do not have safely managed sanitation facilities.5 Furthermore, limited access to clean water increases the risk of infection from other illnesses such as diarrhea or respiratory infections. This is especially true for vulnerable populations such as young children and pregnant women.

The health impacts of not having access to safe drinking water are severe, but the economic implications are equally significant. Illnesses due to the lack of access may make individuals unable to work or attend school. This could be either due to their illness or indirectly due to their need for caretakers. For example, mothers may have to take time off work to care for sick children. This impacts their ability to earn an income or receive an education, leading them further into poverty. The long-term effects of poverty can have a devastating impact on generations ahead.

In addition to health and economic impacts, lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation has social implications, particularly concerning gender equity issues. Women and children often bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to collecting water from distant sources, such as riversides. Studies suggest that this burden is further exacerbated when there is limited access to clean drinking water where they live. In some cases, this burden may lead them to miss out on educational opportunities, spending several hours fetching supplies instead of attending school or participating in extracurricular activities such as sports.

What can be done to address the crisis?

The global water crisis is a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide. While there is no single solution to the problem, charity organizations have emerged as key players in providing clean water and sanitation services to those in need. These organizations work tirelessly to implement sustainable and long-term solutions that can help communities access safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.

They often work in areas where the local government is unable to provide adequate water and sanitation services, relying on donations from individuals and corporations to fund their projects. By partnering with these organizations, more people around the world can gain access to one of the most fundamental human rights – access to clean water.

Desalination plants are another potential solution to the global water crisis. These plants use specialized technology to remove salt and other minerals from seawater, making it safe for human consumption. While desalination can be expensive and energy-intensive, the technology has improved significantly in recent years, and costs are continuing to come down. In addition, many countries around the world have already invested in desalination plants, making it a viable option for addressing the global water crisis, particularly in areas where freshwater sources are scarce.

Filtration systems offer a cost-effective way to purify existing sources of drinking water, making it safe for human consumption. These systems use a variety of methods, such as activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ultrafiltration to remove impurities from water, including bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. Filtration systems can be installed in individual homes, communities, or even on a larger scale to serve entire cities.

By investing in filtration systems, communities can have access to safe drinking water without having to rely on expensive infrastructure construction projects or desalination plants, making it a viable solution for those with limited financial resources. The use of filtration systems also helps reduce water wastage and improve overall health outcomes by ensuring safe drinking water for all.

Education and awareness-raising campaigns can play a significant role in promoting safe hygiene practices and the importance of clean drinking water. By educating people on how to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases and providing information on the benefits of clean drinking water, communities can improve their overall health and well-being. Through these campaigns, individuals can learn how to properly handle, store, and treat water, reducing the risk of waterborne illness. Moreover, education can help change attitudes and behaviors related to water and sanitation, promoting the sustainable use of resources and encouraging communities to take action towards providing safe drinking water for all.

Air Minum Bersih Action

“Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, emphasized the critical need to create robust international mechanisms to prevent the global water crisis from worsening. She highlighted the fact that water is an essential element of our common future, and it is crucial for us to work together to manage it sustainably and distribute it equitably”.6

Air Minum Bersih is a Yayasan solely dedicated to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is to provide access to clean water and sanitation for all. The organization operates in Indonesia, where many schools, health centers, and remote communities lack access to clean drinking water. Air Minum Bersih aims to supply these areas with safe drinking water and provide education on proper hygiene practices through its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs.

The organization provides direct aid to those living in poverty who lack access to clean drinking water. By building rainwater harvesting systems through its partnership with Carocell Solar Water, communities can collect rainwater and use it as a source of clean drinking water. This partnership not only helps families save money on buying bottled water, but it also promotes the conservation of groundwater resources and reduces the consumption of harmful chemicals.

Mariasa, a resident of Karangasem, Bali, has been living with her family on the same land for over three generations without access to clean water or proper bathroom facilities. Every day, he had to walk several kilometers on foot to fetch water, which made him late for school most of the time. However, thanks to the efforts of Air Minum Bersih, Mariasa’s family was able to obtain access to clean drinking water and build toilets with their assistance.

Mariasa’s life has significantly improved as a result. He no longer needs to spend several hours every day searching for clean water sources, and he now has more time available for his studies. Moreover, his family’s overall health has improved due to access to clean water and sanitation facilities, making her one of the successful stories of AMB’s projects.

AMB has expanded its reach by collaborating with KITA BISA, a non-profit organization in Indonesia that aims to empower communities and promote sustainable development. Through this partnership, AMB can provide even more access to clean drinking water for those in need, especially in remote and water-stressed areas. By donating to AMB, individuals can contribute to this important cause and help provide access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities for those in need.

Together with KITA BISA, Air Minum Bersih hopes to implement sustainable and long-term solutions to address the water crisis in Indonesia. By implementing sustainable and long-term solutions like rainwater harvesting systems and water filtration systems, these organizations can help communities access safe drinking water and improve their overall health outcomes.

The global water crisis is a pressing issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Access to clean drinking water is not just a matter of survival but a fundamental human right. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have highlighted the urgency of addressing this issue, and charity organizations like Air Minum Bersih are making a significant impact by providing access to safe water and sanitation services to those in need.

Through sustainable solutions and education campaigns, these organizations are working towards a world where clean drinking water is accessible to all. It is crucial for individuals and corporations to support these efforts through donations and partnerships to ensure that everyone has access to this basic human need. With collective efforts, we can create a better future where clean drinking water is a reality for everyone.

Tirta Murni Nusantara

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Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, 80571

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