The global population continues to grow rapidly, and as a result, the demand for water is increasing, creating a significant gap between available supply and growing demand. The consequences of limited water availability are severe and far-reaching, ranging from natural disasters to social instability. Drought is one of the most noticeable and damaging consequences of limited water availability, causing crop failures, food shortages, and famine. A recent report from the Federal Ministry of Health & Human Services, WHO, and UNICEF shows that a deepening drought in Somalia in 2022 may have caused approximately 43,000 excess deaths, half of which may have been among children under the age of 5.2
Famine is a direct consequence of drought and can lead to malnutrition, disease, and death. According to reports from the World Food Programme, as many as 828 million people around the world do not have enough food, with almost 43.3 million individuals at serious risk of famine. Additionally, limited water availability affects sanitation and hygiene systems, leading to diarrheal diseases, cholera outbreaks, and other health problems.3
The limited supply of water can also lead to social instability, with conflicts over water resources becoming more common in areas where water is scarce. These conflicts can result in displacement and even violence. Water is a precious commodity essential for human survival, agriculture, and industrial activities. As water resources become scarcer, tensions between countries are becoming more intense. Currently, the Nile Basin countries are locked in a conflict over the Nile River’s rights, with Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia having competing claims over the river’s water. The dangers of limited water availability are all too real, and we must take steps to address this issue before it is too late.
The Sahel region in Africa is regularly affected by droughts, which cause severe food insecurity and malnutrition. Agriculture is the primary source of income for many communities in the area, and the lack of water resources has a devastating effect on crop yields and livestock. Millions of people suffer from food insecurity, and dependence on food aid perpetuates the cycle of poverty and loss of independence. Finding sustainable solutions to climate change and water resource management is critical to alleviating the Sahel region’s plight.4
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is experiencing severe water scarcity, which is affecting the lives of millions of people, according to a UNICEF report. Despite being home to 5% of the world’s population, the region has only 1% of the world’s freshwater resources. Water scarcity impacts the availability of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, leading to an increase in waterborne diseases. It also affects agriculture and food security, which are critical sources of income for many communities in the region. Climate change and population growth are exacerbating the water scarcity crisis, and immediate action is necessary to address the issue.5
Water scarcity disproportionately affects rural populations in developing countries. Many people in rural areas lack access to clean water sources, and the water they do get is often contaminated, leading to waterborne illnesses. Women and children are especially vulnerable since they are responsible for fetching water, which can take several hours, limiting their opportunities for education or paid work. Addressing water scarcity in rural areas requires sustainable solutions that prioritize access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
In developing countries, urban populations are also impacted by water scarcity due to rapid urbanization and inadequate infrastructure to meet the increasing demand for water. Residents in many urban centers rely on private water vendors, leading to poor quality water, high prices, and unequal access. Municipal governments need to prioritize upgrading water infrastructure, ensuring equitable distribution of water resources, and promoting sustainable water management practices in cities.