Water is a human right – but millions of people worldwide suffer from water shortages and lack of hygiene. According to the UN World Water Report of 2019, almost one in three (2.1 billion people) had no access to a safe drinking water supply in 2015.
In round numbers, 844 million people even lacked a basic provision with water. Over 400 million use simple well water and around 160 million drink directly from rivers, lakes or canals. Half of the people worldwide with insufficient access to safe, i.e. clean and – in proximity to their home – continuously available, drinking water live in Africa. Only a quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has this access.
Access to water and sanitation remains poor
Even in Europe and North America, 57 million people have no water pipes in their homes. Access to basic sanitation is also denied to 36 million people there. In global terms, some 4.4 billion people cannot use safe facilities. These include a toilet that ensures that people do not come into contact with excretions and a system that disposes of the excretions so that diseases cannot spread.
892 million people relieve themselves in the outdoors. This way, over 80 percent of all wastewater worldwide is discharged into the environment untreated. In 2018, UNICEF helped to ensure that around 14 million people have a basic supply of drinking water at home and 11 million simple toilets. But achieving “water and sanitation for all” – one of the UN goals for sustainable development – is still a long way off.
Water pollution is also a problem
These are alarming figures, especially since the proportion of the global water volume that is usable and accessible to people is negligible at 0.001 percent. Over 96 percent of the approximately 1.4 billion cubic meters of water is found in the world’s oceans, while only 1.7 percent each is found in ice and groundwater.
Pollution is also a serious problem in the oceans, as many rivers transport enormous quantities of plastic. Sad frontrunner is the Yangtze in China with around 330,000 tons per year – ahead of the Ganges (India) with 115,000 and the Amazon in South America with almost 40,000. In all the world’s oceans, there are now gigantic swirls of waste that endanger the sensitive ecosystem.