Apr 1, 2019
On March 22, the World Day of Water, the U.N. released a report on access to drinkable water around the world. It showed that 2,000,000,000 people lack drinkable water, or three in ten people.
Four billion people face a shortage of water at least one month in the year. More than four billion lack sanitation facilities. Every year, diseases caused by the lack of clean drinking water, like cholera or dysentery, kill 780,000 people – more than wars or natural disasters. Eighty percent of the water used by people is released back into nature without any treatment, polluting surface water and underground reservoirs. The lack of clean water threatens agriculture and puts entire villages at risk.
People living in the poor countries are the hardest hit. More than half the people without access to clean drinking water within thirty minutes of their homes live in Africa, in countries where the governments don’t provide either access to water or its purification.
But even in the less-poor countries, access to clean water is not guaranteed. Many inhabitants of Guadeloupe, a French department in the Caribbean, experience frequent water shut-offs because the pipes are not maintained. In the U.S., the 100,000 residents of Flint, Michigan know about water polluted with lead coming out of their taps. In some rural counties, especially in Kentucky, the population has no drinkable water.
Access to clean drinking water depends on investment in the necessary infrastructure. For thousands of years, civilizations like those in ancient Mesopotamia and the Roman Empire developed systems to manage and distribute water. Today, while the rich countries devote hundreds of billions of dollars to the production of the most sophisticated weapons, the necessary money is not invested to make sure the whole world’s population has access to clean drinking water. This is not some human destiny: it is the capitalist organization of society that keeps humanity from resolving this problem, given all the possibilities that exist if this were made a priority.