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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Why is Africa so thirsty?
African boy fetching water

How do you get your drinking water? Why do we have so much water in Africa and yet so little clean enough to drink?

Africa boasts numerous lakes and rivers and yet the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that over 40% of sub-Saharan Africa's population still do not have access to safe water.

And thousands of children die every day as a result.

Is your water safe to drink? How easy is it to get? What is the future of Africa's water? Is it too precious to privatise, or is that the only way to ensure that people have enough to drink and cook with?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

Year after year the government continues to set aside money for repairs but nothing gets done
Lyke Emina,USA

This whole mess of lack of clean drinking water in Africa has been caused by two things: corruption and inefficiency. Money that would have been used for water projects is often diverted to the overseas accounts of greedy leaders. Look at Lagos, Nigeria for example; all the city water systems were built in the 1970s and are all broken, yet, year after year the government continues to set aside money for repairs but the funny thing is, nothing gets done and it's the same story every year!
Lyke Emina, USA

To understand the problem of insufficient supply of drinking water in Africa, one needs to analyse the complex web of problems caused by inadequate management policies. In my village, in southern Nigeria for instance, at the moment, the `bestī source of drinking water - apart from rain water- is from bore holes. But even this water is not drinkable without proper treatment.
Aleke Patrick, Nigeria/Brazil

I think the problem is mismanagement and too much government control. Privatisation would really help. Take the case of Somalia, there has been no effective government since 1991 but private citizens have filled the gap left by the central government and provide almost all necessary services. I believe that people in Mogadishu have a proportionally reliable water supply than in some African countries. My advise to African leaders is: privatise water services and put market economy into practice.
Birre Dhooye, Somalia/USA

Privatisation would definitely price water out of the reach of the common man
Oyamendan Azonabor, Nigeria
Precious as water is to man, it should not be privatised outright. Rather, African governments should build partnerships with the private sector to make water available for the majority of the populace at an affordable rate. Outright privatisation would definitely price water out of the reach of the common man.
Oyamendan Azonabor, Nigeria

I live in a confluence city where the rivers Niger and Benue meet. Yet there's no water to drink, all you see is corrupt officials sinking boreholes for themselves and selling water to the poor.
Olumide Oshagbemi, Lokoja, Nigeria

Africa is thirsty and if bold decisions are not taken now, future Africans will have no water to cook with or to drink. There is a lot to learn from privatising the water sector but there must be equally strong regulatory bodies to ensure that private water companies do not focus entirely on profits. Lets have some action here from our leaders!
Kofi Odei, Ghana/UK

Water is a big treasure indeed. But is it not shameful to see that many Ugandans don't have running water? Many people in the villages have to drink dirty water from seasonal wells. What a paradox! The people in my home village not far from Jinja, have been waiting for a borehole for the last twenty years but when will they get it? Am sure they will hear the same promise next year during the campaigns for the presidential elections...oh Uganda, may God be upon thee.
Jan Lumu, Ugandan in France

Private utility companies should be contracted to run this precious commodity, if African governments are uncomfortable to go the full privatisation route. The companies should then charge the market rate for water in city and urban areas while rural folks are given some form of subsidy. Otherwise everyone will go thirsty since there'll be no funds to keep the service going. The precious commodity will then be of no use to anyone.
Kwadwo Sannah, Ghanaian in Sydney, Australia

Africa needs to get its priorities right. Are arms, luxury jets and Swiss bank accounts more important than water? Only when Africa rids itself of its greatest scourge, corrupt politicians, will people gain free access to basic necessities like water.
Jon, Cardiff

I don't think there is a water problem in my country Sierra Leone and I am sure the type of water collected by the boy in the above picture is not for drinking. Why is the media presenting Africa in this manner? The only problem is that our people are not being educated on water safety. Anyway, I have met many people who don't like the taste of pipe water because of the chlorine that is used to kill bacteria.
Issa Koroma, Canada/Sierra Leonean

Privatisation should not be seen as a panacea for the problems of poor performance of public utilities
Dennis Mwanza, UK
Africa is thirsty because many governments have not given water and sanitation services the high priority they deserve. They just receive lip service from politicians and usually just before elections. Due to lack of investment most of the infrastructure is old and needs replacing. Privatisation should not be seen as a panacea for the problems of poor performance of public utilities but the right policies must be put in place.
Dennis D Mwanza, Loughborough, UK

Private utility companies should be contracted to run the precious commodity, if African governments are uncomfortable to go the full privatisation route. The companies should then charge the market rate for water in city and urban areas while rural folks are given some form of subsidy. Otherwise everyone will go thirsty since there'll be no funds to keep the service going. The precious commodity will then be of no use to anyone.
Kwadwo Sannah, Ghanaian in Sydney, Australia

This is a comment to Kalkidan Tadesse (see below). If you travel to the rift valley of Ethiopia just 100 kms from Addis Ababa you can see even worse conditions than the one depicted on the BBC Africa Have Your Say website. You can see extremely dirty pond water where people wash, cattle drink and urinate and women fetch that same water for drinking. The water you see in the picture is poor physical quality. But water which appears clean is also causing serious health problems here. So Kalkidan, by making a few kilometres detour away from the main road on your way to the beautiful resort centres in the rift, you could realise the dire conditions of our water.
Gecho, Vienna, Austria

Water management is a must at all levels of society
Gabriel, Lusaka, Zambia

The one thing that we always seem to either ignore or do not comprehend is that water management is a must at all levels of society. Zambia has so much of the fresh water of the southern African region, however only 20% of the 11 million population have access to safe drinking water!

Water engineers, technicians, consultants and end-users must all integrate and make workable solutions to provide the precious commodity to all humans on the continent regardless. Every year millions of litres of fresh water goes to waste flowing into the Indian ocean and cannot be used, shame!
Gabriel, Lusaka, Zambia

I am living in a country where for many water, whether potable or unpotable, could be a nightmare. The paradox is Ethiopia boasts the Blue Nile and so many creeks, rivers and lakes. The problem is basically bad leadership and lack of a stable political situation. It cannot be thought of as lack of development only.
Fasil, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Expecting poor people to pay more tariffs for water services is a harsh measure
Yitatek Yitbarek, Ethiopia

Water is too precious to privatise. After all, access to clean water is a recognised United Nations human right. In the case of Africa, where the majority are poor, expecting people to pay more tariffs for water services will be a harsh measure.
Yitatek Yitbarek, Ethiopia

I was born and raised in Sierra Leone. I never had to drink dirty water because we have a dam that provides clean water. Rain is the major source of our water and I believe ninety-five percent of African countries get enough rainfall. What we need in Africa is good management and patriotic leaders to work for the common good of the people.
Chukuma Sesay Adam-Samura, USA

I think the reason Uganda lacks enough drinking water despite being located in the great lakes region is as a result of environment degradation. People are settling on wetlands, deforestation is on the increase and public health rules are broken with impunity due to corruption. One of the quick solutions is to have a culture of harvesting rain water. Also investments should be made in making man made rivers and lakes. Water is life and should never be privatised.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala

We must find new ways of saving, using and recycling the water that we have
Josephat Musyoka Mua, USA

In the next few years, the world's population will climb to an estimated eight billion people. Yet, the amount of water will remain the same. We must find new and equitable ways of saving, using and recycling the water that we have.
Josephat Musyoka Mua, Kenyan in USA

I believe water should be privatised. That is the only way Africans can value water and use it judiciously. In Ghana the socialist movement are against the privatisation of water, but how often do we see water going to waste, people watering their grass and washing cars without a care. Yet we have people in the rural areas of Ghana who do not have access to clean. I think privatisation of water is the best way to deal with this situation because if you pay for something dearly, you do attach importance to it.
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Ghana

The quality of water in Botswana is good, we drink tap water without a problem but we just don't have enough of the precious commodity. Last year the government asked people to stop using hosepipes to wash vehicles and water gardens among others to conserve water after the levels in the supply dams dropped. One year on, the situation is more bleak because there has hardly been any rainfall. For those of you, who have lots of water, count yourselves lucky. As an individual whose passion is gardening it's very disheartening. Imagine how it is for framers?
Mmabatho, Botswana

Women get up at three in the morning to go fetch water before the sun gets too hot
Wezi Phiri, Malawi

My home village Mzalangwe, in the northern part of Malawi has always had a water shortage for as long as I can remember. I always wonder how generations in my village have managed to survive with a shortage of water year in and year out. During the rainy season it's much easier as people tap rain water from roof tops. But in the dry season it's unbearable. Women have to get up at three in the morning to go fetch water before the sun gets too hot. Life used to be easier when there was a borehole, but since it broke down life is as hard as ever.
Wezi Phiri, UK/Malawi

As I write to you in my country Liberia, we have no drinking water. We are slowly dying everyday. There many people who are sick in hospital suffering from cholera because of using dirty water. What a shame for African governments!
Francis K Eesiah, Liberia

The problem in short is bad government policies.
Amadi Ikechukwu, Nigeria

The influx of people into cities has stretched the limited water resources
Valerian Atieno, Kenya

Water is a problem in Africa because of inefficiency by governments to ensure good water supply and payment of tax. Here in Nairobi many times you will find leaking underground pipes or broken taps that waste water. But even though there are many reasons why African countries experience water shortages, I think the main problem is that most cities and towns were planned with no provision for expansion, hence, the influx of people into the cities has stretched the limited water resources.
Valerian Atieno, Kenya

Yes, Africa is thirsty, because most of the countries are under-developed, like southern Sudan in the rural areas.
Didimo Woryem Remijo, Juba, Sudan

I grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where there is a shortage of drinking water, but I have never seen drinking water as dirty as the one displayed in the picture. If the boy in the picture is preparing that water for drinking, which I doubt he is, it is very rare. As human beings, we drink clean water. I have a feeling that a person who has never been to Africa might look at the picture and assume that all Africans drink dirty water, and so the picture you have can be misleading.
Kalkidan Tadesse, Oregon, USA

In Yaounde, there is water everywhere but none to drink. The down-trodden are given badly-treated water. The national water company has made water, especially in the town of Yaounde, to be the most scare commodity. We hope that one day this natural resource will be made available to all and sundry.
Charles Nji, Yaounde, Cameroon

I think more privatisation will help us, hence the government and those at the head are not doing much to help the poor get good drinking water in Africa.
Ethelbert Chima Odoemena, Owerri, Nigeria

If leaders finally succeed in privatising water, they will find a way to do the same to air
Emmanuel, Papua New Guinea
Water, like air, is one of the things that the poor could obtain free of charge. The future of water in Africa depends on good governance and management of the resource. Water is too precious to privatise. If leaders finally succeed in privatising water, they will find a way to do the same to air.
Emmanuel Tam Ezekiel-Hart, Madang, Papua New Guinea

The lack of potable drinking water on the continent of Africa is a manifestation of the level of corruption on the continent. Annually, the financial allocation for water supply carries a lion share of the budget. Yet, the money is summarily retired into the private accounts of government officers. Since the government feeds fat on the so-called water ministry, privatising it for efficiency means consciously denying themselves big money.
Frank Adeh Anoh, Dublin, Ireland

No-one can save our water sources but us
Prossy Nannyombi, Uganda

In Africa, we have taken our natural resources for granted. Those who live on the hills do not think of those who live in the valleys and all our neighbours. No-one cares for each other's life. Bodies of water have become bathrooms and dumping places for garbage. No-one can save our water sources but us. We need to mend our ways and start caring for our environment.
Prossy Nannyombi, Uganda

Its a shame that Africa has so many rivers and lakes and yet people still have no access to clean water. In fact, as things stand water could easily spark wars between countries. In southern Sudan, we get our drinking water from rivers, lakes and ponds and so many people have died from water borne diseases. The Jimmy Carter centre has been campaigned to eradicate Guinea worms in southern Sudan for the last five years with some success in some parts of the region. Getting water to drink in southern Sudan is not a big issue but death is a inevitable thing.
Peter Tuach, USA

Clean water is a luxury in Africa. Makurdi town is situated on the banks of river Benue, yet residents don't have good water to drink. Why privatisation? There is water everywhere. The governments should make water drinkable for the people. Privatisation will only worsen the situation.
Lizzie Kwaghbo, Nigeria

This problem of water is a clear indication that African governments are not doing enough for the people. In order for Africa to overcome this and other problems, corruption must be shunned and the people's need made priority. Back at home we never had running water from our tap and yet we paid for it every month. A lot of people have suffered from typhoid fever, cholera and diarrhoea as a result of drinking bad water. A lot of people who have the resources have resorted to digging their own bore holes.I think more privatisation would serve Africa better. Although not too many will be able to afford it but those who can, will be sure to get regular water supply instead of paying for service they don't get.
Omorodion Osula, USA





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