Issue

Water and Sanitation

Water issues affect us all, from the women who spend hours a day fetching water to political battles over international rivers to melting icepack and rising sea levels. We are all downstream.

Worldwide, just under 900 million people lack reliable access to safe water that is free from disease and industrial waste. And 40 percent do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. The result is one of the world's greatest public health crises: 4,500 children die every day from waterborne diseases, more than from HIV-AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

A robust economy depends on water. So does a thriving ecosystem. Enter politics, fulcrum of the water issue, weighing the fate of economies against the health of individuals and of the environment as a whole. Balance has been elusive. One fifth of the world's population lives in areas where water is physically scarce, and a quarter of the population faces shortages due to lack of infrastructure.

Water and Sanitation was produced by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in partnership with National Geographic, PBS NewsHour, the Common Language Project, and the Under-Told Stories Project. Support provided by the Laird Norton Family Foundation and individual donors.

 

 

Water and Sanitation

Living by Ethiopia's Sewage Canal

In a small shack made of iron sheets and pieces of clothing in the slums of Addis Ababa live the Alemu family - Abiy, Marasit Bishaw, and the couple's three-year-old son and 25-day-old baby daughter Yanit.

And just a few metres from their one-room home is a mass of sewage and garbage, mixed with the carcasses of dead chickens and cow and goat skulls.

The Alemus live near the gully where the Kabena river used to meander gracefully through the Ethiopian capital.

But the river is now full of the city's waste, and a stench of sewage is the first thing that hits.

The Business of Water in an East African Shanty Town

As day breaks over the rusty tin roofs and makeshift homes of the sprawling Kibera slum in Nairobi, the water sellers are already at their water tanks, waiting for their first customers.

Selling water in one of the world's largest slums is a good business. On most days the vendors charge 5 cents for five gallons, 100 times the cost of piped water provided by the city. But the city does not send water to the residents of Kibera--at any price.

Lake Victoria Beset by Environmental Problems

As the morning sky lightens, the sound of machetes hacking through thick grass echoes along the lake's coastline. Fishermen, stripped to their underwear in the already stifling heat, are looking for silvery baby fish along the shoreline in defiance of laws against taking them in breeding grounds.

Troubled Waters: Lake Victoria Threatened

East Africa's Lake Victoria is the world's largest tropical lake—but some experts think it may disappear within twenty years.

Water levels have dropped dramatically in recent years thanks to climate change, hydroelectric dam projects and increasing pressure on the lake's threatened resources. The crisis endangers the livelihood of the more than 30 million people who rely on the lake for food and work.