Thirsting for Justice: Exploring the Inequities in Access to Water and Sanitation

It’s 2025. 

Two-thirds of the world’s population – approximately 5.4 billion people are suffering from water shortages. Safe drinking water has run dry, crops are dying, agriculture is severely affected, economies are in decline. Inadequate sanitation has large communities afflicted with cholera and other water-borne illnesses. 

Global communities are in turmoil. 

In just two years time, this could be the reality, especially with the current rate of consumption. Climate change may be altering patterns of weather and water, water scarcity and poor sanitation, however, surpasses the realm of environmentalism. Access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental human right, yet how are millions of people around the world still deprived of this basic necessity, especially in this post-pandemic era?

Complex and multifaceted, the issues of water and sanitation, are, at their core, deeply connected to social justice.   

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and approximately 4.2 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation. Predominantly – and disproportionately – affecting marginalised and vulnerable communities, including the poor, women, children and refugees, inaccessibility causes unnecessary suffering and a major imbalance in social equity and justice. 

Through identifying the injustices suffered as a result of lack of access we can explore ways in which we, as the grassroots, can work collectively to provide equitable and sustainable solutions for all. 

  1. Water scarcity and distribution: A growing concern around the world, water shortages are affecting more than 2 billion people globally. The availability and distribution of water have serious social justice implications, with marginalised communities often the most affected. In many cases, governments and corporations prioritise the water needs of wealthier communities or industrial sectors, leaving poorer communities in both rural and urban areas without access to clean water. This can undoubtedly lead to a wealth of problems, such as health issues, economic hardship, and social exclusion. Globally, in the areas that are suffering the most, Who is Hussain teams are doing their utmost to alleviate any suffering and provide clean water and sanitation to communities in need. To provide easy access to water for more than 100 families in rural villages, teams in Mombasa, Kenya commissioned boreholes and constructed wells in Arusha, Tanzania. Consequently easing the struggle these families faced, travelling miles on foot daily, to collect water.
  2. Sanitation and hygiene: Access to sanitation and hygiene facilities is critical for public health, yet millions of people lack access to proper sanitation. Leading to the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, poor sanitation affects the most vulnerable populations, including women, children, and the elderly. During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, in places such as Dar es Salaam, the Who is Hussain team set up sanitation stations across the city. Through this initiative the public were provided access to water, encouraging good hygiene and sanitation, as an attempt to curb the spread of the virus claiming millions of lives globally.  Lack of access to sanitation facilities also poses safety risks, particularly for women and girls who may be forced to use public toilets or defecate in open areas, putting them at risk of violence and sexual assault.
  3. Privatisation of water: The privatisation of water is a contentious issue, with many arguing that it violates the human right to water. When water is privatised, it becomes a commodity that can be bought and sold, often at inflated prices, making it inaccessible to those who cannot afford it. This leaves marginalised communities without access to a basic necessity and perpetuates inequalities.
  4. Water pollution: Water pollution is a growing problem amongst both urban and rural communities. Industrial waste, agricultural runoff, and improper disposal of chemicals and waste can contaminate water sources, affecting the health of people who rely on them for drinking and bathing. In many cases, marginalised communities are disproportionately affected by water pollution, as they are often located near industrial sites or in areas with poor waste management. During the 2016 water crisis in Flint, Michigan when the city’s water supplies became contaminated and undrinkable, the local Who is Hussain team, inspired to serve humanity, donated more than 30,000 water bottles to residents of the city.
  5. Climate change: Climate change is affecting water resources around the world, with changes in precipitation patterns and rising sea levels affecting both the quantity and quality of water. Social justice implications of the impacts of climate change weigh heavily on marginalised and vulnerable communities. Considerably large populations of vulnerable individuals and communities are often located in areas that are particularly susceptible to water scarcity, flooding, and other climate-related hazards, which can exacerbate existing social inequalities.

The fact of the matter is this: climate change is not the only contributing factor to the inaccessibility of clean water and sanitation facilities. Issues around water and sanitation are causing even greater disparity and inequity amongst global communities, for which humankind is responsible.

Despite several Who is Hussain teams, and other charitable organisations dedicating their efforts to provide access to clean water, and sanitation facilities, it is the duty of the collective to make some noise. So much more needs to be done. Through raising awareness by getting involved in World Water Day campaigns, taking place on 22 March, for example,  or turning awareness into action by supporting organisations – in whatever way possible – to guarantee accessibility and better resources, we are one step closer to ensuring no one is deprived of this basic human right. 

To find out more about what Who is Hussain is doing to bridge the gap of accessibility to clean water and sanitation, visit our website. Better still, to make a contribution that would positively impact communities worldwide, you can donate here.

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