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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2003

Africa s water crisis

Can Africa s problems get any worse? The continent is plagued with civil unrest, famine, and disease, but if its water shortage isn t addressed soon, its other calamities will only intensify.

Africa s future is bleak as it is. Some nations will lose about a third of their populations to AIDS and other diseases; starvation and war are killing millions more. The water problem is not new, but now authorities warn that by 2025, half a billion Africans won t have access to clear water unless there s effective, decisive, and methodical action now.

Northwest Ohioans are familiar with the growing competition for water. Canada and the Great Lakes states are trying to see that the world s largest fresh water supply is not piped to other regions of the United States and indeed, the world.

But at this point Africa s problem is much more urgent, and governments must invest in improved infrastructure, scientists at a recent five-day conference in Nairobi said.

Otherwise, Africans will become more pitifully poor, hungry, and dependent on foreign aid.

The problem must be aggressively tackled, explained Professor Frank Rijsberman, chairman of the Challenge Programme on Water and Food Consortium during the meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. “The crisis has to be addressed comprehensively at all levels, from the way farmers use water to international policy decisions that affect reforms and investments in water management and infrastructure,” he said.

As it is now, too few African farmers have enough water for their crops. Those nations that get more rainfall must control the resource to prevent floods such as those that plagued Kenya and Mozambique.

This is a widespread, frightening issue, and non-Africans ignore it at their peril. Otherwise, by 2025 up to a third of the people in the world could have their livelihood affected because a drought will reduce food production.

Clearly, Africa s water problem is the entire world s problem. Either the world deals with it now or the world suffers the consequences just a few years down the road.

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