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Water Quality and Health Issues in Third World Countries

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 2433 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Water is an inevitable part of any living beings. Water is the basic necessity for any human being, living in any corner of the world. In fact, human body is primarily water. The infants are primarily made up of 70% water, whereas adult males are 60% and adult females are 55%. Clean water is essential to many parts of a healthy society, from preventative measures such as hand-washing to its use in medical treatment. In the United States, we often take it for granted. The economic growth of any country depends on how well their water resources are managed.

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The major concern in the third world countries is the water pollution. Every year more than 3.2 million children die because of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. The main problem is that the access to sufficient wastewater treatment plants in the developing nations is extremely limited. A survey estimated that around $7.3 million is spent on health care for waterborne diseases alone. More than one billion people are deprived of even a basic necessity of life such as drinking water, of which 159 million people are dependent on surface water (Shah,2010). By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.

Safe and promptly accessible water is crucial for public health, regardless of whether it is utilized for drinking, household purpose, agriculture or recreational purposes. Improvement in water supply and sanitation is inevitable for a nation’s growth. Furthermore, better management of water resources can help nations to grow economically and can contribute enormously to reduce poverty. In 2010, the UN General Assembly expressed that everybody has the privilege to adequate, constant, acceptable, safe, physically available and affordable water for personal and household use.


Water is extremely necessary for the existence, development and preservation of all human life, making it an important asset in the world. A water crisis has gripped third world countries, threatening the quality of life of those living there. According to the United Nations Human Development Report, the water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through weapons (Water Facts, 2012). Each year 3.8 million people die from water quality related diseases. Of that enormous number 84% are children, and 98% are living in the developing world. Clearly this is a major health issue in the third world countries today. This issue must be addressed as soon as possible to save the lives of millions of people that are dying from preventable ailments.

The third world countries are facing a huge problem on water quality. The quality of available water is deteriorating with each passing day. Water is essential for life, not only for the body’s physical needs but also for domestic use; yet millions of people do not have access to potable water. The amount of clean water available is not enough to satiate the need of it, thus giving rise to numerous waterborne and water washed diseases. All of this is enough to cause death of millions of people globally and thereby hindering the development of the nation.


One of the greatest issues contributing to the water crisis in developing countries is that the accessible water is not clean, thus making it non – potable. Even when the population of the developing countries have access to a water source, there is a problem with the quality of that water. Bartram’s (2010) article on the foundations of health addresses the issue that some people have access to water within their homes, still the quality of that water is a major problem. Numerous piped water systems found in the third world countries work only for a few hours a day. The water in it is not properly filtered and thus making it unsafe. In larger Asian cities, out of 5 water supplies, more than one do not measure up to national water quality standards. In developing countries, the water-borne diseases cause millions of deaths and this is mainly the result of drinking unsanitary water.

The population of the world is increasing day by day, moreover the scarcity of the surface water due to the deteriorating surface water quality is posing a serious problem for drinking water in the third world countries. One of the issues is that the drinking water may not be available where people live, and according to the tradition, often women have to walk for hours to get the daily water ration for the family. In order to overcome this problem, government and other international donor agencies sponsors the drilling of the groundwater wells. Thus, the use of ground water has increased sharply in the third world countries.

People often take it for granted that the water from the deep (bedrock) wells are clean and healthy. Generally, this is true for the bacteriological composition, but the water should be tested for the inorganic chemicals present in it before drilling the wells. Due to the variation in the local topography and water/rock interactions, high deposition of numerous compound components can happen in such waters. During the last 5 – 10 years a few investigations have demonstrated that wells in zones with specific geographical highlights yield water that does not meet built up drinking water standards with no impact from anthropogenic contamination. These examinations additionally record that a significant number of components for which no drinking water guideline values (GL) or maximum acceptable concentrations limits (MAC) have been set up can happen at unpleasantly high levels in normal well waters.

The primary reason for the poor water quality in the third world countries is the pathogens contained in the water. These is due to the collection of the fecal matter in the same rivers or streams where the water for daily use is collected from. These microorganisms coming from fecal matter affects millions of people worldwide. They are likely to cause fatal diseases such as: malaria, typhoid, cholera, Guinea worm, E. coli, Giardia, and countless others. Diarrhea is the most widespread of all the diseases resulting due to poor hygiene, sanitation and water. The tragedy about this is that most of the people suffering from these preventable diseases are not even aware of the fact that the cause of their diseases is the unsanitary water that they use. The poor sewage treatment capacity, poor state of functioning of sewage networks and sewage treatment plants and non-availability of fecal sludge treatment plants have caused a havoc in the third world countries. They are the reason for the deterioration of the ground water and the surface water. The quality of water needs to be evaluated not only for pathogens, but also for harmful chemicals that can contaminate the water. Arsenic is the most unwanted natural chemical contamination found in the ground water in Hungary, Bangladesh and African countries. Thousands of people are suffering due to cancer due to the high concentration of it in the drinking water from drilled well. Mercury is commonly found in water in water in small amount but that is not harmful. However, in large quantities, mercury can be very harmful to human body and cause various forms of sickness. The taste of the water is also affected by the chemicals and biological pathogens immersed in the water. The amount of water consumed by a person is determined by the taste of the water; humans need a lot of water and the poor taste of the water available to a person should not be a factor determining how much he receives (Kleiner, 2003). The major reason for the water crisis in the third world countries is the water quality problems which needs to be solved as soon as possible.




According to Bartram’s journal article if every person could practice good hygiene and had clean water to drink, globally, approximately 2.4 million deaths could be prevented each year. In third world countries lack of water and sanitation facilities contribute to almost half of all people’s suffering. Mostly, it is due to drinking unsanitary water. In third world countries, majority of the death causing illness are caused by water-borne diseases. These diseases are likely to be transferred from contact or consumption of infected water. Some of these diseases include typhoid, amoebas, malaria, cholera, Guinea worm, E. coli, Giardia, and another parasite. Although greatest disease caused by unsafe drinking water is diarrhea affecting millions of lives. Also, the water borne diseases can be transferred when the water is used for recreational purpose. The risk of transmission from an infected person to the healthy person increases when they use the same water source for recreational purpose. As a matter of fact, most of the deaths of children around the globe are caused by diarrhea. Protozoa or bacteria are the pathogenic organisms which are present in the contaminated water sources and they are transferred to a person through drinking water, washing with contaminated water and also by eating the food prepared using contaminated water. Due to physical contact, the person becomes infected from the pathogenic microorganism contained in the water and develops a water borne disease. The fig 1 shows the Guinea worm disease caused because of drinking contaminated water.

Apart from the water borne diseases, there are numerous water washed diseases affecting millions of people. Water-washed diseases constitutes those diseases that are merely removed by washing with water. Water is vital to having proper hygiene when it comes to health. Just washing one’s hands with soap and water can make a huge difference by reducing the risk of endemic diarrhea by up to almost 50% in addition to other respiratory or skin infections. By washing hands with soap regularly, chances of transmission of ascariasis can be reduced drastically. Ascariasis is caused by drinking water contaminated with feces carrying eggs and resulting in fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting as some of its major symptoms.

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 Hand washing can even reduce child mortality if performed at delivery and postpartum. Also, eye infections such as trachoma which is the biggest cause of blindness throughout the world can be prevented by washing face regularly. Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. Some of the symptoms associated with trachoma include the following: cloudy cornea, swelling of lymph nodes just in front of the ears, discharge from the eye, swollen eyelids, and turned-in eyelashes. Currently, a total of approximately 8 million cases of blindness have come forward throughout the world. Most of the cases are from African and Asian countries. But this deadly disease is spread in a total of 55 countries (Polack, Brooker, Kuper, Silvio, Mabey & Foster, 2005). The direct contact with a contaminated object such as towel should be avoided to prevent trachoma from spreading. Also, the direct contact with the secretions of an infected body part such as eyes, nose or throat should be prevented. The facial hygiene and hand washing plays an important role in it. Furthermore, water is used to flush toilets, resulting in better hygiene and thereby preventing of diseases caused by fecal matter. For the people living in third world countries proper sanitary arrangements should be made as it is a major transmitter of diseases.


The water quality problems have been causing tremendous loss of life and money in the developing countries since decades. In order to overcome this serious issue initiative should be taken by individual and government to make it better. Individuals should try to maintain good hygiene and to keep the water resources clean. The efforts should be made by the government to improve the quality of available water, thereby reducing the chance of transmitting any water borne diseases. The developed countries like USA and Canada are coming forward to support the clean water initiatives in the developing countries by funding millions of dollars to improve the quality of ground water and surface water and also to improve the available sanitation facilities. Once the awareness is spread among the people, the mortality rate can drastically go down whereas the economic growth of the nation can be boomed.


      Fig 1. Guinea worm disease

      Fig 2. Water borne disease



  1. Bartram, J., & Cairncross, S. (2010). Hygiene, sanitation, and water: Forgotten foundations of health. Plos Medicine, 7(11), 1-9.


  1. Shah, A. (2010). Poverty facts and stats. Global Issues,


  1. Shah, A. (2010, June 06). Water and development.


Starkey, M. (2012) The water crisis in the third world countries

  1. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1cef/f2430a97094de502f5060a0e07c3c6b3c4c1.pdf
  2. https://www.ecomena.org/water-pollution/
  3. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2014/215848/
  4. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_issues_in_developing_countries
  5. https://nuscimag.com/clean-water-in-developing-countries-2bcf736c0c47
  6. http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water


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