The Water Gap: With 60% of the world now living in water stressed areas, WaterAid report reveals nations with lowest access to water

21 March 2018
Water, Inequality
media-press-release-the-water-gap [Malika-Niger]
Image: WaterAid/Aisha Augie-Kuta

Download photos >

Download VNR >

Download report >

WaterAid's State of the World's Water 2018: The Water Gap reveals Uganda, Niger, Mozambique, India and Pakistan are among the countries where the highest percentage or largest number of people cannot get clean water within a half-hour round trip.

The report, released to mark World Water Day on 22 March, also includes new data on the often-sizeable gap between rich and poor when it comes to access to water.

Today 844 million people globally do not have clean water, a number which has risen from last year, This is in part because those who are not able to fetch water within a half hour round trip no longer count as having access to water, adding to existing pressures from urbanisation, population growth, shock weather events and poor financing and prioritisation of water supply.

Among the main findings:

  • Eritrea, Papua New Guinea and Uganda are the three countries with lowest access to clean water close to home, with Uganda a new addition to the list this year at 38% access.

  • Mozambique ranks fourth in the table of countries making greatest progress in water provision, but remains 10th in the world for lowest access to water. Its capital city, Maputo, is currently experiencing severe water shortages and is now preparing for rationing.

  • Tanzania is a new addition to the top 10 rankings of countries with lowest access to clean water close to home. Around 13% of its people have more than a 30-minute walk for clean water, and 37% are relying on unsafe sources. Its population has doubled in 25 years, is rapidly urbanising, and the country faces recurring droughts.

  • Almost every country struggling to provide its people with clean water also has a huge gap in access between richest and poorest. For instance, in Niger, only 41% of the poorest people have access to water, while 72% of its wealthiest do. In neighbouring Mali, the gap widens to 45% and 93%, respectively.

  • India, while still having the most people without clean water, is also near the top of the list for most people reached: more than 300 million since 2000, or nearly equivalent to the population of the United States.

The report comes as nations prepare for a July 2018 review of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6, to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030.

WaterAid's Chief Executive, Tim Wainwright, said:

"It’s deplorable that nearly 300,000 children under five years old die each year from diarrhoeal illnesses directly linked to dirty water, lack of decent toilets and poor hygiene. We all need to step up the urgency around the water and sanitation crisis as current progress is nowhere near fast enough.

"This year presents a time for real change as this summer, progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to deliver access to water and sanitation for all by 2030 – will be reviewed by world leaders in New York. We urge them to take real action as without water and sanitation, none of the other Global Goals – for alleviating poverty, improving health and creating a fairer and more sustainable world – will be achieved.”

Jonathan Farr, WaterAid’s Senior Policy Analyst on water security and climate change, added:

"Cape Town is a wake-up call, reminding us that access to water, our most precious resource, is increasingly under threat. Those marginalised by age, gender, class, caste or disability, or living in a slum or remote rural community, are hardest to reach and will continue to suffer as long as governments do not prioritise and fund access to water for all, and while disproportionate use of water by industry and agriculture continues.

"Already 60% of the world are living in water stress and this is expected to increase, with extreme weather brought by climate change, urbanisation, industrialisation and the simple ever-increasing demand for water. We know progress is possible: India has reached more than 300 million people in 15 years alone. But progress requires financing, political priority and the will to ensure the basic needs of every person are met, to ensure a better future for millions around the world."

This World Water Day, WaterAid is calling for:

  • Recognition that the UN Global Goals are everyone’s responsibility to deliver, to ensure no one is left behind. Everyone is accountable if they fail.

  • Responsible environmental management, including regulating the use of water in agriculture and industry, to protect and preserve enough clean water for communities’ basic needs.

  • Include access to water, sanitation and hygiene as central to health, education, nutrition and gender equality. Without water, none of the other UN Global Goals can be met.

  • Urgent action on the ground, at regional, national and global scale. Access to safe drinking water is a UN-recognised human right: politicians need to prioritise it and fund it, civil society must help all people speak out for their rights, and those working in water, sanitation and hygiene must support service providers and government to respond.

  • Mobilising resources from taxes, tariffs and transfers, and increasing the amount and proportion of aid for water, sanitation and hygiene, to close the gaps in financing. This also means supporting institutions to ensure they are accountable and well-governed, so that money is well-spent, and promoting pro-poor policies that ensure access to water for everyone.

For more information, visit


Lisa Martin, senior media officer, at [email protected] or +44 (0)2027 793 4524, or Carolynne Wheeler, news manager, at [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4485, or Fiona Callister, global head of media, on [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 5022.

Or please contact our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors

Content available:



WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 34 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]

  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]

  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]

  • Just £24 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database


[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines


[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage