Rachel Brown

Rachel Brown is currently an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science at the George Washington University. She also has earned her International Baccalaureate Diploma from George School and has interned for her local representative who ran for Congress in 2020. Along with political activism, Rachel is extremely interested in journalism and intends to minor in it. Rachel currently writes blog posts for her Comparative Politics class, and thought that writing these posts for the UMR would help broaden her understanding of the regions that they work with.

Water Scarcity in Kenya: A Dire Crisis

By Rachel Brown

Water scarcity is not something new to the African region. Throughout the years many countries in Africa have had to bear the consequences of not having clean and accessible water at their disposal. It is well researched that 1 in 3 Africans face water scarcity and “400 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to basic drinking water.” Kenya is on the East Africa coast, yet the country is facing one of the worst droughts of its time. Despite it bordering the Indian Ocean, the Wajir Region and its people find themselves struggling to survive without access to clean water. 

There are roughly 40 million people living in Kenya, and almost half of them don’t have access to clean water. Due to this large population, in a relatively small country, the ratio of people to accessible water is deeply skewed. While there may be access to water, this water isn’t clean, and Kenyans don’t have the means to filter this water. Although, out of desperation, we see people drinking this dirty water and then getting diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, dehydration from diarrhea, etc. People shouldn’t have to risk their health and well-being just because they don’t have access to clean water, a fundamental right to life. 

Climate change, the heating of the planet at an unreasonable rate, is also exacerbating this issue. Kenya is facing a severe drought, “receiving less than 30% of its normal rainfall – the worst short rain season in decades.” Not only does this lack of rainfall affect the citizens’ access to water, but also damages their economy because their pastures and animals aren’t hydrated enough to do well. Without these pastures and livelihoods of agriculture, we can see people not being able to make a living and falling deeper into poverty. 

Zenab Jule, an expecting mother in Africa, is currently living below the poverty line as a direct result of the droughts. She is pregnant, along with having 2 other children and has only been feeding them maize because of the lack of crop due to the lack of water. She says, “both toddlers are suffering from diarrhea, one of the most frequent symptoms of malnourishment among children below five.” This water crisis is affecting more than just the people, crops, and animals in Kenya but also the children. A lot of the time children have to drop out of school to help their family or follow their family to other areas in search of water. Considering that the average length a person has to go to fetch clean water is approximately 9 miles, it makes sense for them to want to pack up their things and move for better living conditions. 

This is a complex issue with no clear solution. However, there are many companies that focus on accessibility to clean water and are trying to work on solutions to create a system where water can be accessible and clean for everyone. 

  1. Holtz, Leo, and Christina Golubski. “Addressing Africa’s Extreme Water Insecurity.” Brookings. Brookings, August 11, 2021. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2021/07/23/addressing-africas-extreme-water-insecurity/. 
  2.  Pietromarchi, Virginia. “’We Will All Die’: In Kenya, Prolonged Drought Takes Heavy Toll.” Climate Crisis News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, November 18, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/17/we-will-all-die-in-kenya-prolonged-drought-takes-heavy-toll. 
  3.  “Kenya’s Water Crisis – Kenya’s Water in 2021.” Water.org. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://water.org/our-impact/where-we-work/kenya/. 

The Lebanese Economic Crisis

In 2019, Lebanon’s economy crashed and it has not recovered since. There is a shortage of many necessities such as food, fuel, electricity, and money. There is currently an ongoing humanitarian crisis that people are not being educated on, and most don’t know even exists. 

The Lebanese Civil War began in 1975 and lasted until 1990. When this war ended, it was decided that the country needed to change its currency and tie it to the US Dollar. “Lebanon’s central bank promised that 1,507 Lebanese lira would be worth exactly $1 and that Lebanese banks would always exchange one for the other.” However, this didn’t work as it was intended to: Lebanon’s banks ended up storing US currency which was stable for a bit, but ended up crashing in 2011. In order to keep money coming in, banks offered generous interest rates to anyone who would keep depositing money. This turned into a “Ponzi Scheme,” and people wanted to pull their money out, but were unable to. Now the value of the lira has gone down by over 90%.

This crisis, according to the World Bank, “is in the top 3 most severe crises globally since the mid-nineteenth century.” Their GDP dropped from US $55 billion in 2018 to $20.5 billion in 2021. There are multiple reasons as to why the crisis has gotten this dire, and one of them is because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like most countries, Covid-19 hit the economy hard. Lebanon receives a lot of income from the tourist industry, being a main place to visit the Middle East. However, once the pandemic hit and travel was halted they lost this main source of income. This instability caused by the pandemic has led to unstable living conditions for millions of Lebanese people whose disparities were only more evident since the country already faced unequal wealth gaps. 1/3 of the Lebanese population live under the poverty line, while the youth unemployment rate is 37% and the overall unemployment rate is 25%.

Along with the pandemic, the Lebanese economy suffered greatly due to the Port of Beirut Explosion in 2020, which killed 200 people and also caused a great deal of property damage. It not only caused structural instability, but also dwindled the water supply, and increased the deteriorating conditions in the country. There was billions of dollars’ worth of damage from this explosion. Due to this shortage of money, people are unable to pay their importers in cash. This has led to a number of strikes specifically with food suppliers and gas stations because wheat and fuel importers cannot get their money. Also, with the influx of Syrian refugees due to the unrest in Syria, it seems as if Lebanon has reached its breaking point and was never able to build back after their Civil War because frankly the country itself has never gotten a break.

In order to attempt to help gain money back, the government imposed a tax on WhatsApp calls, an app that lets one call or text whoever one may choose in any part of the world, for no charge. This $6 monthly tax angered people and led to government protests. The government soon cancelled this tax, but this once again exposed the instability of the country.

Due to the pandemic, the Beirut explosion, and inflation, Lebanon’s economy is in deep trouble. The citizens of Lebanon are in deep trouble considering the economic position of their country. This is a humanitarian crisis that the public needs to be educated on for the sake of humankind.

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