Community & Environment |

Wild Water: Two thirds of rural population in Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mozambique without clean water putting them at greater risk from climate change

Wild Water: Two thirds of rural population in Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mozambique without clean water putting them at greater risk from climate change


21 March 2017


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Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mozambique are among the worst performing countries in the world for rural access to clean water, WaterAid's State of the World's Water 2017 report reveals. The report, released to mark World Water Day on 22 March, warns about the implications of extreme weather events and climate change for the world’s poorest.


In Papua New Guinea, over two thirds of the rural population – 67% - live without access to clean water, while Madagascar and Mozambique follow closely behind, with 65% and 63% of their rural populations without clean water, respectively. All three countries rank in the top 20% of nations worldwide most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index*.


WaterAid's second-annual analysis of global water access, 'Wild Water', examines the state of rural access to safe drinking water around the world and warns that more extreme weather events resulting from climate change – including cyclones, ruinous flooding and prolonged drought – could make it even harder for the world's poorest people to access clean water.


Today 663 million people globally are without clean water and the vast majority of them – 522 million – live in rural areas. These communities face particular challenges in gaining access to water due to their often isolated location, inadequate infrastructure and a continued lack of funding.


Among the main findings:

·         India, among the world's fastest growing economies and home to 17% of the world's population, ranks top for having the greatest number of people living rurally without access to clean water – 63.4 million.

·         Angola tops the list of countries with the greatest percentage of the rural population without access to safe water. Despite being Africa's fifth largest economy, 71% of the country's rural population lives without access to safe drinking water.

·         Paraguay is making the most progress in improving access to water for its rural population. With 94.9% of rural dwellers now enjoying access to clean water, this South American nation has reached nearly 1.5 million people in just five years – an impressive 43% increase in access levels. Malawi follows closely behind in second place, and Laos and Cambodia are third and fourth. 


Existing challenges are compounded by extreme weather events, impacting on the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of the world's poorest people. For people in Africa, where temperatures are projected to increase faster than the global average rise during the 21st century, the future situation looks particularly dire.


Diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria and dengue are expected to become more common and malnutrition more prevalent. Rural communities dependent on farming to make a living will struggle to grow food and feed livestock amid soaring temperatures, and women - typically responsible for collecting water - may have to walk ever greater distances during prolonged dry seasons.


WaterAid Australia Chief Executive, Rosie Wheen, says:

“World Water Day is an opportunity to reflect on how extreme weather events make the daily struggle to access clean water even more difficult for the world’s poorest people. Many of the countries featured in the report are already regularly hit by severe cyclones, floods and drought. Rural communities – which are marginalised by their remote location and a continued lack of funding for basic services – often bear the greatest burden of these events.


“We are calling on international and national leaders to deliver on their promises to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 6 to ensure access to safe water and sanitation. Clean water is not a privilege – it is a basic human right – yet over half a billion rural people are still living without access to safe drinking water. If all of these people stood in a queue, it would wrap around the Earth’s circumference 6.5 times. We know that providing communities with a secure water source and improved sanitation helps them become more resilient to extreme weather and better able to adapt to climate change. To achieve this, we must ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to clean water from sustainable sources and adequate sanitation. With Australia serving as co-Chair of the Green Climate Fund, we have an opportunity to ensure that an increasing amount of international climate finance is directed to water, sanitation and hygiene programming.”


This World Water Day, WaterAid is calling for:

  • Governments to prioritise and fund water, sanitation and hygiene, fulfilling these fundamental human rights and build communities’ resilience to extreme weather events and climate change.

·        Government leaders to increase efforts to meet their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals, including achieving targets to reach everyone, everywhere with safe, clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.

  • Governments around the world to keep the pledges made at the 2015 Paris climate summit and lead efforts to urgently increase funding for poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change – less than a third of available international public climate finance has been reaching the least developed countries, while middle-income countries have been benefitting most.


* About the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index 

The index looks at a range of information such as the effect climate change will have on the availability of food and water, how it will impact upon the nation’s health, its infrastructure and ecosystem as well as assessing the country’s economic preparedness, government preparedness and social preparedness. To find out more visit:


Contact: Kirrily Johns, Communications Manager: 03 9001 8246 or 0438 063 618 or


About WaterAid
WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone, everywhere has safe water, sanitation and hygiene. The international organisation works in countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 24 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit: