For too many Egyptians, the cup of clean drinking water is always half empty

For too many Egyptians, the cup of clean drinking water is always half empty
Egyptian mother cups her hands under a running tap in her yard to let her her daughter 6 drink, in the village of al-Jendaya, in the Bani Mazar province, in the Minya governorate some 200km south of Cairo on 5 April 2016. [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

The families of Najah Ihsan and Abu Al-Ola are representative of around 1.2 million Egyptians who have no supply of drinking water. They struggle to get even a single cup of fresh water, which is very scarce. This is down to the scandalous waste in Egypt’s water supply system.

I suffer a lot in my efforts to obtain water. We bear the costs in full because if we didn’t, we would never get water. I can no longer bear this. If you go into people’s homes here, you would wonder how anyone lives in these places.

Using open source data, we can see how the mismanagement of drinking water in Egypt has led to a decline in the share of water available for every individual. This has led to a rise in the percentage of the population deprived of water or with minimal access to it.

Between 2014 and 2018, the percentage of the Egyptians with access to drinking water for 24 hours a day was constant at approximately 95 per cent. However, the percentage of the population without access to this key utility increased threefold during the same period. From 380,000 people in 2014 — 0.41 per cent of the population — the figure rose to 1,180,000 — 1.2 per cent of the population — in 2018. That’s an increase of 800,000 people, according to the annual report of the Egyptian Drinking Water Regulatory Agency.

Sherif Abu Al-Ola from the Nagaa Salem district is one of those people without this utility; he relies on getting water from one of his neighbours on a daily basis. Despite this, it is not enough for his family of eight. « The water we drink is of the same quality as the water we give to livestock, but what are we going to do about it? » he asked. « It’s all in the hands of God. »