How Many Countries Don’t Have Clean Water? Top 10 List and Facts

Today, nearly 800 million people lack basic access to clean water. Those who live in countries without clean water can fall sick, struggle to attend school regularly amidst regular trips to faraway water sources, and battle poverty.

Within the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is goal #6, “ensure availability and management of water and sanitation for all.” It is a shared effort to save lives now and drive progress moving forward. Together, governments, organizations, and communities are working to bring sustainable, safe drinking water to every person on the globe.

Top 10 Countries Without Clean Water

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) is the global public expert on water access, sanitation, and hygiene. According to JMP, “basic access” requires that a person is able to gather safe water in under a 30 minute round trip. This includes the time that it takes to wait in line.

This is because drinking contaminated water can cause illness and even death, especially for young children. Similarly, spending too much time journeying for water reduces quality of life, making education attainment a challenge for children and keeping adults from work.

Although the world water crisis is in constant flux, the following 10 countries have some of the most challenging water problems in the world today.

1. Ethiopia

Almost 60 percent of the population in Ethiopia lacks basic access to drinking water. Half of those without basic access are drinking from water that is more than likely or certainly contaminated, like hand-dug wells, unprotected natural springs, ponds, and more.


In 2005, about a quarter of Ethiopians were drinking from surface water. In 2017, that number fell to 9 percent. Huge progress has also been made in the area of sanitation. In 2005, 62 percent of Ethiopians were defecating outside, causing human waste to find their way into surface water sources and making many families ill. Open defecation has fallen to 22 percent.

countries without clean water
An Ethiopian man washes his hands after using his latrine.

2. Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, 51 percent of the population drinks surface water. That’s water from ponds, lakes, rivers, swamps, and springs, among other locations. Sanitation challenges follow. In Papua New Guinea, 87% of the population lacks basic sanitation services, meaning they don’t have a toilet of their own.


Since 2005, basic access to safe water has improved, from 34.5 percent in 2005, to 41 percent in 2017. Cases of communities defecating outside have actually increased slightly. Sources point to a long history of colonization, government corruption, and misuse of resources to account for the public health status today.

3. The Republic of Chad

JMP reports that 61 percent of people in Chad are without basic water access and 67 percent of the country is practicing open defecation. This means that those with toilets or pit latrines are in the minority in Chad, and more than half of the population doesn’t have adequate water access.


Progress has been slow in Chad following the reign of Dictator Hissène Habré from 1982- 1990. The history of the country, not unlike other countries without clean water, has been marked by instability and violence.

4. Uganda

Half of the population in Uganda cannot gather safe drinking water in under 30 minutes. Often, families depend on drinking water from a faraway community or across difficult terrain. Many communities still rely on swamps, ponds, rivers, and unprotected springs for water.


Since 2005, access to at least a basic level of safe drinking water has increased by 17% in Uganda, and open defecation has been cut in half.

Countries without clean water
Women in Uganda carry water home from a contaminated source.

5. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In the DRC, 57 percent of the population does not have basic access to water. The central african country also has a large gap between the richest and poorest. Among the poorest, only about 15 percent have basic access. Among the richest, about 85 percent.


While the divide between the rich and the poor has stayed relatively the same, the country has seen humble improvements in basic water access (about 7 percent growth between 2005 and 2017).

6. Mozambique

Just under 45 percent of the country of Mozambique is without basic access to water. That’s over 13 million people. In terms of sanitation, the majority of the country (70 percent) lacks access to their own toilet.


In 2005, only about 30 percent of the country had basic access to safe water. By 2017, they had nearly doubled basic access with 56 percent of the country obtaining basic access. Basic sanitation access has also doubled since 2005, bringing increased dignity and health to millions of citizens.

7. United Republic of Tanzania

About 43 percent of Tanzania lacks basic access to safe drinking water. Fourteen percent of the country, over 8 million people, are drinking surface water to survive.


While only 35 percent of the country had basic access to water in 2005, that number grew to 57 percent in 2017. The country has also made great progress in sanitation, from just 11 percent with the highest degree of sanitation access to 25 percent as of 2017.

Countries without clean water
A Tanzanian girl carries water home.

8. Somalia

Nearly half of Somalia (47 percent) does not meet JMP’s standards for basic water access. A third of the country relies on “limited” access structures, meaning that although the structure is assumed to be safe for drinking, it takes longer than 30 minutes for a roundtrip. Much of Somalia is walking long distances for drinking water.


More people than ever before are drinking safe water in Somalia today. “Limited” access has seen significant growth in Somalia, meaning families who used to have no access to safe water can now get it, but it’s a journey that takes them more than 30 minutes in a roundtrip. In 2005, just 13 percent had limited access; in 2017, 31 percent did. While still a challenge to overcome, it’s a marker of increased health.

9. Pakistan

Unlike other countries without clean water, the challenge in Pakistan is not water access but hand washing. Pakistan has one of the largest gaps in hygiene availability between the richest and the poorest. While 94 percent of the most wealthy in the country have basic access to hand washing with soap and water, only 17 percent of the poorest in the country have the same access. This means that illness is more common and deadly in low income communities.


In Pakistan, open defecation has fallen from 31 to 10 percent between 2005 and 2017. This creates a safer, healthier environment for everyone.

10. Nigeria

In Nigeria, 71 percent of the population has at least basic access to safe drinking water. This still leaves 29 percent of the population without it, but the primary concern in Nigeria is open defecation. In the West African country, 20 percent of the population practices open defecation.


Since 2005, the country has progressed from just 38 percent of the population with basic water access to 51, crossing into the majority. And, more people than ever have access to a toilet.


Moving Forward: Bringing Countries Clean Water

The global water crisis is one of the greatest challenges that the world faces today. But, individuals, organizations, and governments are facing it head on, implementing sustainable solutions, meeting urgent needs daily, and improving life for families all over the world.

For over 40 years, Lifewater International has brought safe water, improved health, and hope to families suffering from the global water and sanitation crisis. Progress is made each day, and we believe that together, we can end the crisis in our lifetimes.

Right now, you can meet a family in need of safe water and improved sanitation at You can give to their community and change lives.


Choose a Village. Change a Life.