Access to Water Sanitation

Ibifuro Ogbanga

Worldwide Improved Water Source (% of Population With Access)

1990 76.78%
1995 79.57%
2000 82.56%
2005 85.35%
2008 86.82%
Data from World Bank, World Development Indicators

The focus of my project is worldwide access to water sanitation. I found a very simplified, easily interpreted data set so that there would be no intial confusion. I chose to use recent data, dating nearly 20 years ago because I wanted to discuss a situtation that still relevant and affects the world every day.

My first visualization is one I created in which the same information in the data set above is put into a graph focused on size and shape. There is little variation between the sizes of each circle. Although numerical change exists, one looking at the graph would most likely assume that the progress through the years had been minimal. I interpreted this graph two ways. The first way was with the mindset that there has not been much change in the past eighteen years because much of the change has already been made before this time. Furthermore, because most of the change has alreay been done, water sanitation is not that great of an issue. The second way I interpreted this graph was with the mindset that the appearance of little change throughout the past documented eighteen years shows that the globe is not doing enough to continue to make more and more progress every year. And if this was the case, then water sanitation was an issue that needed more effort and attention from the world. With these contrasting views, I decided to find a way to break down the data a bit to see which intial interpretation of the data set was more accurate.

The world is a such a large place with countless countries and billions of people. The limitations of my intial data set was that it generalized the world, which had the possibility of making the information it presented somewhat misleading. With this in mind, I decided to find some specificity and focus on a couple aspects of the world. The data set I chose to use is an average, so when looking for a comparison I sought out countries that I knew would be in two completely different places on the spectrum of water sanitation. As one can see, the average access to sanitary water in the United States is higher than the world average, at about 99%. Another important aspect to note is that the average has been high without change for the duration of the graph. In the comparison graph, the world average is compared with several African countries. With the exception of two, the rest of countries fell below the world average. Several countries fell far below the world average dipping as low as 30% population access to sanitary water. With data sets such as the one I chose, it is easy for people in high income countries to believe that water sanitation is not a global issue, but graphs such as the one that reveals the lack of access to water sanitation in African countries clearly indicate that it is a global issue.
After seeing the results of the true condition many African countries are in as far as access to sanitary water, I wanted to expand and see the true condition the world is in. The results can be seen in the above global map. It indicates the percentage of the population of a specific country that has access to sanitary water. It also goes deeper and shows the range of life expectancy of the country. The countries that have the greatest access to sanitary water also have the greatest life expectancies whereas the countries with very little access to sanitary water have low life expectancies. I believe this visualization is very powerful because it puts many other issues the globe has into perspective. Although the focus is water sanitation, it brings into account that without sufficient access to clean water, people develop disease and other illnesses that ultimately lead to shorter life spans. If low income countries do not have healthy citizens, it increases the likelihood of them remaing low income and makes progression socially, economically, and politically more difficult. Sadly, the nations that do have the sufficient sanitary water access are the ones who have the power to help the countries who do not however it does not seem as though these countries are willing to intervene.
The last visualization I chose was a word cloud. For five mintues, I allowed myself to vent and get out all the emotion I felt about the issue of global water sanitation. For the most part I felt as though proper water sanitation is not a priviledge or a luxury, but rather a neccesity that every human being deserves to have. On one end I was frustrated with the lack of intervention that higher income countries make in order to improve the lives of other who are far less fortunate and to some extents, even hopeless. On the other hand I realized that things are often much easier said than done, and I personally have not done all I am capable of doing to make a change. At the very least I believe it is important as a country to remember that just because a problem in non existant for us, it may be a harsh reality for others. By remembering this I think our activism will continue to grow and the world will continue to grow in a positive way.
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