Clean Water

Overview: Access to Clean Water

Certainly, the most tragic deaths are those that are preventable…and there are 1.8 million preventable deaths that are attributable to a lack of clean water each year. Further, one in two people in rural Africa don’t have access to clean water, and one in nine people worldwide lack access to clean water.

How are people affected by a lack of clean water?

According to UNICEF, in India alone, roughly 450,000 children under the age of five die each year from diseases contracted by drinking contaminated water. Most of these deaths are due to illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses in water that has been contaminated with human and animal feces. In fact, diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. With few easily accessible medical resources, poor people are frequently trapped in poverty due to chronic illness. While the World Health Organization states that access to sanitation in rural areas is much worse than urban areas, 930 million people live in slums and most population growth is expected to occur in urban areas.

dirty waterPoor sanitation, water and hygiene have many other serious repercussions. In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely contaminated. Time spent walking and resulting diseases keep them from school, work and taking care of their families. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, health systems are overwhelmed and national economies suffer. Without water, sanitation and hygiene, sustainable development is impossible. (Charity: water, UNICEF)

How does a lack of clean water affect economies?

Combining water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions can cut preventable child deaths by up to 57%; reduce chronic malnutrition by 40 percent; reduce school absenteeism among girls by 50 percent; and obtain an 8:1 economic return in target communities (World Health Organization, UNICEF)

The United Nations estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water; that’s the same as a whole year’s worth of labor by France’s entire workforce! With much of one’s day already consumed by meeting basic needs, there isn’t time for much else. The hours lost to gathering water are often the difference between time to do a trade and earn a living and not.

The social and economic effects caused by a lack of clean water are often the highest priorities of African communities when they speak of their own development. The World Health Organization has shown this in economic terms: for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of between $3 and $34! (The Water Project)

What progress has been made in the fight for clean water? 89% of the world population used an improved drinking-water source by end of 2011, and 55% enjoyed the convenience and associated health benefits of a piped supply on premises. While this is certainly good news, an estimated 768 million people still did not use an improved source for drinking water in 2011 and 185 million relied on surface water to meet their daily drinking water needs. (World Health Organization) By 2050, the world’s population is estimated to grow by three billion and 90% will be in the developing world. Unless sustainable water solutions are scaled fast, regions already stressed for water sources will be over capacity.clean water

How are people’s lives made better by clean water?

Safe water supplies, hygienic sanitation and good water management are fundamental to global health. Almost one tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by: increasing access to safe drinking water; improving sanitation and hygiene; and improving water management to reduce risks of water-borne infectious diseases and accidental drowning during recreation. (World Health Organization)

When a water solution is put into place, sustainable agriculture is possible. Children get back to school instead of collecting dirty water all day, or being sick from waterborne illnesses. Parents find more time to care for their families, expand minimal farming to sustainable levels, and even run small businesses. (The Water Project)

Why does SecondCommand choose to support clean water initiatives? Christ commands us in scripture to help those who are in need, and that those who help the poor will themselves be blessed. SecondCommand recognizes the need of those without clean water and desires to help drill new water wells, improve water supplies, and remedy inadequate sanitation. By donating to on the ground charities such as WorldVision, Living Waters for the World and Solar Under the Sun, we empower local communities to develop sustainable solutions for access to water. Although much has been done in the fight for clean water, there is still much to do – many still live without the basic necessity of water. Keep fighting for them through awareness and your giving!