Access to safe water is a fundamental component of eliminating poverty because a lack of clean water and poverty are intricately intertwined. When you can’t access safe water, you can’t stay healthy, go to work, go to school, or grow your crops for safe consumption.
This is the reality for 2.2 billion people in the world who still don’t have access to safe water, causing 9.2 percent of the global population to live in poverty — most of them children.
As unfathomable and impossible as it seems, you can improve these statistics by being part of the solution. In 2017, 52 million fewer people were suffering from poverty than in 2015 because everyday people stepped in to help relieve the water crisis and reduce poverty.
What Is Poverty?
The international poverty line is an income under USD $1.90 per day; however, poverty encompasses so much more than a lack of income. The World Bank describes poverty from a lens of compassion to help us understand the impact on human lives:
“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom.”
Most of us can’t relate to this kind of poverty. We can’t fathom living a life of poverty in which we are consistently coping with lack of:
- Access to clean water
- Access to education
- Access to healthcare
- Proper sanitation
- Income streams or livelihoods
- Social protection
- Resources to change our circumstances
At Healing Waters, we care for communities and people holistically. This means we don’t solve problems and then leave. Because our investment is in the local people and the community, we create sustainable systems, so people thrive physically, socially, economically, and spiritually.
Who Lives in Poverty?
In 2017, 689 million people were living in poverty, 52 million less than in 2015. Progress was being made to combat poverty around the world. However, an additional 88-115 million people worldwide are expected to live in extreme poverty due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and more help is needed.
The Relationship Between Clean Water and Poverty
A community can’t escape poverty without access to safe water. What exactly is “safe water?” According to the United States Geological Society (USGS), safe water is “water that will not harm you if you come in contact with it.”
The United Nations (UN) adopted a plan that includes ending poverty worldwide. This plan is called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is a blueprint of a universal call to action to achieve a better future for all people by 2030. Virtually every one of the seventeen SDGs requires access to clean water.
There are numerous ways that access to clean water diminishes poverty, including:
With access to clean water, agriculture is improved, and poverty is reduced. 84% of those who don’t have access to safe water live in rural communities. They rely on their agriculture for healthy food as well as to produce income from their crop’s yield. Access to clean water means crops aren’t irrigated with contaminated water, and communities don’t have to eat contaminated food.
Nutritious, safe food makes physically and mentally strong bodies. Healthy people can work and attend school; healthy, productive, and educated people have more secure futures.
Improved physical health:
Access to safe water improves physical health, which diminishes poverty. In developing countries, 80% of sicknesses are due to drinking and washing with contaminated water. Proper handwashing effectively prevents viral illness and reduces the spread of viruses, including the coronavirus, but it takes clean water.
Water-borne illnesses cause a preventable death every ten seconds, and every twenty-one seconds, a child under the age of five dies from a sickness stemming from contaminated water. When the family’s income-provider dies from unsafe water, it’s not only devastating for the family emotionally, but it can also plummet them into deeper poverty.
Safe water can help eliminate these deaths and poverty.
Another way access to safe water diminishes poverty is by reducing the physical strain on the women who lug the water home after collecting it. On average, women carry more than 40 pounds of water for up to six hours every day when they don’t have access to safe water systems nearby. Imagine the cumulative strain on their backs, neck, and knees.
The burden to collect water for families lands on women and children, girls in particular. The hours-long trek to provide water for families keeps women out of the workforce and girls out of school, diminishing their ability to gain the necessary skills to support themselves financially. According to the UN, the women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa spend a shocking 40 billion hours each year collecting water — the equivalent of a year of labor by the entire workforce of France.
Access to clean water empowers women to spend the time they would have used collecting water to utilize their skills and talents in the workplace instead. It also keeps girls in school, allowing them to become educated, reducing the gap of gender equality.
How Can We Alleviate the Water Crisis and Poverty?
When we provide safe water solutions in communities, we help to alleviate poverty and suffering. We also offer hope. With safe water, people can be hydrated, well-nourished, and mentally and physically healthy, which allows them to function to their full potential through working, going to school, and playing.
WASH is an acronym for water, sanitation, and hygiene. These are interconnected solutions. For example, water sources become contaminated without toilets; and you can’t have effective hygiene without clean water.
Two safe global water solutions include:
- Implementing water purification systems
- Health and Hygiene education
Join Us in Ending the Global Water Crisis
At Healing Waters International, we want to empower people to thrive physically, socially, and spiritually. We offer hope by implementing sustainable water purification systems that provide access to clean water and that help diminish poverty.
But we can’t do it alone.
We’re on a mission to end the global water crisis. We build holistic clean water solutions and spread God’s love in at-risk communities around the world, empowering people not just to survive, but to thrive – physically, socially and spiritually.