Everyone in the world deserves to live without being exposed to water-borne illnesses, which can lead to unnecessary suffering and premature death. Yet, every ten seconds, a person dies from preventable diseases caused by unsafe water.
Every year 3.575 million people die from complications of diseases related to dirty, unsafe water, primarily diarrhea. Most of those who succumb to illnesses stemming from unsafe water are children under the age of five – which translates to nearly 60 percent (2.2 million) of those who die are young children. That’s one child every two minutes.
Despite daunting statistics, there is a solution, and you can make a difference. In fact, we are already making a difference. Because of efforts to provide safe, purified water, since 1990, 1.6 billion more people now have access to continuous, safer, and affordable drinking water.
Is the effort to produce accessible, clean water worth it? Can purified water actually prevent infectious illnesses? We’ll examine the answer one step at a time.
Benefits of Safe Water
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “basic” drinking water service is water coming from an improved source that takes no longer than 30 minutes round trip to collect.
An improved water source is water that’s piped, available by boreholes or tubewells, protected wells and springs, packaged, or delivered. This distinction is critical as the United Nations (UN) reports that women and children in Africa and Asia walk 3.7 miles on average to collect dirty or unsafe water.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) defines safe water as “water that will not harm you if you come in contact with it.” This includes water for drinking, domestic use, sanitation, food production, or recreational purposes.
Harmful water pollutants can include bacteria, viruses, pesticides, petroleum products, some metals and metalloids, strong acids, and other substances.
A weakened immune system, being a young child, elderly, pregnant, or nursing are additional risk factors that can cause someone to be more susceptible to water-borne illnesses arising from water contaminants.
The Problem of Unsafe Water
5.3 billion people in the world have access to improved, purified water sources that are free from contamination. Unfortunately, there are still 2.2 billion people who cannot adequately access safe water. WHO/UNICEF reports that of those:
- 1.4 billion people can access safe water within a 30-minute round trip (basic service).
- 206 million people have access to safe water but need to travel more than 30 minutes round trip to collect water. (limited service).
- 435 million people are still getting water from unprotected wells and springs
- 144 million depend on surface water, meaning it comes from rivers, ponds, or swamps.
There are multiple layers of problems related to the inaccessibility of safe water ranging from economics to health. Women and girls spend 200 million hours each day accessing water, preventing them from spending that time being educated, playing, or working. It also means they suffer from injuries related to carrying extremely heavy jugs of water on risky treks for many hours every day.
Economically, lack of available safe water contributes to impoverished communities. Since less time is spent working due to the extraordinary efforts required to collect water, the community suffers economically as a whole. Also more money is spent on medical expenses. Children spend less time in school because they are collecting water, and the lack of education keeps communities in the cycle of poverty.
Lack of clean water can also cause illness. In one report, WHO/UNICEF estimated that more than two billion people drink water contaminated by feces. Dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria can be found in water that is contaminated by feces. This can cause water-borne illness that results in life-threatening diarrhea.
Does Drinking Clean Water Prevent Illness?
Can purified water prevent infectious illnesses? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that answer is, “Yes.”
According to the CDC, the United Nations Millennium Project determined deaths from diarrhea reduce by 21 percent after improved water sources are available. Availability of safe, purified water matters and can save lives!
It’s a human right to have universal and equitable access to affordable safe drinking water.
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.