Lack of Clean Water

In 2018, it is estimated that 663 million people live without clean water throughout the world and 844 million people live without access to safe water, that’s 1 in 9 people.  Alleviate aims to raise funds for projects to bring sustainable solutions to affected communities overseas.

2.3 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation and 1 in 3 people lack access to toilets which equates to more people having a mobile phone than a toilet.  Every 90 seconds, a child dies from a water related disease.  The third leading cause of death in children is diarrhoea. Diarrhoea caused by dirty water and poor toilets kills a child under 5 every 2 minutes.  Diarrhoea is estimated to cause 1.5 million child deaths per year, mostly among children under five living in developing countries. Every minute a newborn dies from infection caused by the lack of safe water and an unclean environment.

To be considered “safe”, a source of drinking water must be free from pathogens and high levels of harmful substances. Globally, the main health concern is faecal contamination, which is identified by the presence of bacteria such as E.coli. In many places, a water point is designed to protect against contamination, but the water from it might still have traces of E.coli.  The groundwater may be contaminated by faulty latrines, or the containers people use to carry and store water may contain traces of the bacteria.

Water-related challenges

  • Lack of access to  safely managed drinking water.
  • Lack  of safely managed sanitation services.

The Assembly recognised the right of every human being to have access to  sufficient  water for personal and domestic uses (between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day), which must be safe, acceptable and affordable; (water costs should not exceed  3% of household income), and  physically accessible  (the water source has to be within 1,000 metres of the home and collection time should not exceed 30 minutes).

Of the 4.5 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services. This includes 600 million people who share a toilet or latrine with other households, and 892 million people – mostly in rural areas – who defecate in the open. Due to population growth, open defecation is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

Basic services mean having a protected drinking water source that takes less than thirty minutes to collect water from, using an improved toilet or latrine that does not have to be shared with other households, and having handwashing facilities with soap and water in the home.

844 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 159 million people who are dependent on surface water.   Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio. Absent, inadequate, or inappropriately managed water and sanitation services expose individuals to preventable health risks. This is particularly the case in health care facilities where both patients and staff are placed at additional risk of infection and disease when water, sanitation, and hygiene services are lacking. Globally, 15% of patients develop an infection during a hospital stay, with the proportion much greater in low-income countries.

Yet, diarrhoea is largely preventable.  Where water is not readily available, people may decide handwashing is not a priority, thereby adding to the likelihood of diarrhoea and other diseases.  In many parts of the world, insects that live or breed in water carry and transmit diseases such as dengue fever. Some of these insects, known as vectors, breed in clean, rather than dirty water, and household drinking water containers can serve as breeding grounds. The simple intervention of covering water storage containers can reduce vector breeding and may also reduce faecal contamination of water at the household level.

Access to Clean Water

Access to safe water turns time spent into time saved, giving people time to pursue education and work that will help break the cycle of poverty.  In general, most of the people who have access to water don’t have access at home. In some regions, especially sub-Saharan Africa, many people spend more than 30 minutes and some more than an hour on each trip to collect water.  This burden still falls mainly on women and girls as they are responsible for this task in eight in 10 households that don’t have a piped supply.  Mongolia is the only country where men and boys have primary responsibility for collecting water.  Many people spend more than 30 minutes and some more than an hour on each trip to collect water.  Reducing collection times and increasing the number of people who have water sources within their home will be crucial in achieving other goals related to poverty, health, and education.

Safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources, can boost countries economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.

In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

When water comes from improved and more accessible sources, people spend less time and effort physically collecting it, meaning they can be productive in other ways. This can also result in greater personal safety by reducing the need to make long or risky journeys to collect water. Better water sources also mean less expenditure on health, as people are less likely to fall ill and incur medical costs, and are better able to remain economically productive.

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

– Milton Berle