Some Facts Are Hard To Swallow...
We realize that facts can sometimes be overwhelming or even desensitize us to issues, as we begin looking at mass numbers rather than individual lives. But to better understand the crisis at hand, we felt that the following information provided by the World Health Organization and United Nations may help you contemplate just how great the need for clean water truly is.
Did you know...?
884 million people lack access to safe drinking water. That's approximately 1 out of every 8 persons on earth. (4)
2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation with nearly half of that number not having the security and dignity of a toilet or latrine at all. (4)
Less than 1% of the world's fresh water is readily accessible for human use. (1)
Water scarcity even occurs in areas where there is plenty of freshwater and/or rainfall. In fact, water scarcity occurs on every continent on the planet. (1)
In developing nations, approximately 90% of sewage systems are being emptied into rivers, lakes, and nearby streams that communities use for drinking water. (5)
Nearly 2/3 of people who lack access to clean water live off of wages of less than $2 a day. (3)
People who live in rural areas or slums often pay 5 to 10 times more money per liter of water than their wealthy counterparts living in the same city. (3)
Poverty and water scarcity force people to rely on unsafe sources of drinking water. It also means they cannot bathe or clean their clothes or homes properly. (1)
To compensate, millions of women and children spend several hours a day walking upwards of 6 or more miles to collect water from polluted sources. Time that could be spent in school or practicing a trade that would benefit their family's current needs and future success. (3)
Water weighs 8.35 pounds per gallon and many adults carry up to five gallons per trip. That means they carry over 40 pounds of water for miles everyday. The weight of the water women carry also exposes them to a greater risk of malnutrition, back problems, and anemia. (6)
The situation is getting worse as needs for water rise along with population growth, urbanization and increases in household, agricultural, and industrial uses. (1)
Poor water quality can increase the risk of such diarrheal diseases as cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery, and other water-borne infections. Water scarcity can lead to diseases such as trachoma (an eye infection that can lead to blindness), plague and typhus. (1)
Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. For children under the age of five, there is no greater cause of death than unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. (3)
1.4 million children die each year from diarrhea. That's over 3,800 deaths each day from just one form of water-related sickness. (3)
Water scarcity encourages people to store water in their homes. This can increase the risk of household water contamination and stagnant water provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes - which are carriers of dengue fever, malaria and other serious diseases such as schistosomiasis. (1)
About 3.3 billion people - half of the world's population - are at risk of malaria. (1)
Every year, there are about 250 million cases of malaria, resulting in nearly 1 million deaths. (1)
A lack of water has driven up the use of wastewater for agricultural production in poor urban and rural communities. More than 10% of people worldwide consume foods irrigated by waste water that can contain chemicals or disease-causing organisms. (1)
At any given time, close to half of all people living in developing nations are sufferring from a health problem related to water and sanitation deficits. (3)
Some Good News...
WASH Development offers a tremendous return on investment. Research has shown that an average of eight dollars are generated in increased productivity for every one dollar spent in sanitation. (7)
As a result of WASH improvements and others that address basic needs, childhood deaths are declining steadily worldwide. In 2007, more than 12.6 million children under 5 years of age died from largely preventable or treatable causes; the number is around 9 million today, despite population growth. (2)
The number of people who lack safe drinking water is down to 884 million from 1.1 billion in 2006. It is estimated that with current progress, the number of people who will still lack access to improved drinking sources will be 672 million in 2015. (8)
1. World Health Organization Fact File (2009)
2. The Millenium Development Goals Report, United Nations New York Meeting (2009)
3. United Nations Human Development Report (2006)
4. UNICEF/WHO Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation (2008)
5. A. Carius, G. Dabelko, and A. Wolf. Water Conflict & Cooperation, Policy Briefing, United Nations Foundation (2005)
6. Fisher, Julie. For Her it's the Big Issue: Putting Women at the Center of Water Supply, Sanitation, & Hygiene. Evidence Report, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Geneva. (2006)
7. J. Bartram, L. Haller, G. Hutton. Economic & Health Effects of Increasing Low-Cost Water and Sanitation Interventions. World Health Organization, Geneva. (2006)
8. World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation: 2010 Update New York & Geneva Meetings. (2010)
*Photo provided courtesy of Tam Faller.