by Theresa Scott
“[The water and sanitation] crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.”*
More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world.*
I’ve written before on this blog about the need for clean drinking water for millions of people on several continents. Here then, is an update on bringing clean water to the developing world including South Asia, Africa, and India.
Progress is being made. UNICEF and the World Health Organization have a plan to improve the water situation in the world. It’s called “Sustainable Sanitation: Five Year Drive to 2015.”
Clean drinking water sources have been brought to over 2 billion people since 1990. However, 780 million people still remain without access to clean water. That is two and half times the population of the U.S. The burden of a poor water supply falls often on women and girls, who usually are the ones to fetch the water over distances requiring hours of walking each day; rural inhabitants; and the poor who live in slums, and who are most likely to miss out on the improvements made to drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Fecal material in water has been found to cause the majority of diseases in poor countries. The leading cause of death among children under five years of age is diarrhea which causes 1.5 million deaths a year. It kills more children than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined.
This means sanitation is also part of the solution to improve the quality of life and health of people. Since 1990, 1.8 billion people now have access to better toilet facilities. It is estimated that improved sanitation facilities can result in an average reduction in cases of diarrhea of more than one-third. Washing hands with soap has been found to reduce diarrhea by more than 40%!
*Information for this blog has been taken from the “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation – Update for 2012” released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programmer (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2012). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2012 Update.