Tag Archives: Water.org

Lack of Water and Sanitation Claims More Lives than War

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.

To Water

Well, we’ve just got done with Robbie Burns Day, a celebration of the famous Scottish poet’s birthday. While some of you readers are recovering from excessive haggis intake, I’d like to remind you of two of the many poems he wrote: To a Mouse and To a Louse.

Robbie Burns’ poems begin very down to earth and then leap up into the heights of reflection. Since a poet of his stature found it seemly to write lofty poems about humble topics, I thought I would try writing a poem as well. Mine is free verse and nothing rhymes and no one can stop me now.

In deciding what topic or thing or element to honor with a poem, I looked around to see what was common to all our lives, what I (and maybe most of us) overlook, and yet, if I (we) reflected on it for a moment, would say: ‘Oh, what a good thing for all the world that this excellent thing exists. Now I appreciate it more than ever.’ Which I’ll bet Robbie’s 18th Century audience never said about the mouse or the louse. Anyway, here it is:

To Water

Ah, what clear and cool liquid you are as you pour from the tap

Millions of beings on our beautiful planet long to hold out their hands to you, scoop you up, nestle you in the palms of their cupped hands and kiss you

You who are sacred

You who are everywhere—so everywhere that people forget who you are and think you will always be there, fresh and clean and pure

How beautiful you are to swim through, your touch gentle on my skin as you let me pass by

O Water… thank you for your healing presence and your clear and simple essence

Without you, we would be nothing.

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Note: if you would like to join me in supporting successful efforts for more people to have access to clean water, take a look at Matt Damon’s interview on water (CNBC) in October 2012. He is a co-founder of Water.org

Theresa Scott is a writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest where a lot of water pours from the sky. You can read more of her writing at http://www.theresascott.com