More than 600,000 children under the age of five perish from disease caused by polluted water each year, mostly in developing countries. Those are not just statistics. Those numbers represent real children, each with a unique personality, with smiles and dreams and families and friends who love them. All because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water.
For those fortunate enough to live in developed countries, contaminated water is not a daily cause for concern. In most cases, we turn on the spigot and help ourselves to clean, safe water. But, around the globe, one in three people do not have access to clean water, resulting in disease and death—most of which are preventable. More than half of the developing world population suffers from one or more diseases associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation.
More than two dozen water-borne illnesses affect people without the ability to provide clean water or proper sanitation for their families. Some of the most common are:
Cholera is an acute infection of the intestine, which begins suddenly with painless watery diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Although most people who become infected have very mild diarrhea or symptom-free infections, malnourished people experience more severe symptoms. Severe cholera cases present with profuse diarrhea, leading to rapid dehydration and, if untreated, death.
Dysentery can be extremely serious, even life-threatening, if untreated. It causes severe diarrhea, which depletes the body of fluids and essential salts. If fluids are not replaced then, dehydration can cause shock and even death.
Hepatitis is an infection and inflammation of the liver. It usually begins with an abrupt onset of fever, body weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal discomfort, followed by jaundice within a few days. The disease may range from mild (lasting one to two weeks) to severe disabling illness (lasting several months). In areas highly endemic for hepatitis A, most infections occur during early childhood.
- Typhoid Fever
It’s estimated that up to 20 million people worldwide suffer from the illness each year. It’s spread through contaminated food, unsafe water, and poor sanitation, and it is highly contagious.
Together We Can Make Clean Water Accessible
It’s a massive problem, but it is not without solutions. And there are options to resolve the situation that do not cost exorbitant amounts of money. Perhaps most important, many projects that enable people to access clean, safe water are also sustainable. Thirst Relief International works with local partners and trains local residents giving them opportunities and clean water solutions.
- Biosand Filters
Inexpensive and simple, Biosand filters are based on a method used for more than 200 years. For approximately $100, a Biosand filter can dramatically impact the life of a family and even an entire community for thirty years or more! Access to clean water means parents no longer have to live in fear of losing their children to waterborne diseases.
- Borehole Wells & Well Maintenance
Drilling borehole wells provide a sustainable clean water supply in areas where groundwater sources are a viable option. For about $1350, one borehole well project in India made clean drinking water available to an entire village, about 550 people.
WASH is the collective term for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene.
A W.A.S.H. program provides latrines, a borehole well, a water storage tank, filters, and water taps that act as drinking fountains.
- Ecosan Latrines
Ecosan latrines contain waste in an above-ground collection tank, keeping people free from contact with unsanitary water.
The next time you turn on your faucet to get clean water, consider that your support can save lives. Your donation can change the number of children who die every day from waterborne diseases from 2,200 to 0! There are so many ways you can change the outcome. Whether it’s a cash donation, a fundraising event you create, or your participation in an existing fundraiser, your contribution can end the suffering and thousands of preventable deaths.