Most Americans can’t imagine a life without a long hot shower in the morning, plenty of clean water to brush their teeth in the morning, a flushing toilet, and the water they use to prepare their morning coffee. If a water main breaks and we have to go even a few hours without water, we don’t know quite what to do. Because we have easy access to it, we don’t even give it much thought at all. But for millions of people, water is life and the lack of clean water can kill. It’s hard to imagine.
Yet, that’s the situation every day for the nearly 800 million people around the world without access to clean water. Every year around ten million people in poorer countries die of water-related illnesses that could be prevented or managed, including malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea. Tens of millions more suffer from persistent undernutrition or parasitic diseases that cause them to be less mentally and physically capable than they otherwise would be.
There are so many issues that need to be addressed in the world. People need food, shelter and healthcare. It’s easy to become paralyzed when confronted with so many things that need to be done because we think that what little we, as individuals, can do will not have a large impact.
Fortunately, we each hold an amazing amount of power when it comes to finding a solution to the lack of clean water, one of the biggest, most devastating issues the world faces. And, even though it’s a major problem, it’s one that you can help change for as little as $10! For just $10, Thirst Relief International can ensure that one person has clean water for 30 years.
Beyond the immediate, obvious advantages of people being hydrated and healthier, access to water, sanitation and hygiene–known collectively as WASH–has far-reaching impacts for virtually every aspect of life for poverty-stricken communities, particularly for women and girls.
- Drinking Water. People without clean drinking water are susceptible to life-threatening diseases from contaminated water. For many people, water sources are far from their homes and the task of collecting it typically falls to girls and women, who spend time and energy fetching water, which exposes them to sexual assault and kidnapping, as well as attacks from wild animals.
- Sanitation. Without improved sanitation, people are forced to use inadequate communal latrines or openly defecate, exposing fecal matter that can be transferred to people through food and water, which spreads serious diseases, such as cholera. For women and girls, finding a place to go to the toilet outside, often having to wait until the cover of darkness, can leave them vulnerable to abuse and sexual assault. The lack of proper sanitation can also contaminate surrounding ecosystems and exacerbate disease pandemics.
- Hygiene. Without access to clean water, good hygiene is not possible, even when people know good hygiene practices. They lack the soap, safe water and washing facilities they need to make positive changes to protect themselves and their community.
- Safety. As reported by UNICEF, women and girls face an enormous safety risk when they have to walk long distances to collect water. All too often, their trips to fetch water or venturing out to use the latrines make them victims of sexual violence. They are also exposed to attacks from wild animals.
The next time you enjoy a nice, hot shower, take a few moments to remember that you can help make sure that every man, woman and child on earth has safe water. Make a donation, start your own fundraiser or participate in someone else’s fundraiser.