As the global spread of lockdowns continues, healthcare professionals reiterate the importance of handwashing. News broadcasts and the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) and even YouTube have tutorials instructing us on the proper way to wash our hands to prevent the spread of infection. Hand washing is listed as one of the most important precautions that every person can take. 

Sounds simple and easy, right? It sounds so simple and so easy. Wash your hands to stay healthy and prevent the spread of diseases. But what if you don’t have clean water to wash your hands? What if the water available for handwashing is contaminated?

That is the reality for nearly 800 million people who don’t have access to clean water. For people who are without clean water, the virus threat is just another addition to the list of deadly diseases they face. Globally, an estimated 800,000 people die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene. Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to the transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid. 

Absent, inadequate or inappropriately managed water and sanitation services expose individuals to preventable health risks. Childhood diarrhea is still the second-leading cause of childhood mortality. Yet diarrhea is largely preventable, and the deaths of nearly 300,000 children under five years of age could be avoided each year if these risk factors were addressed.  Many of these deadly illnesses can be very prevented or managed very inexpensively. For as little as $10, you can provide clean water to communities in need for 30 years

For many people living in rural underdeveloped areas, the importance of handwashing is not understood or embraced. Also, in areas where water is not readily available, people may decide handwashing is not a priority, adding to the spread of diarrhea and other diseases. So, in addition to distributing Thirst Relief BioSand filters, we also provide education on handwashing to families.

Put in perspective, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently found that a lack of safe water is far deadlier for children than war in more than a dozen conflict-affected countries. The 16-nation study into how water supplies affect children caught up in emergencies also shows that children under five years of age are, on average, more than 20 times more likely to die from illnesses linked to unsafe water and bad sanitation than from conflict.

Health costs associated with waterborne diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and worm infections also create an enormous financial strain on poverty-stricken families, costing a household in sub-Saharan Africa more than one-third of their income. 

Safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.

Each time you wash your hands, please take a moment to think about the millions of people who can’t take that simple precaution because they don’t have access to clean water. There are so many ways you can help bring clean water to people in need. Create your own fundraiser, participate in an existing fundraiser or simply make a cash donation.