Life depends on water. Health depends on safe water.
Unsafe drinking water, along with poor sanitation and hygiene, combine to contribute to an estimated four billion cases of diarrhea disease annually, causing more than 1.5 million deaths, mostly among children under five years of age. (WHO 2005)
Contaminated drinking water is also a major source of [malnutrition], hepatitis, typhoid and opportunistic infections that attack the immuno-compromised, especially persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Water Usage Comparisons
Each time someone in the United States flushes a toilet, he or she uses the same amount of water that one person in the developing world uses daily to wash, clean, cook and drink. (Source: Women and Water Privatization 2003, Women’s Health Rights Net)
In the United States, the average family of four uses more than 700 gallons of water each day for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing.
By contrast, the average family in Africa is able to access only five gallons of water a day to meet its needs. (Source: World Resource Institute, 1998-1999 “A Guide to the Global Environment”)
The average family in the developing world spends up to 25% of their annual income on water. By contrast, an average family in the United States spends only .05% of their yearly household income on water. (Water Partners International)
Disease and Death
At least four million people worldwide – most of them children and teens – die each year from diseases related to unclean water. (Source: World Health Organization)
Water contamination is closely linked to bacterial, parasitic and other waterborne diseases, especially cholera and diarrhea. It is estimated that at least 50% of disease is waterborne. (Source: United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, June 5, 2003)
The crisis is particularly acute in the developing world, where 70% of people lack access to safe, treated water. For example, in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 130 million people live without safe drinking water in their homes. (Source: Pan American Center for Sanitary Engineering and Environmental Sciences)
At any one time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from waterborne diseases. (Source: Factsheet on Water and Sanitation 2006, United Nations Water for Life)
Impact on Children
In sub-Saharan Africa, a baby’s chance of dying from diarrhea is almost 520 times that of a baby in the United States. (Source: Water for Life: Making It Happen 2005, World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund)
For pregnant women, access to safe water is vitally important to protect them from serious diseases such as hepatitis, which has no cure and infects more than 50% of infants born to infected mothers. (Source: Water for Life: Making It Happen 2005, World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund; Hepatitis B, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)
Potential Economic Benefits
Poor health resulting from inadequate water and sanitation robs children of schooling (and adults of earning power), a situation often aggravated for girls and women in the developing world by the daily chore of collecting water. (Source: Water for Life: Making It Happen 2005, World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund)
A World Health Organization cost-benefit analysis showed that every $1 invested in improved drinking water and sanitation can yield economic benefits of $4 to $34, depending on the region (Source: Water for Life: Making It Happen 2005, World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund)
It is estimated that productivity gains from a reduction in diarrheal disease will exceed $700 million a year if the 2015 Millennium Development Goals for drinking water and sanitation targets are reached will exceed $700 million a year. (Source: Water for Life: Making It Happen 2005, World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund)