6 reasons why you and I can’t let 2.5 billion people down
Blog post by Roopa Suppiah, Co-founder of Water Well-ness Project – Get free updates of new blog posts here.
What would it be like to wake up in the morning and have no toilet to use and no clean water to drink? Rather than worrying about what to wear and what to eat for breakfast, you would be thinking about having to fetch water from a distant stream. Without a toilet, you would have no privacy when you ‘do your business’ out in the field.
It is hard to believe, but for 2.5 billion people worldwide (40% of the entire global population), this situation described is their reality. How can we really tolerate this today in 2015, a time when we have so many solutions that could help these people?
I first became aware of the water and sanitation crisis in my pre-teen years. When visiting relatives in India during my childhood, my sister and I were shocked by the poor sanitation situation and lack of access to clean water that plagues so many people in India. Long lines of men, women, and children waiting with jerry cans to retrieve water from a communal tap was a sight we witnessed often during our travels.
Having grown up in Canada, the disparity between my life and what I saw in India affected me deeply. I knew this situation wasn’t okay. Reasons, like the six I will share with you below, have fueled my passion for advocacy on world water issues.
6 reasons to make a change
1. You and I both know how essential water is for life. We can survive for weeks without food, but a few days without water will kill us. However, access to water and sanitation was formally acknowledged as a fundamental human right only in 2010 by the UN General Assembly. Despite widespread acceptance that indeed water is a right, not a privilege, today in 2015, still 748 million people lack access to improved drinking water.
2. Most people probably don’t think too much about how lucky we are to have a toilet. However, 1 billion people (about 15% of the world) have no choice but to defecate out in the open. This situation leads to massive spread of disease since bacteria, viruses, parasites and worms live in our poop and contaminate everything from rivers to farmers’ fields to food. 1.8 billion are estimated to drink faecally contaminated water. Stinky! Would you want to drink your neighbour’s poop? Sadly, 1 out of every 5 deaths in children under the age of five is due to a water-borne disease.
3. We have so much to gain from investing in water and sanitation, so why aren’t we? The economic benefit of investing in water and sanitation services is estimated to be $4.3 USD for every one dollar invested.
4. In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs: collecting water for domestic use. Young girls often have to stay home, rather than attend school, because of the need to fetch water for the family. Often, the water that they collect is not even clean. Imagine what these girls and women could accomplish without being burdened with this task. Think about the increase in literacy levels that could be achieved in many developing nations.
5. Americans spend more than $20 billion a year on ice cream and other frozen treats. However, the annual amount of money needed to provide clean water and safe sewers for the world’s population is estimated at only 9 billion dollars! Although ice cream definitely tickles my fancy, I would definitely forgo my share of ice cream if it meant others would have clean water to drink.
6. The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. Diarrhea, specifically, kills more children under five than does malaria, AIDS and measles combined!
Bringing access to water and sanitation to the billions without it is no piece of cake. It requires billions of dollars and countless hours of concerted effort from policy makers, scientists, humanitarians, and engineers. But, with the staggering global health crisis at hand, we really have no other option – how can we let people suffer and die from problems that are so preventable?
If you feel for this cause, it is within your reach to create change. Volunteer with organizations that are helping address the world water crisis. We at Water Well-ness Project always welcome additions to our team.
Are you a nurse, an engineer, a physician, a political science student? Focus your career or your spare time on initiatives that bring water, sanitation infrastructure, health services, or government policies to international communities in need.
A healthy and more equitable world is possible and 2.5 billion people are counting on us.
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