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All photos credited to WaterAid and used with permission.

Can you imagine living a life without access to clean water or sanitation? Something as basic yet critical as clean water and access to a toilet is a luxury that many people around the world in developing nations simply don’t have.

The figures are startling:

  • 783 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly 11% of the world’s population. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is about 35% of the world’s population. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • Around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s almost 2,000 children a day.
    (WaterAid 2012/WHO 2008/The Lancet 2012)
  • Lack of safe water and sanitation costs sub-Saharan Africa around 5% of its Gross Domestic Product each year. (UNDP)

Source: WaterAid

After spending time in several developing countries ranging from Guatemala, Honduras and Peru to India and Nepal, I witnessed firsthand the impact of not having access to safe water and proper sanitation. In some of the most remote parts of the Andes, Himalayas or Jungle of Central America, women spend a significant amount of time and labor getting access to clean water, often carrying loads up to 40 pounds on their backs.  Some of the most remote villages do not have access to proper toilets making the once fresh water rivers unsafe to drink and not the best place to bathe as well. The impact on people in these communities is profound and especially negatively effects women and children.

Meet WaterAid


All photos credited to WaterAid and used with permission.

WaterAid was founded in 1981 and works tirelessly to provide clean water and sanitation for Africa, Asia and Central America.  Since its inception, WaterAid has dramatically changed lives and has worked closely together with local organizations, communities and individuals, to employ affordable and locally appropriate solutions to provide safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene education to people in developing countries.

Life without Toilets:

1 in 3 women around the world has no access to a safe toilet, threatening their health and exposing them to shame, fear and violence.

bg9_040Ruby lives in Balar Math, an overcrowded informal settlement in Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka.  There are no water or sanitation facilities here.  

Her life is very challenging, as she described:

“This slum has existed for 10 years and is in a shocking state. Hanging latrines feed straight into a garbage-filled ditch in the middle of the slum.  Five thousand households live here with no clean water and no sanitation. There are old handpumps but they are not deep enough and the sinking water table means that only a small amount of water can be drawn from them each day. 

Many people get very ill here and I think it all stems from the open latrines. Smell the stench, it’s disgusting. We get fevers, coughs and terrible diarrhea and there are no healthcare facilities that we can use. We spend lots of time bringing water from a handpump about 20 minutes’ walk away. You have to queue for at least two hours to get the water. 

I earn between 500-1000 taka per month and I have to spend about 100 taka on water. At least we are surviving. Our biggest fear is that we get evicted from the slum by the government.’’

Story above written by WaterAid. Photo: WaterAid / Abir Abdullah

What about clean water?


“In urban areas they collect it from polluted waterways or pay high prices to buy it from vendors who obtain it from dubious sources. The water is often dirty and unsafe, but they have no alternative.

Carrying the heavy water containers back home is an exhausting task, which takes up valuable time and energy. It often prevents women fromdoing vital domestic or income generating work and stops children from going to school.

Diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery, are common across the developing world – killing 2,000 children every day.”

Source: WaterAid.

What can you do to help?

There are many ways you can get involved and help. To learn more about how you can raise awareness through social media and advocacy, click here.

To donate, click here.

Just $25 can enable one person to access a lasting supply of safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.

This post was written as part of my work with the Global Team of 200, a group of women bloggers who aim to raise awareness of social issues and change the world. To learn more about the Global Team of 200, click here


  1. Very sad indeed. Thank you forl introducing me to WaterAid. It may be a charity our school can select to donate all of our funds from recycling through TerraCycle.

    1. I concur. I just finished reading “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo about the people living in the slums. It was unbelievably sad yet an excellent book.

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