Water is essential to life. Without water, humans and our world would not survive. Yet, 11% of the world’s population – 783 million people – do not have access to safe water. Although many people living in the western world including myself often take water, sanitation and hygiene (collectively known as “WASH”) for granted, there are millions of people around the world who do not.
In fact, the figures are shocking:
- 2.5 billion people – almost 35% of the world’s population – do not have access to adequate sanitation. (WHO/UNICEF)
- More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s almost 1,400 children a day. (WaterAid 2012/WHO 2008/The Lancet 2012*)
- The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is commonly 40 pounds, the same as an airport luggage allowance.
- Providing water, sanitation and hygiene together reduces the number of deaths caused by waterborne diseases by an average of 65%. (WHO)
When I was in Ethiopia this past June, I witnessed firsthand the drastic unavailability of water and sanitation services. It could be seen every time I left the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa, and headed out along the roads leading to the rural population which make up 90% of Ethiopia’s 90 million people. Woman walking for hours with yellow jerricans on their backs. Mule carts loaded with empty and full jerricans. Even children carrying jerricans and walking miles in search of safe water.