The problem is huge
1.3 billion people don’t have access to clean water. Having to drink dirty water causes major sickness and suffering to the extent that 4 million people die every single year from the effects of drinking contaminated water. One person dies every 8 seconds. It doesn’t make the news the way a plane crash or a tsunami does – but the numbers of people dying is so much greater. That’s over 10,000 people dying EVERY DAY!
Millions more are suffering from water-related illnesses such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, guinea worm and hepatitis. It is estimated that 80% of all illnesses are caused by drinking dirty water.
If this current trend continues, 2/3 of the people on the planet will not have adequate access to clan water by the year 2025.
And it’s not just the sickness and death that is such a tragedy. Lack of clean water means that hundreds of thousands of women and children have to get up before dawn each day to walk an average of 6 kms with 20 kgs of water on their heads. The girls come back too tired to go to school and so the education levels of the community decrease.
The women come back too tired and with not enough water to tend their gardens so the nutrition levels of the community decrease. And the dirty water they carry back, makes the villagers sick and unable to work, so the productivity levels of the community suffers. That is why lack of clean water is the root cause of poverty. Safe drinking water is basic to human survival, dignity and productivity.
Peter H. Gleick, president and cofounder of the Pacific Institute states “the failure to provide safe water and adequate sanitation to all people, is the greatest development failure of the Twentieth Century.”
Millenium Development Goals
One of the United Nations Millenium Development Goals is to reduce by half the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water by 2015. This will cost $101 billion dollars or $6.7 billion annually. And it can be done. We simply need to shift our focus. The U.S. spends 1000 billion dollars annually on the arms trade (maybe we could fight just a little less?). Europe spends $11 billions dollars annually on ice cream. (maybe we could eat just a little less ice cream?).
James P. Grant, former Executive Director of Unicef said: “ We have a choice. We can continue with “business as usual”, neglecting the poor majority, or we can shift our focus to providing ‘some for all rather than more for some’ By opting for the latter we can shape a better and more just new world order and contribute to environmental sustainability into the 21st. century”