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Kids' Health Issues: 2014

Clean Water for All

5 Global Kids’ Health Issues

Huge progress has been made in many critical areas involving children’s health. Yet there is still important work to be done, and most of it doesn’t involve expensive new drugs or surgical procedures. Instead, it’s about the basics that most of us take for granted. We have identified 5 issues that desperately need the world’s attention for the sake of children and their families, and suggest some ways that you and your family can help.

Clean Water for All

In most parts of the world, we take clean running water for granted. So it’s shocking to learn that:

  • Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related illness.
  • More than 3.4 million people die each year from water-related illness.
  • 780 million people — about 1 in 9 — lack access to clean water. More than twice that many, 2.5 billion, don’t have access to a toilet.
  • The majority of illness is caused by fecal (poop) matter.
  • Globally, more people have a cellphone than a toilet.
  • An American taking a 5-minute shower uses more water than the average person living in a slum in a developing country uses in a day.

unclean water Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related illness.

UNICEF reports that more than 5,000 children under age 5 die each day because of diarrheal diseases, often contracted through contaminated drinking water or no access to sanitation facilities, like bathrooms with flushable toilets.

Again, the impact of this is felt keenly by children. In addition to water-related mortality, malnutrition attributed to dirty water and poor sanitation and hygiene kills another 2,350 children younger than 5 each day.

In developing countries, the task of collecting water for the household usually falls to women and children (especially girls). Often, this means hours-long walks from the home to collect the water, and may happen several times a day. This burden means the adults are not working at a paying job and the kids are not in school. And, the water collected — often from streams and ponds rather than wells — is likely dirty.

This cycle of disease, joblessness, and missed school makes the water crisis a major part of global poverty. Yet it could be one of the easiest factors to fix. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it would cost $11.3 billion per year for global clean water and sanitation — in comparison, Americans spend about $450 billion each year to celebrate Christmas. Costs to build a new well start at less than $3,000. A well not only provides clean, safe water nearby, which allows women to work and girls to attend school, it also makes farming possible. Biosand water filtration systems for individual families cost less than $100.

Want to get involved? Any of these organizations would be glad for the help:

  • UNICEF Tap Project: The focus is on helping provide the world’s children with safe, clean water. You can donate, volunteer, and spread the word.
  • This nonprofit organization (whose motto is “Safe water & the dignity of a toilet for all, in our lifetime.”) has brought clean-water solutions to communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America. You can help by donating, organizing a fundraiser, raising awareness, buying a $10 water bottle, and many other ways.
  • The Water Project: Donations help this group work with community members to build new wells, fix old wells, and implement rain catchment, spring protection, and biosand water systems.

Find out how to help kids worldwide in other important ways:

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2013