Globally, 783 million people do not have access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people do not have access to water-based sanitation resources such as toilets or clean bathing facilities. Not having access to clean water supplies isn’t just an inconvenience; for millions around the world, it’s fatal. Each year, between 6 to 8 million people die from drinking contaminated water and from other water-related hygiene problems.
The world’s rural poor are disproportionately harmed by insufficient access to clean water. According to this year’s UN Millennium Development Goals Report, about 16 percent of the world’s rural population does not have access to safe drinking water supplies. By contrast, that number is only four percent for the world’s urban population. Globally, 18 percent of people who live in urban areas lack access to safe sanitation facilities; in rural areas, that number skyrockets to 50 percent of the population.
As of 2015, an astonishing one-third of the world’s population still doesn’t have access to improved sanitation facilities. Lack of toilets and safe water means that 943 million people around the world have no choice but to practice open defecation, which contaminates water supplies and contributes to the spread of water-borne diseases. Children are especially susceptible to sickness caused by open defecation practices and bathing in dirty water sources.
The Life You Can Save’s recommended charities work to bring more people access to clean water and improved sanitation. In the past 25 years, the global community has made great strides to bring clean water to 2.6 billion people, and sanitation facilities to another 2.1 billion more. These advances demonstrate that it’s possible to make radical changes to the way billions of people access and use water. But millions more are still being denied access to this vital resource. Fortunately, for those of us in the developed world, there are several cost-effective and evidenced-backed ways to help make universal water and sanitation access a reality for all.
Population Services International’s WASH program (water, sanitation, and hygiene) brings clean water supplies to families in 30 countries across Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. To date, PSI has averted more than 30 million cases of diarrhea caused by water-born illnesses.
Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water initiative currently provides 2 million people with access to clean drinking water using cost-effective and user-friendly water chlorination technology. Evidence Action projects that the initiative will reach 25 million people by 2018.
Since the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Oxfam has been actively working to provide 60,000 displaced people with access to clean water and emergency toilets across seven regions. Clean water and sanitation facilities are vital to help keep displaced families safe and healthy as they work to rebuild their homes and life in the aftermath of the quake.
Development Media International (DMI) runs television and radio campaigns in developing regions to raise awareness for important health and wellness issues. Many of DMI’s targeted campaigns center on hygiene and sanitation issues—which help change behavior and save lives. Of the 16,000 children who die needlessly each day from preventable conditions associated with poverty, DMI estimates that cost-effective, targeted media campaigns can save one in five of those lives.
The Life You Can Save is a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves using some of our wealth and resources to save and improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.
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