Globally, 783 million people do not have access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people have no water-based sanitation resources such as toilets or clean bathing facilities. A lack of clean water 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 issues.

People living in extreme poverty are disproportionately afflicted by these deprivations. About 16 percent of the world’s rural population does not have access to safe drinking water supplies, as opposed to only four percent of the world’s urban population. And while 18 percent of those in urban areas lack safe sanitation facilities, in rural areas that number skyrockets to 50 percent, which equates to an astonishing one-third of the world’s people. 

Absence 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.

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. These advances demonstrate that it’s possible to make radical improvements to the way billions of people access and use water. But millions still lack such access. Fortunately, there are cost-effective and evidenced-backed ways to help make universal water and sanitation access a reality for all. The Life You Can Save’s recommended nonprofit organizations provide millions more with these vital and basic resources that all people should have, and which we take for granted every day.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene programs

Chlorinated water dispensers

Emergency water and sanitation

Hygiene and sanitation media campaigns

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