More than 1,800 children die every day of preventable water-borne diseases.

The world’s water and sanitation crisis is about more than drilling water wells; it’s about justice.

Those of us in developed nations consume gallons upon gallons of safe water every day and never think twice about the availability of a toilet. A moment’s pause reminds us that water and sanitation are essential to caring for the bodies God has given us. The same is true for the lives and dignity of the millions of people lacking safe water, adequate sanitation, and basic hygiene.

Nearly 800 million people worldwide do not have safe water, and 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation. Children die every 20 seconds due to diarrhea caused by water-borne diseases. Unsafe water discriminates against women who remain uneducated because, from an early age, they must walk hours to fetch daily water instead of attending school. Safe water and sanitation literally saves lives.

Incredibly, safe water combined with adequate sanitation and hygiene has the power to:

Click on an item below to learn more.

Prevent unnecessary disease and death in children

When communities gain all of the components of sustainable water development, the incidence of diarrheal diseases decreases dramatically and many lives are saved, especially those of young children. When cleaner water is combined with hygienic practices and good sanitation, diarrhea incidences decline by up to 65 percent (Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report, 2000). If all people had access to WASH, the world’s total incidence of disease would decline by at least 10 percent (Bartram, Bos, Gore, & Pruss-Ustun, 2008). Individual homes would become more sanitary places of healing and hospitals beds would vacate by nearly 50 percent (United Nations).

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Provide the opportunity for education

Without an accessible safe water system in their community, most children forfeit a good education. Families that need children to transport water do not send them to school regularly. In addition, children sick with water-related illnesses frequently miss class. According to the United Nations Development Programme, approximately 443 million school days are missed each year due to water-related illnesses (Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis, Human Development Report, 2006).

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Help vulnerable rural families climb out of poverty

Without a sustainable safe water system, it is unlikely for a community to emerge from poverty. In addition to the burden of disease, communities without reliable water supplies spend inordinate amounts of time and energy collecting water. A study by the World Health Organization and UNICEF shows that almost 20 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa relies on a water source that is more than thirty minutes away (Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation, 2008). In some areas, women spend 40 percent of their caloric intake gathering water for their families (Africa Water Atlas, 2010). This leaves little time and energy for income-producing activities. For lack of economic opportunity caused in part by lack of safe water, millions of young people migrate to the cities every year.

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Improve nutrition for vulnerable children

Even when children drinking contaminated water avoid acute illness, they are likely to suffer malnutrition, stunted growth, and impeded intellectual development due to parasites and chronic diarrhea. Summarizing the results of a broad study from a team of researchers led by Christopher Eppig, The Economist reported on July 3, 2010, “Places that harbour a lot of parasites and pathogens not only suffer the debilitating effects of disease on their workforces, but also have their human capital eroded, child by child, from birth. There is, moreover, direct evidence that infections and parasites affect cognition. Intestinal worms have been shown to do so on many occasions. Malaria, too, is bad for the brain. A study of children in Kenya who survived the cerebral version of the disease suggests that an eighth of them suffer long-term cognitive damage. In the view of Mr. Eppig and his colleagues, however, it is the various bugs that cause diarrhoea which are the biggest threat. Diarrhoea strikes children hard. It accounts for a sixth of infant deaths, and even in those it does not kill it prevents the absorption of food at a time when the brain is growing and developing rapidly.” (The Economist, 2010)

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Restore dignity and hope

Perhaps most tragically, lack of safe water wounds human dignity. Unable to emerge from poverty, chronic diarrhea, and unhygienic conditions, people struggle to believe in their God-given worth. A student in Kenya told a Lifewater partner, “Our teacher used to send us to get water from the lake. On the way to the lake, we really faced harassment from boys, bicycle taxi drivers, and fishermen. Sometimes, when I get back from fetching water, I need to use a latrine. I am unable to use it because the latrine walls are made of iron sheets that have holes, and the boys come peeping. When they find someone inside, they urinate on the latrine walls. One day when I had gone to the latrines, I felt some water splashing on me, only to realize that a boy was passing urine on the rusted tin of the latrine that had many holes. I stayed at home for over one week without telling my mother what happened. They thought I was sick.” Such stories of indignity occur to millions every day.

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Enhance the future for young girls

Lack of adequate sanitation at schools compounds the problem, particularly for girls. Once girls reach puberty, many drop out of school because of the indignity of attending to their personal hygiene in schools without sanitary facilities (Sanitation as a Key to Global Health: Voices from the field, 2010).

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Strengthen our Christian witness

Christian water development affirms God’s love for the world’s most vulnerable people, for us, and for God’s creation. It points to the inherent value of every human being and provides a tangible sign of God’s healing work on earth. When done well, it serves as a beacon of God’s love and a sign of the powerful current of Living Water that cleanses, nourishes, and propels us all.

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Restore peace in conflict regions

Throughout human history, water shortages have been one of the most common causes of violent conflict between people groups. Water basins that span two or more countries cover more than 45 percent of the world’s surface, host 40 percent of the world’s population, and account for 60 percent of all river flow (Environment and Security in the International Context, 1996). Water shortages, usage, and contamination disregard borders and often lead to conflict. Capturing a small portion of this, the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security database on Water and Conflict lists 203 documented cases of violent conflict over water (

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