Millions of deaths a year… by water

Water-borne diseases

In a world with technology such as phone that can talk to you and give you driving directions, or when you can tell your television what show to display, how can it be that 1.5 million children under the age of five die from diarrhea each year? This equates to 1 child dying every 21 seconds. (

Diarrhea and water-borne diseases are the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in developing countries. (WHO/UNICEF 2000) More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes. (WHO 2008) The WHO attributes 88% of diarrheal disease to unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

During the Industrial revolution, New York, London and Pairs were the centers of such infectious diseases. Child death rates were just as high during that time as they are now in Sub-Saharan Africa due to the sanitation and lack of clean water. ( If such advancements can be made in the industrialized countries of the world, why are developing countries being ignored when this is such as simple problem with a simple fix?

Accessibility to clean water

Accessibility is a huge issue, in India; middle class families have access to tap water. For families living in slums, since the state refuses to provide sanitation, electricity or water services to these habitats, people are forced to get their water from a communal tap. This water is only available for about 4 hours a day. Women, being the primary person responsible for the cooking, cleaning, and washing for the family, have the burden of acquiring the water. This translates into traveling long distances to obtain the water, waiting in long lines, paying an exhorbinate rate and then carrying a long distance back home. These efforts decrease the amount of time women can dedicate to income-generating activities and household tasks. When children are old enough to take over this task, it takes away from their time in school as well. After all that work, the water is oftentimes not even clean. India ranks 120 out of 122 countries on the quality of potable water. In Delhi’s Manglapui slums, there are only two working pipes for over 2000 residents to share. (Desai) In Mumbai, 62% of the city population lives in slums; meaning 62% of the population is sharing such communal pipes as well as the amount of water capable of being distributed.

The second issue to clean water access is sanitation services. World wide, less than 1 in 3 persons have access to a toilet. In slums, where the populations are so dense, and there are no toilets, people must relieve themselves wherever they can. In Mumbai, the slum of Kaula Bandar, 14% of residents relieve themselves in the ocean, 59% use a pay toilet while 40% of the public toilets don’t function. (PUKAR)

Open defecation, sometimes even near water sources is a common practice of the majority of the slum population, due to the fact that the state does not allow for these services to be provided to slum neighborhoods. 

Water Handling

Research has shown that after collection, lack of hygiene practices and understanding about how disease spreads, contributes to the spread of water-borne diseases. PUKAR, Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research a Mumbai- based research collective tested the stored water after collection and found alarming rates of contamination which they found occurred after the water was brought home. 52% of water collected in the summer and 76% of samples collected during monsoon season contained fecal bacteria. With the lack of sanitation facilities, and not practicing washing hands frequently, people get exposed to other’s excrement and spread contamination.


The most effective solution would be that the government provides the basic services of water access and sanitation facilities to their citizens. In the absence of such action, there are two very simple solutions which were comprised by the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and dubbed the “Safe Water System.” First, people must stop collecting their water in a container with a wide rim. This wide rim allows for people to dip their hands into the container, which contributes to contamination. A container with a narrower rim (so that people cannot insert their hands) must be used. Second, a chlorine solution to disinfect water at home and prevent contamination is available to purchase for an extremely low cost. This combined approach has shown a decrease of diarrhea infection by 50%. (PUKAR)

NGOs and other micro lending organizations have stepped up to begin improving services for the residents of such areas absent, government intervention. Micro lending organizations have provided small loans for household water connections and/or toilets. Other private companies such as Sarvajal have created solar-powered water ATMs for the slums. These water ATMs dispense water 24/7 and are accessed by a prepaid card, much like disposable mobile phones.

The fact that over 4,000 children die a day due to lack of clean water is abominable, and governments need to step and start providing services. In the mean time, we should all should contribute to building awareness and problem solving to help all have access to clean water, which is a universal human right.

Visit and click on GET INVOLVED to learn more and see what actions you can take in your life to help end this problem. You can organize fundraisers, share pictures and information via social media and even donate. The price to provide water for a family for a year is really small, only $25!!

There are so many organizations working towards this is so many ways, I’m going to have to do a separate post just for them, so that will be coming soon!

Consumerism for charity: Check out Satya jewlery to purchase pieces that contribute money to specific causes. Their Oasis Necklace is their piece that donates money to It costs $88 and $40 of it goes directly towards the organization.

If you are a big Amazon customer, you can set your home page to Amazon Smile and pick a charity you wish to donate to. A portion of all purchases that are eligible that you make through the page Amazon Smile goes towards the organization, is one organization you can choose. Usually if the purchase is Amazon Prime eligible, it qualifies for a donation. This is at no extra charge, so you can contribute to the organization just by doing shopping you would normally be doing.




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