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Nonfiction in response to Clean Water and Sanitation
June 2018

A Necessity of Life

By Georgia Bernbaum
CC Image Courtesy of USAID India

Water - a necessity of life. When you are thirsty, you might go to into your kitchen and grab a cold bottle of water from the fridge. However, not everyone has this privilege. In fact, over 10% of the people in the world do not. On the other side of the world, in places in Africa, if you are thirsty you would have to walk over 3 miles for a drink. In this piece, we will explore where this problem is most prominent, why it still exists, and how we can make a difference.


We live in a time of personal robots, 3-D printers, and cars that drive themselves. Yet 780 million people still do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation. According to the World Health Organization, regions with the lowest improved sanitation are Sub Saharan Africa, southern Asia, and eastern Asia. One may wonder how this could be possible in a time of innovation, in which it seems like anything is possible. There are many factors that contribute to this, but the most prominent is development. As a country develops, its health and sanitation, productivity, education, and political relations improves. In fact, all four of these things are interconnected; the more educated a population is the more productive which leads to a better economy which in turn leads to improved healthcare and political relations.


In undeveloped countries, unclean water, and lack of sanitation leads to many diseases that can have a devastating effect. In fact, contaminated water can transmit diseases such diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio (World Health Organization). This same organization states that “some 842,000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene. Yet diarrhea is largely preventable, and the deaths of 361,000 children aged under 5 years could be avoided each year if these risk factors were addressed.” A primary risk factor is the lack of resources. A person without access to clean drinking water is forced to rely on surface water which is unprotected and contaminated. In addition, without improved sanitation, people have no choice but to use inadequate latrines. For many women and girls, waiting until it is dark outside to use the bathroom is their only option. Unfortunately, this can leave them vulnerable to abuse and sexual assault (


This problem is bigger than you or me, but that doesn’t mean we don’t possess the power to help fix it. One way you can help is supporting organizations that empower communities to improve their sanitation. An organization that does just this is The Water Project, which with small investments from people around the world, build wells, dams and rain catchment systems that can provide a reliable source of drinking water. Other organizations include Generosity, Pure Water for the World, and Water for Good. With a small donation to any of these worthy organizations, we can help restore hope and empower life in 780 million people.

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