Because you’re invested in the work we’re doing here at Blood:Water, you probably already know that we are committed to addressing the water crisis that affects billions around the world. And in honor of the United Nations’ World Water Day on Sunday, March 22, we wanted to share a bit about why we are so excited to be a part of this day of global awareness.
The water crisis impacts about 4 out of every 10 people across the globe: 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water sources, and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation services.
This is especially troubling when considering those living with HIV have weakened immune systems and are thus far more vulnerable to even “minor” illnesses. It’s important to note that access to sanitation facilities and proper hygiene practices are key to solving the water crisis, as research has shown that good sanitation and hygiene actually does more to prevent illness than access to clean water.
Why sub-Saharan Africa?
So, if this is a global issue, why do we at Blood:Water focus our efforts on sub-Saharan Africa? Well, from 1990 to 2015, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) sought to decrease the number of individuals without access to these essentials by half, but these goals were not achieved in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 50% of those still affected by the water crisis live in sub-Saharan Africa, with 325 million people still lacking access to clean water and 644 million lacking an improved sanitation facility. The UN states, “Water is our most precious resource – we must use it more responsibly. We must balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring the poorest people don’t get left behind.”
Those Affected the Most: Women and Children
In most countries today, the majority of people spend less than 30 minutes collecting water, but in sub-Saharan Africa, this frequently takes much, much longer. In 8 out of 10 households without indoor plumbing, the burden of retrieving water falls on women and girls, amounting to a combined 200 million hours every day across the world. The head of WASH for UNICEF illustrated the issue:
“Just imagine: 200 million hours is 8.3 million days, or over 22,800 years. It would be as if a woman started with her empty bucket in the Stone Age and didn’t arrive home with water until 2016. Think how much the world has advanced in that time. Think how much women could have achieved in that time.”
Another inequity women and girls experience is a lack of clean, private sanitation facilities in order to manage menstruation and maternity in dignity and safety. Without these facilities, many girls cannot attend school. Furthermore, the reality of open defecation and long travel distances for water create constant threats of sexual violence, abduction, and rape.
The large amounts of time that children have to spend walking for water or recovering from preventable diarrheal diseases keeps them out of school, which severely limits their opportunities for the future. Diarrheal diseases are among the leading causes of death in children under 5 years of age. These illnesses are the main contributors to malnutrition, which can lead to cognitive impairment that then impacts these children’s lives for years to come. This is why we empower our partners in their WASH projects to create not only safe water access, but also to provide sanitation and hygiene training, which is integral to preventing diarrheal disease.
It Starts with You
By giving to Blood:Water this World Water Day, you will help our partners continue their work to change the lives of countless individuals in their communities. The UN writes, “As the global population grows, so does the demand for water”. We are faced with an urgent need to address this crisis and the multitude of ways it impacts millions of people every day. Thank you for partnering with us in this vital work – we couldn’t do it without you!