Everything begins with water. It's the foundation for all other levels of development.
That means—for the millions of thirsty people throughout the developing world—safe water can ultimately transform:
More than 840,000 are estimated to die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation, and hand hygiene.
The deaths of 360,000 children under the age of five could be avoided each year if these risk factors were addressed.1
The simple behavior of handwashing with soap can save lives, cutting diarrhea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.2
Even though more than 2 billion people have gained access to an improved sanitation facility since 1990...
another 2.4 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation—technologies such as flush toilets, piped sewers, or even a ventilated pit latrine.3
But when they have access, water sources can be kept safe and free of fecal contaminants.
Waterborne parasites such as roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm impact children's ability to attend school and focus in the classroom, limiting their potential.
These and other diseases—along with the time-consuming chore of hauling water for the family—cause absenteeism and early drop-out.
Globally, 69 percent of schools have adequate water access.4 But safe water access near every school, even on-site, can keep kids in class.
On average, globally, women and children spend 200 million hours every day collecting water, often for water that's already contaminated.5
Too often the journey is not safe. Trails can be steep and rocky or muddy and slippery. And when women walk alone, they are often vulnerable to sexual assault. Women and their children suffer most without water, but they're also poised to make the biggest changes in their communities once they gain safe-water access.
Safe water removes the single heaviest burden from the lives of the poorest people in our world.
Not having to deal with this daily crisis means time for school, work, life, and health—and allows individuals and communities to plan for tomorrow. Every dollar you invest in safe water and sanitation yields $4 in health care savings, improved health, and time saved.6
When churches take an active leadership role in promoting safe water, sanitation, and hygiene services, the impact multiplies.
Churches have access to local knowledge, resources, and relationships, and research shows that they can have a strong influence on health behaviors like handwashing.7
As community members witness a church that is both proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel in this way, they come to see that the church cares about them as whole people. The church builds local credibility, grows its Christian witness, and builds leadership skills for the future.
1WHO Fact Sheet #391, July 2014
2The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing
3Progress on Drinking Water & Sanitation 2015 Update, WHO/Unicef JMP
4Progress on Drinking Water & Sanitation 2015 Update, WHO/Unicef JMP
5Water for Women, UNWater.org, 2015
6Global costs and benefits of drinking water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG targets and universal coverage, WHO (2012)
7Religion and culture: potential undercurrents influencing hand hygiene promotion in health care, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine