The Water Crisis
Throughout the developing world, over 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. In rural communities, women spend over 40 billion hours annually retrieving water from a source that is over thirty minutes away.[i] Typically, women and children use 20 gallon plastic buckets to gather 80 pounds of water. Constantly carrying water has severe health implications on the body including backache and joint pains. Over time carrying water imposes extreme physical demands on the body creating pelvic deformities, problems during child birth, and musculoskeletal disability[ii].
Nearly half of the population in the developing world suffers from illnesses caused by lack of access to safe water and sanitation. Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in developing countries, sanitation is crucial. Because HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system, common illnesses such as diarrhea are more serious and prevalent. In fact, each year over 1.5 million children die from diarrheal diseases.[iii] If access to improved sanitation increased, diarrheal disease could subside, providing relief to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
By reducing the amount of time necessary to retrieve water daily, children can spend more time in school to receive a proper education. Through a proper education, children will be able to pursue a career path that satisfies their unique interests and provides a stable income.
In addition, once girls reach puberty, lack of clean water prevents girls from attending school. In developing countries, girls commonly use re-usable feminine hygiene products that are cleaned with water. If there is no additional water, women prefer to miss school to avoid discomfort and ridicule from others. About 20% of their education is taken, which increases the likelihood of dropping out. As a result, they are restricted to marriage and pregnancy as career options.[iv] This also greatly contributes to female illiteracy and low levels of education, which in turn contributes to a cycle of poor health for pregnant women and their children.[v]
[i] "Why Water." Charity:Water. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.
[ii] Geere, Jo-Anne L., Paul R. Hunter, and Paul Jagals. "Domestic Water Carrying and Its Implications for Health: A Review and Mixed Methods Pilot Study in Limpopo Province, South Africa." Environmental Health. BioMed Central Ltd, 26 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2012
[iii] UNICEF and World Health Organization. Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done. (New York: UNICEF; Geneva: WHO), 2009.
[iv] "About Pads4Girls." Lunapads. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.
[v] United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. Sanitation as a key to global health: voices from the field. (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: 2010)