The Water Crisis


Every 60 seconds, a child dies from preventable waterborne diseases. Many of these unsafe water sources are in the remote and rural corners of our world. All family members are affected by the water crisis—mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. Lack of safe water impacts all areas of life.

Women and children journey for miles and hours to collect water for their families.

Most of the burden of fetching water WASH Report, page 7 falls on women and children.  They spend hours each day and travel long distances carrying very heavy loads. A jerry can containing enough water for one person/day weighs 40 lbs.

Loss of Income

When families are sick from drinking unsafe water, they can spend up to half their income at health clinics buying medicine and treating waterborne illness—all of which are preventable.

Time Away from Home

In remote regions, women spend around three hours each day collecting water. They miss out not only on income-producing activities, but also on being able to care for their children.

Danger and Exploitation

When women and young girls collect water far from home, they aren’t safe. At all hours of the day, they are vulnerable to injuries, assaults, and even trafficking on the roads and in remote areas.

The nearest water source is not safe to drink and can cause illnesses and even death.

Water collected from unsafe sources like ponds or rivers causes diarrhea, the most common symptom of waterborne disease. Unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene practices can often lead to these illnesses.


When a child has diarrhea, they lose the water and electrolytes they need to survive. If the fluids are not replaced, the child can die.


Even if diarrhea doesn’t kill a child directly, those who suffer frequent bouts of diarrhea lose their ability to absorb nutrients and they become undernourished. When a child is undernourished, their immune system is weakened and the child is likely to get sick again.


Babies and children are at risk of many types of infections, from the time they are born and throughout their lives. Microorganisms pass between people and throughout a community, causing illness and putting everyone at risk.

Children miss school because they are either sick from waterborne diseases or busy collecting water.

In least developed countries, only half of schools have water or sanitation on the premises. When children are sick from unsafe water or when water and sanitation are not available at school, they miss out on their education, which keeps them in a devastating cycle of poverty.


Young children are especially vulnerable to waterborne diseases, and illness spreads quickly among children in a household or at schools. When children are sick they cannot attend school.


Children who must travel long distances to collect water for their families often miss hours of school each day or miss out on education altogether. Studies suggest that girls’ enrollment rates increase by 15 percent when they are provided with access to clean water.


Many girls miss school when they have their periods, and some drop out altogether because they have no safe, dignified place to care for themselves during menstruation. When toilet facilities are available, more girls stay in school.


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