Story and photos by Water Mission

From high infant and mother mortality rates to inflated household expenses, the effects of the global water crisis are costly and far-reaching. Across the world, 2,100,000,000 people bear the physical, financial, social, and emotional costs of the lack of access to clean, safe water:

1 – The global water crisis costs lives.

One person dies every 37 seconds from a water-related illness. This includes the 297,000 children under five who die annually from diseases caused by unsafe water or poor sanitation and hygiene practices.

girls collects dirty water from a well in Africa.

2 – The global water crisis costs money.

Without a local safe water solution, residents in Guadalupe Victoria, Mexico, spend the equivalent of one dollar for a small container of water. This cost is astronomical when compared to the cost of a gallon of water through a municipal service in the United States: less than one penny. For families who can’t afford to buy water, the alternative is to collect water from an unprotected well, which may be contaminated. To make this water safe for consumption, residents must boil the water – requiring already financially-strained households to pay for firewood.

African woman pouring a man a glass of safe water

3 – The global water crisis costs women and children time and energy.

Women and children spend hours each day collecting unsafe water instead of attending work or school. More than 443 million school days are missed every year because of the global water crisis. In rural communities, particularly those in Africa, women spend 200 million hours per day walking for water.  By providing safe water to women and children, we give them back their time and energy. We empower them to lead safe, healthy, and productive lives. With access to safe water, millions of women and children around the world have the freedom to study, work, care for their families, and thrive as active participants in various aspects of community life.

A woman in Peru smiling with a glass of clean water.

4 – The global water crisis costs people the opportunity to thrive. 

Supporting safe water solutions is an important step toward breaking the cycle of poverty. Safe water solutions earn back up to $7 in saved medical costs and increased productivity for every $1 invested in rural areasWith access to safe water, communities can start to solve problems related to hunger and nutrition, health and medicine, education, and economics. Safe water is the beginning of a thriving community.

Children in Malawi smile together outside of their school.

5 – The global water crisis leads to unclean births. 

Unclean births lead to higher infant and maternal mortality rates. The lack of safe water or sanitation practices during births leads to infections, which cause 26% of infant deaths, 11% of maternal deaths, and 1 million total deaths each year.

Mother and two children smile and drink clean, safe water.

6 – The global water crisis leads to improper hygiene and sanitation. 

The most cost-effective health intervention is hygiene promotion. We teach healthy water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) behaviors by training local volunteers to serve as “WASH promoters.” WASH promoters show how water becomes contaminated; how to treat water and store it in a safe manner; how and when to wash hands with soap; and how to eliminate open defecation by using proper sanitation facilities.

Teaching WASH best practices to other women and children in Kiruru, Tanzania. Jaina Mwenda, 58, Community Health Officer for the government and WASH Coordinator for Water Mission in and around her home. Taken by Sean Sheridan, for Water Mission.

Although the costs of the global water crisis are high, they are reversible. Safe water can relieve financial burdens, increase productivity, and save lives. When you give the gift of safe water, you multiply its life-saving effects throughout the community – and the world.

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