In July of 2010, the United Nations declared access to safe drinking water a human right. This resolution follows years of global campaigning to bring recognition to the problems of safe water and sanitation access. About 884 million people cannot access safe drinking water, and more than 2.6 billion people cannot access basic sanitation. More than two million people die annually due to a lack of clean drinking water and diseases caused by contaminated water. Diarrhea caused by drinking infected water is the second largest cause of the death of children under five years old.
The Importance of Water and Sanitation Access
Improvements in water and sanitation systems in developing areas of the world are directly linked to improvements in overall quality of life. Implementation of closed sanitary systems decreases child mortality by one-third. Access to clean water increases human productivity and overall health. Also, since access to water is often subject to discriminatory practices based on class, race, or gender, wider access to water can aid social equality in developing regions.
Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) have begun programs to improve global access to drinking water and sanitation. The UN has declared the time period between 2005 and 2015 an International “Water For Life” Decade, during which massive educational and developmental programs have been implemented to increase the world’s access to water and sanitation. The WHO also has several programs in place that intervene in areas where water access is at risk; these programs educate people about water management and sanitation.
Education is vital to the drive for water and sanitation access. Undereducated populations need to understand the risks of using contaminated water. Local and governmental authorities need to learn the costs and advantages of developing new water distribution programs. People need to learn techniques for harvesting rainwater, creating wells, and treating, storing, and distributing water. Programs that help to build and install these systems are also very helpful.
The discrepancy between clean water access in the industrial world and in the developing world is alarming. Although this discrepancy has tapered in recent years, the problem of water access continues to plague much of the world’s population. People in privileged parts of the world continuously need to assist the less fortunate in their struggle for health and dignity. People who wish to help the UN and WHO to meet their goals can visit their websites for more information on how to donate time and money to their cause.