[This post has already been read 395 times!]
Lucubrate Magazine, March 25th, 2023
Dysfunction throughout the water cycle is undermining progress on all major global issues,
from health to hunger, gender equality to jobs, education to industry, and disasters to peace.
Water and sanitation are essential to human survival and well-being. Access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities can help prevent the spread of disease, improve nutrition, and promote economic and educational opportunities. However, inadequate access to water and sanitation can have dire consequences, particularly in developing countries with limited resources. In this essay, we will highlight the consequences of inadequate access to water and sanitation, including the impact on health, education, and economic opportunities. World water day is March 22nd. However, we need to work on water as a human need and resource all year.
World Water Day and Human Rights
Billions of people and countless schools, businesses, healthcare centres, farms and factories are being held back because their human rights to water and sanitation have not yet been fulfilled.
World Water Day is an important day that brings attention to the importance of water and its relationship to human rights. It is a day to reflect that access to clean and safe water is a fundamental human right. Every year, World Water Day allows us to raise awareness about water-related issues and how it affects people’s lives worldwide.
Access to clean water is essential for the health and well-being of billions of people around the world. Unfortunately, access to safe drinking water is holding back countless schools, businesses, healthcare centres, farms and factories. This means that the new generation of children cannot receive a quality education or access services to help them reach their full potential.
This year, World Water Day focuses on how access to clean water can help create a better future for the new generation. Education plays a vital role in this effort, as it helps people understand the importance of water conservation and proper management of resources. On this day, we must also remember that everyone has the right to access clean and safe water regardless of their socio-economic status or geographical location.
What is the global water and sanitation crisis?
It can be challenging to visualise when we talk about the global water and sanitation crisis. Facts and statistics are essential but can be impersonal and fail to motivate people to act. So, what would it look like if we applied the global crisis to a community of just 100 people?
We will use the explanation from the factsheet for World Water Day:
- 25 people of the 100 would have to collect unsafe water from a stream or pond, often far away, or queue for hours and pay a high price to a vendor. The water would regularly make them so sick they couldn’t go to work or school. Death from entirely preventable diseases, like cholera and typhoid, would be a constant danger.
- 22 people of the 100 would have no choice but to go to the toilet in the streets, bushes or fields or use unhygienic and dysfunctional latrines. Women and girls would suffer the most as they would be more vulnerable to abuse and attack and unable to manage their menstrual health properly.
- 44 people of the 100 would live in areas vulnerable to disease because their wastewater and faeces flowed back into nature without being treated. The other 56 people, having safe toilets connected to systems that safely treat waste, would remain largely unaware of how vital their sanitation services are to protecting their health and well-being.
Around half of the wetlands around the community would have been lost in recent decades, increasing the risk of flooding.
Agriculture and industry nearby would take over 80 per cent of the available water. Due to climate change, droughts would increasingly hit water resources and food supply. Floods would threaten to destroy water and sanitation facilities and contaminate water resources.
The community would be unlikely to have a cooperation agreement with neighbouring communities to share and protect water.
The poorest and most vulnerable members of the community, disproportionately affected by the crisis, would face the most significant struggle to get the attention of authorities to improve their water and sanitation services.
Water and Health
Lack of access to clean water can have serious health consequences. When people are forced to drink contaminated water, they are at risk of dehydration, waterborne diseases, and malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, over 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. An estimated 1.5 million deaths yearly are attributed to diarrheal diseases caused by poor water quality. In addition, inadequate access to water can lead to malnutrition, as people may not have enough water to prepare food or grow crops. This is particularly true in areas prone to drought or where water resources are scarce.
Poor sanitation is another consequence of inadequate access to water and can have serious health consequences. When people lack access to proper sanitation facilities, they risk contracting diseases like cholera and typhoid fever. These diseases are spread through contaminated water and can cause severe illness and even death. Over 2 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation facilities, such as toilets, and 673 million still practice open defecation. This lack of access to proper sanitation can also significantly impact women and girls, who may face increased risks of sexual violence when they have to travel long distances to use public facilities.
Water and Education
In addition to the health consequences, inadequate access to water and sanitation can also significantly impact education and economic opportunities. Children, particularly girls, may miss school due to inadequate sanitation facilities. They may also be required to spend significant time gathering water, which can take time away from their studies. Women, too, may be impacted by the lack of access to sanitation, as they may be unable to work or participate in economic opportunities due to the need to care for sick family members or the time they spend gathering water. This can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and limit economic development in affected areas.
We Need Water and Sanitation
In conclusion, inadequate access to water and sanitation can have dire consequences, particularly in developing countries. The lack of clean water can lead to dehydration, waterborne diseases, and malnutrition, while poor sanitation can cause the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever. Limited access to water and sanitation can also impact education and economic opportunities, particularly for women and girls. Efforts must be made to improve access to clean water and sanitation facilities to promote human health, well-being, and economic development.
References Campaign Factsheet: WORLD WATER DAY – ACCELERATING CHANGE
Lucubrate Magazine March 2023
The illustration on the top of the article: Adobe Stock