Clean water is essential for good health and well-being. In fact, each person on Earth requires between 20 and 50 liters of safe water a day for drinking, cooking, and basic hygiene, according to the Koshland Science Museum. Exactly why is clean drinking water important? The human body is made up of approximately 60 percent water. This essential resource assists in many crucial bodily functions, ranging from maintenance of body temperature to the transportation of nutrients. Unfortunately, many people in developed nations take clean water for granted. Currently, 14 African countries suffer from water stress and about 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to clean water.
Unclean Water and Its Effects
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), poor access to clean drinking water, improper hygiene practices, and unimproved sanitation causes 4 percent of all deaths and 5.7 percent of all ill health and disabilities in the world. Although nearly 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, there are still many developing countries that lack access to safe, clean water. In addition to a lack of clean water for drinking and cooking, about 40 percent of the global population lacks access to proper sanitation services with more than one billion not having sanitation facilities at all.
Residents in communities with little to no access to clean water are often forced to consume contaminated water or purchase filtered water, which is typically beyond their financial means. Water in developing areas like Africa often comes from protected borehole wells or municipal piped supplies. However, in communities that are not lucky enough to have these water sources, residents must rely on bacteria-ridden surface water, water from possibly contaminated wells, or bottled water from unverified vendors. Water sources are often far from these communities, forcing women and girls to spend excessive time and energy each day hauling buckets back and forth.
The health consequences of drinking contaminated water are the most disconcerting. Contaminated water can cause many types of diarrheal diseases, including Cholera, and other serious illnesses such as Guinea worm disease, Typhoid, and Dysentery. Some of the most common side effects of drinking unclean water include stomach and gastrointestinal illnesses like nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
There are many factors that determine the impact of drinking unclean water, such as the age and general health of the person, the amount consumed, how long the person has been drinking contaminated water, and the type of contaminant involved. Sometimes the effects of drinking contaminated water are immediate, while others can develop slowly over many years.
Clean water is also crucial for maintaining sanitation systems. Many communities without access to water have no choice but to use inadequate communal latrines. Others are forced to use the toilet outside, which leaves them vulnerable to sexual assault and abuse. Without a facility that safely separates human waste, exposed fecal matter can be transferred into food and water. Poor hygiene practices due to a lack of water significantly increases the risk of contamination and the spread of disease. Diarrhea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation causes the death of a child under five years old every two minutes, according to WASHWatch.
Lack of clean drinking water also has a direct impact on education. Many children in communities impacted by water scarcity are unable to attend class due to illnesses or gastrointestinal problems. Girls may also be forced to drop out of school to assist their families in the gathering of water. Some girls have to walk miles several times a day to collect water from local rivers and ponds. Those that do stay in school may have trouble concentrating due to dehydration or may be forced to leave the school grounds to use the toilet elsewhere.
Eliminating the Water Crisis
In an effort to provide people in Liberia, West Africa with access to clean, safe water, The Last Well has established a clean water and village transformation charity. The non-profit organization based in Rockwall, Texas was first introduced in 2008, created by a group of young Christian adults at a church in Washington D.C. Inspired by the film ‘Amazing Grace’ and led by Todd Phillips, The Last Well developed a mission to provide the entire nation of Liberia with access to safe drinking water by 2020, while also offering the gospel to every community they serve.
Since starting their organization more than 10 years ago, The Last Well has provided more than 2 million Liberians with access to clean drinking water. More than 8,000 projects have been successfully completed and 2,500-plus communities are expected to be reached in 2019. Liberia has consistently been named one of the five poorest countries in the world, but The Last Well is working hard to change that. For more information about the lack of clean drinking water in Africa, or to find out how you can get involved with this important cause, contact The Last Well today.