Our Earth seems to be unique among the other known celestial bodies. It has water, which covers three-fourths of its surface and constitutes 60-70 wt % of the living world. Water regenerates and is redistributed through evaporation, making it seem endlessly renewable. Water is one of the prime elements responsible for life on earth. Water circulates through the land just as it does through the human body, transporting, dissolving, replenishing nutrients and organic matter, while carrying away waste material.
Actually, only 1% of the world`s water is usable to us. About 97% is salty sea water, and 2% is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. Thus that 1% of the world`s water supply is a precious commodity necessary for our survival.
Dehydration (lack of water) will kill us faster than starvation (lack of food). Since the plants and animals we eat also depend on water, lack of it could cause both dehydration and starvation. The scenario gets worse. Water that looks drinkable can contain harmful elements, which could cause illness and death if ingested.
Moreover, when looking at statistics the situation seems to be quite worse. According to the United Nation’s ‘The Millennium Development Goals Report’, water use has grown at approximately twice the rate of population for the past century. Although there seems to be no indication of global water shortage, still 2.8 billion people or 40% of the world’s population suffer from some form of water scarcity. 1.2 billion of them live under physical water scarcity. The rest 1.6 billion people live in conditions of economic water scarcity, where human, institutional, and financial capital limit access to water, even though water is available locally to fulfill the human needs.
Even though conditions have improved immensely, still around 1.1 billion people suffer from lack of access to safe drinking water sources. That is approximately the population of the Australian, European, and South American continent combined! In 2006, an improved drinking water source was available to 96% of the urban population in the developing regions of the world while only 78% for the rural inhabitants. Therefore around 742 million rural people versus the 137 million urban folk continue to live without access to an improved water source. The same disparity applies to piped water technology which is accessible only in 30% of the developing world’s rural areas.
Water is involved in all bodily functions: digestion, assimilation, elimination, respiration, maintaining temperature (homeostasis) integrity and the strength of all bodily structures. In normal conditions your body needs to replace the fluids it has lost throughout the day. Most of fluids should be replaced by drinking pure water. The rest you should get from fruit, vegetables and their juices. Today, the water is polluted with hundreds of toxins and impurities.
Authorities only test for a small number of them. Your body, being primarily water, requires sufficient daily water replacement in order to function efficiently. Water treatments, that are aimed to render our drinking water bacteriologically safe, have been proven ineffective and the presence of certain pathogenic bacteria like giardia and cryptosporidium recently found in Sydney water is just one of the many examples. Viewing the effects of individual chemicals, inorganic minerals and their by-products, you can see a link to today`s major diseases. If you drink devitalized, impure water how can you expect vitality and health?
Jon Lane, an executive director in Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), states, ‘A lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation facilities and poor hygiene strongly interferes with basic human development. Water-related diseases, including diarrhea, are a major cause of death amongst young children and each year they kill more children worldwide than HIV/AIDS. In India child mortality due to HIV/AIDS counts for 0.7 % while 20% die from diarrheal diseases.
In Malawi, where 14% of the children under 5 years of age die due to HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases are a bigger killer and are responsible for 18% of the child deaths.’
Moreover, according to one of Water Sanitation and Health (WSH) publications, ‘Safer Water, Better Health: Costs, benefits and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health’ water supplies, hygienic sanitation and good water management are fundamental to global health. Almost one tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by:
• increasing access to safe drinking water;
• improving sanitation and hygiene; and
• improving water management to reduce risks of water-borne infectious diseases, and accidental drowning during recreation.
Annually, safer water could prevent:
• 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhea;
• 500 000 deaths from malaria;
• 860 000 child deaths from malnutrition; and
• 280 000 deaths from drowning.
In addition, 5 million people can be protected from being seriously incapacitated from lymphatic filariasis and another 5 million from trachoma.
Yes! Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) are important. All of them. No matter who you are, where you live, what you do. And no matter how scarce your water is.
One gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1 thousand parasite cysts, and a hundred worm eggs. Safe disposal of faeces is the most important of all public health priorities.
Sustainable development starts with people`s health and dignity. Water supply alone does not transform human health. Sanitation is even more important. And hygiene is most important of all.
At any one time almost half of the developing world`s people are suffering from diseases associated with lack of WASH. The strain on families - on earnings, time, energy, and budgets - is enormous.
The very young are hit hardest by the neglect of the WASH issue. The worst consequence is diarrheal disease - which kills six thousand children every day of the year.
Many millions of women have to wait until after dark before going to defecate. They face the fear and sometimes the reality, of harassment and sexual assault, and attacks by snakes and wild animals.