It is a desperately worrying statistic that nearly one billion people in the world lack clean, healthy drinking water. Residents in the UK can turn on a tap and access safe drinking water whenever they like, but the situation is very different for the people of Africa.
Every day millions of people in Africa, usually women and girls, walk miles to have access to any water at all. The length of time it takes to collect the little water they can get means that they do not have time to do anything else during the day. Children do not get the chance to have an education simply because they are too busy collecting water.
To make matters worse, the only water they have access to is from streams and ponds. That water is usually full of diseases and makes themselves and their families very sick. Adults face the decision on a daily basis between dehydration and sickness from the water they drink. Even worse, they have to face this decision for their children.
Is dirty water better than no water at all?
Having no water has devastating effects both on individuals and communities. People need water in order to live and if they do not have any, or they have too little, they will become dangerously, even life-threateningly, dehydrated.
Communities are affected by a lack of water because crops will not grow and so food becomes scarce. With no water, villages become dirty and unhygienic, increasing the risks of disease spreading.
However, the risks of drinking dirty water are just as great as drinking no water at all. For every five children that die in developing countries, one will die because of water related diseases. The choice between life-threatening dehydration and life-threatening water related disease is not a choice that any person should have to make. And there really is no need for this choice to exist, as there is a solution.
What is the solution?
The solution is surprisingly simple and inexpensive. Long-lasting water projects can be built in communities for relatively small amounts of money.
These water projects include wells, dams and rain catchment systems, which provide a reliable source of water that is safe to drink. It is not just the practical systems being implemented that make a difference, though. Providing training in hygiene ensures that the water and the village remain clean and healthy.
These water projects are not expensive to set up and the impact that they have on a community, and the individuals within the community, are priceless. Having a well in or close to the village means that there is no need for anyone to spend their days walking to collect water. This means that the 440 million days that are missed by school children because of water related diseases can be spent gaining an education. More importantly, the choice between dehydration and sickness is no longer a daily decision.
You can be a part of making this simple but tremendous change. All you need to do is log on to www.plan-uk.org to find out how you help in making Africa’s drinking water safe by sponsoring a child in Africa.