Two million of them die every year as a result of drinking unsafe water. Treating diarrhea uses 12 percent of the health budget of Sub-Saharan Africa. Diarrhea is the leading cause of illness and death around the world, and nearly 90 percent of diarrheal deaths are due to inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. Nearly one-tenth of global cases of disease could be prevented by improving access to safe freshwater, increasing hygiene and sanitation, and improving water management to reduce the risks of infectious diseases. Safer water could prevent 500,000 deaths from malaria, 850,000 child deaths from malnutrition, and over 1 million child deaths from diarrhea each year.
Inadequate access to fresh drinking water causes people to store what little water they do have at home. This preservation effort actually increases the risk of contamination, since stored water harbors parasites and insects like mosquitoes, which carry dangerous diseases like malaria and dengue fever. In response to shortages of clean water, farmers in poor communities are forced to use wastewater for agricultural purposes. As a result, more than 10 percent of the world’s people consume foods grown using wastewater that is contaminated with disease-causing organisms and chemicals. A society’s ability to develop is vitally dependent on sufficient and sustainable supplies of safe, clean water. Expanding access to quality freshwater is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, but is necessary to sustain the world’s growing population.