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Water

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Water is essential for health.

WATER

Throughout the developing world, the lack of clean water is a major impediment to social and economic development. Nearly 800 million people in the world do not have access to clean water, and it is estimated that more than 2.5 billion people are living in regions without any sort of sanitation system*. Since these regions lie mainly in equatorial nations, such unfortunate conditions will likely be exacerbated in the near future, due to dwindling water supplies that may result from warming trends and associated climate changes. Projections suggest that these changes may affect snow-pack and surface water in existing lakes, ponds and rivers. Coupled with increasing demands for water due to population growth and urbanization, it is envisioned that water scarcity and access to clean water will continue as a major crisis in impoverished nations, affecting four out of ten people in the world.

Water is essential for a wide range of human activities, including cooking, bathing, and irrigation, and the lack of clean water is linked to preventable problems such as dehydration, diarrhea, bacterial or parasitic infection, and a long list of other gastrointestinal disorders.

Communities that rely on contaminated water must live with wide-spread illnesses in the population that adversely affect school attendance of the children, markedly decrease productivity of the adults, and contribute to increased mortality levels. Governmental organizations have attempted to construct dams and reservoirs, only to be met with management headaches associated with large water resources, such as rapid environmental degradation, demographic changes, population growth with associated increases in poverty and significant new health risks. Thus, since the 1990s, there has been a shift toward the construction of water wells in communities and villages that are already established. Philanthropic organizations have built wells and simple sanitation systems, and provided tutoring in basic hygiene for those who will access the new wells. While these efforts have successfully improved the quality of life for the villages that receive the water wells, the presence of the wells alone is not sufficient to produce significant quantifiable improvements in actual community development, nor in economic growth and stability at the national level. More is needed. Poverty, illiteracy and lack of technology still severely hamper the standard of living in most of these regions, particularly in sub-Saharan African nations.

*[Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade, WHO, NLM classification WA675 (2006); WHO Fact File http://www.who.int/feature/factfiles/water/en/index.html; (2007); Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water (2013), World Health Organization Press/UNICEF, Geneva, Switzerland].

PURPOSE

EDUCATION