The Human Implications

“the shock of finding, in a village with a text book community water project, a young woman with her baby on her back, digging in a river bed metres away from the safe supply we had provided. She was doing this because she had to choose between buying food or buying water.”

R. Kasrils, Former Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry South Africa, 2001

“Safe Water and sanitation are fundamental to human development. When people are deprived in these areas, they face diminished opportunities to realise their potential as human beings. Unsafe water and inadequate sanitation are two of the great drivers of world poverty and inequality. They claim millions of lives, destroy livelihoods, compromise dignity and diminish prospects for economic growth. Poor people, especially poor women and children, bear the brunt of the human costs.”


Imagine what it would be like it you did not have access to water or sanitation…

  • Your personal hygiene would be compromised
  • You’d be forced to defecate in ditches, plastic bags or on road sides
  • You would be forced to limit the times you washed your dishes and clothes
  • You will probably be sharing your water source with animals and mosquitoes
  • If you are a woman/girl:
  • you could spend most of your day walking in search of water
  • you would then have to carry the water you collected back several miles – the weight at the 100 litre a day minimum international norm for a family of 5 weighs some 100 kilograms (normally, ‘only’ physically able to carry 20kg)
  • the water you collect could be infected with deadly pathogens and bacteria
  • in some areas, particularly in conflict zones, you could risk rape or death whilst looking for water

The majority of those affected by water-related mortality and morbidity are children under five. Children in poor environments often carry 1,000 parasitic worms in their bodies at any time. Every year some 1.8 million children die as a result of diarrhoea and other diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation – that’s like 4,900 deaths each day or one death every 15 seconds. It is also estimated that there are 443 million school days lost each year as a result of water related illnesses.