Water and poverty are inextricably linked. Access to consistent sources of clean, safe water is crucial to poverty reduction. Safe water means consistent access to and adequate supply of clean water suitable for drinking, bathing, cooking, and cleaning.
- Around the world, 663 million people lack access to clean, safe water
- 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a proper toilet
- Every day, 1,000 children die from diseases caused by unsafe water or inadequate sanitation.
Clean, Safe Water and Sanitation Affect
All businesses rely to some extent on consistent access to safe water and sanitation. Water is essential for growing and processing raw goods for food and textiles.
It is also essential for employees and consumers. Employers who are able to provide safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities for their employees are able to retain healthier and more productive employees.
Whether self-employed or employed by another, we have to stay healthy to do our work and be productive. Moreover, in order to earn an income, we can’t spend all our time caring for sick family members. People who live without safe water, adequate sanitation, and effective hygiene practices are kept out of the work force and in poverty. About half of the developing world’s hospital beds are occupied by people with water-related illness.
Preventable, water-borne disease also keeps children out of school. An estimated 443 million school days are lost each year from water-related illness. And when schools do not have sanitation facilities, even a simple latrine, children must defecate in the open and miss class while they find someplace to go to the bathroom. This can also facilitate the further spread of disease. Girls who begin puberty and start to menstruate, are disproportionately affected by a lack of safe water and sanitation because they are unable to attend to their hygiene needs at school.
When children are unable to attend school and get an education, the workforce of the entire country is affected, and nations looking to emerge from widespread poverty find this obstacle very difficult to overcome.
Much like business, civil society relies on a healthy, educated public. When large numbers of citizens are too sick to participate in civil society, or when citizens are uninformed about the issues, they are vulnerable to corruption and oppression. In many countries preventable, water-borne disease keeps a large portion of the population in a cycle of illness, illiteracy, and poverty.
Women & Children
Women bear the heaviest burden when there is no safe water and sanitation. In most places that lack these resources, women and children are responsible for retrieving water for their families, often spending several hours each day traveling and waiting at a water point. This often puts them at risk of assault and injury. Women and girls are often responsible for the care of family members and household duties, such as, cooking and cleaning for the family. Women are also often excluded from productive or income-earning labor and kept in poverty.
When women have access to a nearby source of clean drinking water, a toilet or latrine, and knowledge about good hygiene practices, they and their families have the opportunity to thrive.
This year World Water Week in Stockholm will echo and follow up on the UN ”water and jobs” theme, but do so in the broader context of sustainable growth, and thus directly and indirectly contribute to the (proposed) SDG 8 to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
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