Around 40 percent of the worlds population does not have adequate safe drinking water. By 2025, this number is expected to rise to 50 percent of the world’s population. The use of unclean drinking water and poor sanitation are one of the primary sources of childhood death worldwide. Every year, 525,000 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea due to water-related illness. Young children are the first to get sick and die from waterborne and sanitation-related illnesses. Half of all malnutrition is associated with diarrhea or intestinal infections resulting from unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, or insufficient hygiene.
Less than half of primary schools in developing countries have access to safe water and sanitation. In particular, rural schools typically lack any drinking water, sanitation and hand washing facilities. The lack of hygiene in schools and high levels of person to person contact result in a high-risk environment for children to catch a variety of communicable diseases. If water supplies are present they are typically low quality and may lead to health issues from long term exposure to contaminants such as bacteria, lead and arsenic among others. Girls face an additional barrier to education during menstruation if adequate sanitation facilities are not present and can miss weeks of school each year. Additionally, in the absence of water supply, girls spend hours each day collecting water which limits the time available for their education.
“Safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene are critical to the health of every child and every community – and thus are essential to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable societies. As we improve these services in the most disadvantaged communities and for the most disadvantaged children today, we give them a fairer chance at a better tomorrow”(UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, 2017).