NEW YORK—WaterAid, an influential international nonprofit dedicated to water and sanitation issues, has been committed to the cause of water rights since its creation in 1981 in the United Kingdom. WaterAid’s branch in the U.S., WaterAid America, was established in 2004 and contributes to the organization’s goals to bring clean water and sanitation to every human on the planet.
As stated on WaterAid America’s national website, “Without safe water or sanitation, people are trapped in a cycle of poverty and disease.” This statement rings true for many prominent organizations which have made access to water and sanitation an international priority, like the UN and USAID.
The Global Water Crisis
According to WaterAid America, over 700 million people still don’t have access to clean water.
Many people have to walk miles each day to bring water to their families, often from a source of water that is contaminated with deadly water-related diseases. Over half a million children die annually from diarrhoeal diseases transmitted through unclean water.
The toll of collecting water from distant sources and the burden of water-related diseases have serious health implications for those without clean water.
It is estimated that sub-Saharan African countries lose more of their GDP due to water issues than the entire continent receives in aid. Water security is arguably one of the leading global poverty-related issues, and is noticeably producing negative consequences that reach far beyond the health sector.
The Dangerous Absence of Sanitation
The state of sanitation seems just as dire. As described by WaterAid America, sanitation is “the safe disposal of human waste, and is vital for health and well-being.” Shockingly, one-third of the entire world’s population has no access to an adequate bathroom.
Open defecation results in the quick communication of disease and the contamination of water sources. Many view moving forward with sanitation as one of the world’s most difficult health challenges, as people will be required to change their behavior.
However, the World Bank has stated that promoting hygiene is “the most cost effective health intervention.” Fortunately, organizations such as WaterAid have been working on water and sanitation issues for thirty years, developing effective strategies to combat the global water crisis.
WaterAid, in their own words, works “with local partners to help communities plan, build and manage safe water supplies and toilets. And we use our experience and research to influence decision-makers to do more to provide these vital services.”
Sustainability is stressed, and each project aims to ensure that local community members are equipped with the knowledge and equipment to maintain all installed systems on their own.
Educational workshops teach locals about the important of hygiene. Once people have learned about sanitation methods, they are encouraged to teach others in their community so that the knowledge can disperse.
WaterAid provides people with the infrastructure and the knowledge needed to improve water security and sanitation, and ensures that the people in those communities have the resources they need to continually develop their water capacity when the organization leaves.
A video posted on the WaterAid America website states that the organization “believes that access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene education together provide the key to poverty reduction.” WaterAid has proven itself to be dedicated to resolving the global water crisis, working to create a world in which everyone has access to sanitation and clean water.