World Water Day is just a few days away.  March 22 is an annual United Nations observance day to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  This year’s theme is “Valuing Water,” more specifically, what it means to you.  The UN website asks for stories, thoughts, and feelings about water. 

What does it mean to me?  Gosh, if my whole blog isn’t about water stories, thoughts, and feelings… I’ll start with feeling healthy and valuing that feeling. There have been times when I haven’t felt healthy. Something bad I ate and it usually passed in hours or days. For much of the world, it’s not like that.      

Let’s recap from last week: about 2.2 billion people (or 1 in 3) do not have access to safe drinking water globally.  An outcome from not having access to safe drinking water is disease.  Some facts compiled by Lifewater.org:

  • Diarrheal diseases, caused primarily by unsafe water and poor sanitation, kill more children under 5 years old than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined
  • Diarrheal disease kills one child every 60 seconds
  • An estimated 400 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases, with 272 million lost to diarrhea alone

See a pattern here?  Diarrhea is a central symptom for water-related diseases.  It is caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.  Some of the more common water-related diseases are typhoid fever, cholera, giardia, e. coli, hepatitis, and salmonella.  Children are disproportionately affected; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that diarrhea kills more children under the age of 5 than malaria, measles, and AIDS combined.

There are multiple scenarios for pathways to diarrhea, as shown in the flowchart below.  Drinking safe water eliminates a pathway.  Washing produce with safe water eliminates other pathways.  Washing hands with safe water eliminates many pathways.  The CDC estimates that about 88% of diarrhea-related deaths are due to unsafe water for drinking, sanitation, and hygiene (hand-washing).  With safe water for each person, there can be an end to almost all diarrhea and many deaths.      

Pathways to diarrhea from the Centers for Disease Control

As World Water Day approaches, consider stories and thoughts about feeling sick, feeling healthy, and the value of safe water.