It is hard not to be manipulative in selecting photos for this post. I stopped short of showing you images of round worms and sick children. Just bringing up the topic of children living and dying with contaminated water is so emotionally provocative. The children in the small photos do not have access to clean water. The children in the larger photos now do thanks to a well project by the non-profit organization Charity:Water.
Access, or lack of access, to clean water is not only a health issue— perhaps later I’ll look at the socio-economic component— but right now I’m talking about waterborne illness specifically. Waterborne illnesses include various protozoal, parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections that are spread via water. People contract the diseases either by consuming contaminated water or in some cases by making skin contact with it. These diseases are either unheard of in the developed world or are rarely more than inconveniences, but they can be deadly in the developing world. Diarrhea alone, which is caused by multiple waterborne diseases, is the second highest cause of death in children age five and under worldwide (pneumonia is number one). Diarrheal disease kills 1.5 million children yearly.
The fact that is both tragic and gives hope is that these diseases are preventable. Many private organizations as well as the World Health Organization are working to treat waterborne disease medically as well as to bring clean water to those in need, but it is a staggeringly large job. I ease my conscience by supporting Charity:Water because it is a sound and effective organization whose sole purpose is to bring clean water to communities in the developing world and they guarantee that 100% of public donations fund water projects. Here’s to the day when the whole world can lift a glass of clean water and toast our success in eradicating the plague of contaminated water.