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Water & Sanitation

Four reasons why water and sanitation are important to ending poverty

Flickr-Daniel Littlewood

If you’re anything like me, you don’t think too much about water. You use it to shower, make your morning coffee, keep hydrated at the gym, boil pasta, wash your hands, clean your apartment, flush the toilet… hey wait, that’s kind of a lot. Maybe we should think about water a little more… and since we’re on the topic of toilets, maybe we should think about them a little more too. And if you’ve read Global Citizen before, you know how much we love talking about toilets.

Talk about water and toilets. This is exactly what we, as global citizens, should be asking world leaders to do when they create the Sustainable Development Goals. These goals will serve as a global to-do list, and guide development efforts for the next 15 years.

We’ve made some amazing progress so far in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (the global to-do list for the last 15 years), but water and sanitation (WASH) remain the most off-track target. However, water and toilets play a huge role in ending extreme poverty. Let me tell you how…

World Bank research indicates that hygiene is the most cost-effective health intervention available. Here are 4 reasons why increased funding for water and sanitation is super important in ending extreme poverty by 2030:

1. Undernutrition

image by DGC via flickr

One-half of all undernutrition is estimated to be caused by lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

2. Women’s health

image by European Commission DG Echo via flickr

Lack of water and toilets at schools, clinics and other public places prevents women from managing their menstruation hygienically, in privacy and with dignity, resulting in negative health impacts and perpetuating inequalities.

3. Costly sewage

image by Trey Ratcliff via flickr

Approximately 90% of untreated sewage is dumped into rivers, lakes, and oceans. This pollution affects water sources in the long term, disrupting ecosystems. The wildlife that inhabits these areas is not only harmed, but is in turn harmful to the people in surrounding communities. This environmental damage costs billions of dollars, affecting sustainability and the economy on a global scale.

4. “The Runs”

image by dirtyboxface via flickr

Diarrheal diseases are the leading cause of death in the developing world, particularly for children under five.


So, water is clearly more important than just being used to make your morning coffee! And toilets? Well, you know why toilets are important-and that’s important to everyone everywhere because, you know- everyone poops. The United States is a leader in water and sanitation projects around the world. The steps taken by the US Congress in the last year have improved things (remember the Water for the World Act which increased aid efficiency-meaning money got to the people in need?) but there is more to be done.

It is vital that the United States increases funding for water and sanitation to $425 million in fiscal year 2016. Sign the petition on this content piece to tell US leaders that it is time to save lives through water and sanitation improvements. Together with Unilever, Global Poverty Project will hand over the petition to relevant Members of Congress in early April.