Improving the Availability of Drinking Water
One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by
the UN includes environmental sustainability. In 2004,
only forty-two percent of people in rural areas had
access to clean water.
water disinfection is a low-cost method of purifying
water that can often be implemented with locally
available materials. Unlike methods that rely on
firewood, it has low impact on the environment.
One program developed to help people gain access to
safe drinking water is the Water Aid program. Working
in 17 countries to help provide water, Water Aid
international is helping the sanitation and hygiene
education to some of the world's poorest people.
The Global Framework for Action (GF4A) is an
organization that brings together stakeholders,
national governments, donors and NGOs (such as Water
aid) to define manageable targets and deadlines. 23
Countries are off-track to meet the MDG goals for
improved water availability.
Some efforts at increasing the availability of safe
drinking water have been disastrous. When the 1980s
was declared the "International Decade of Water" by
the United Nations, the assumption was made that
groundwater is inherently safer than water from
rivers, ponds, and canals. While instances of cholera,
typhoid and diarrhea were reduced, other problems
emerged. In India for example, 60 million people are
estimated to have been poisoned by well water
contaminated by excessive fluoride, which is dissolved
from the granite rocks.
The effects are particularly evident in the bone
deformations of children. Similar or larger problems
are anticipated in other countries including China,
Uzbekistan, and Ethiopia. Although helpful for dental
health in low dosage, fluoride in large amounts
interferes with bone formation.
In a related problem, it is estimated that half of the
Bangladesh's 12 million tube wells contain
unacceptable levels of arsenic due to the wells not
being dug deep enough (past 100 M). The Bangladeshi
government had spent less than $7 million of the 34
million allocated for solving the problem by the World
Bank in 1998.
Natural arsenic poisoning is a global threat, 140
million people affected in 70 countries on all
continents. These examples illustrate the need to
examine each location on a case by case basis and not
assume what works in one area will work in another.
Diarrhea as a major health effect among children
Over 90% of deaths from diarrhea diseases in the
developing world today occur in children under 5 years
old. Malnutrition, especially protein-energy
malnutrition, can decrease the children's resistance
to infections, including water-related diarrhea
diseases. In 2000-2003, 769,000 children under five
years old in sub-Saharan Africa died each year from
diarrhea diseases. As a result of only thirty-six
percent of the population in the sub-Saharan region
having access to proper means of sanitation, more than
2000 children's lives are lost every day.
In South Asia, 683,000 children under five years old
died each year from diarrhea disease from 2000-2003.
During the same time period, in developed countries,
700 children under five years old died from diarrhea
disease. Improved water supply reduces diarrhea
morbidity by twenty-five percent and improvements in
drinking water through proper storage in the home and
chlorination reduces diarrhea episodes by thirty-nine