|Water, Health, and Nutrition: Overview|
Access to clean, safe water and adequate sanitation impacts every aspect of life. People’s lives depend on it: a person can only survive three days without drinking water; nutrition is dependent on water since the food we eat requires water to grow; good health is dependent on water since many of the world’s diseases are caused by contaminated water being consumed and used in households.
The discrepancy between the amount and quality of water available in the developed and developing worlds can be extreme. The optimum per capita consumption of water is considered to be approximately 13 gallons per day, for drinking, cooking, washing, and sanitation. The average American uses ten times this amount; the average African uses one tenth.
People who are dehydrated, malnourished, and/or sick from water-related diseases cannot work, cannot adequately care for their families, cannot go to school, and therefore cannot build vibrant economies. Health care costs eat up household and national budgets; enormous human and financial resources are wasted. Current thinking on human development, as expressed in international anti-poverty priorities such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is increasingly recognizing the centrality of water for the fulfillment of human potential. This is true especially where women and children are concerned – one child dies every 15 seconds from a water-related illness; worldwide, women and girls spend almost 200 million hours each day seeking and fetching water.
In this section…