Public Health and the Water Crisis

by Andrea Renaud on February 20, 2014

Public Health and the Water Crisis

Nearly one billion people on this planet lack access to clean, drinkable water. That’s almost one in every seven people! The main problem with this is obvious: without clean water, you cannot live a healthy, prosperous life. Close to three and a half million people die every year from diseases related to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Almost all of these deaths occur in the developing world, with less than one percent occurring in developed countries. There is a clear correlation between, health, wealth, and clean water.

Sustainable solutions are the only way to make a dent in the clean water crises. There is a chain of events that happen to keep water dirty and parasite-infested. Developing countries have no water-purification system like developed countries do. People are forced to obtain dirty water from creeks and rivers, and then use that water to drink, cook with, bathe with, and wash dishes and clothes with. Their lives are surrounded by parasites. Parasites can then enter the body and infect the host, and dirty the digestive track. Generally, people without access to clean water also lack access to a reliable sewage system, and many relieve themselves in a nearby river – often their only water source.

Dirty water is also the ideal breeding ground for mosquitos and other insects that carry life-threatening diseases. For example, malaria rates are highest in countries with the highest percentage of their populations without access to clean water. The same can be said for diseases like dengue fever and yellow fever. People who get infected generally do not have good health, often times due to infections from the unclean water they are drinking, and are therefore unable to fight off diseases like dengue, yellow fever, or malaria.

These parasites are causing dozens of diseases that have proven hard to combat, especially in the very young and the elderly. Many of the world’s child deaths are related to lack of access to clean water. Over fifteen million children die each year due to diarrhea related disease caused by unsafe drinking water and a general lack of sanitation. Worldwide, 88% of deaths caused by diarrhea are related to the consumption of unclean water. Access to clean water leads to better hygiene and health, and has been proven to reduce diarrheal diseases by over 40% in developing countries.

However, these water problems won’t get better on their own over time. In fact, access to clean water is expected to become more difficult over the next few years. Climate change is causing droughts. It’s causing floods. It’s causing natural disasters that drastically affect a country’s access to clean water. Haiti is an excellent example of this. When the earthquake struck Haiti, a country already suffering from extreme poverty, public health in the country plummeted. Access to clean water fell sharply, and incidence of disease rose just as sharply. At the same time, rapid population increase is straining the world’s water supply and making it harder for developing countries to get what they need.

There needs to be serious intervention in the water systems of developing countries if there is any hope to decrease the prevalence of devastating diseases and deaths from water-borne illnesses. With clean water, health can increase, education can increase, wealth can increase, and this can produce even greater access to clean water.







Works Cited

“1.5 Million Children Die a Year From Diarrhea – Unsafe Drinking Water, Lack of Handwashing to Blame.” TreeHugger. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

“Himalayas, Africa Facing Climate Change-Induced Water Shortages – Yemen’s Already Rioting.” TreeHugger. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

“Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

“Waterborne Diseases and Water Safety.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

“” Waterorg. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

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