Today in the world, a child dies every 20 seconds due to a lack of proper sanitation, and the death rate among children who lack safe water is even greater. These catastrophes are not only limited to the newborn but affect their mothers as well. According to a report by UNICEF, 750 million people, or about 36 percent of the world’s population, do not have access to clean water or proper sanitation; and the majority of these people are women. According to the World Economic Forum, this problem will only get even worse in the future, becoming the No. 1 global risk within 10 years.

WHY THIS PROBLEM IS SO GRAVE AND AFFECTS MORE WOMEN AND CHILDREN THAN MEN
•   According to the World Health Organization, about 1.6 million people globally – more than half women and children – contract diarrhea because of unsanitary water and die of the disease. Women and children tend not to be properly educated about sanitation and are often not given proper medical attention. Of these children, 90 percent live in developing countries and are below the age of 5.

•   Because of poor sanitation and a lack of fresh water, more and more people are at risk of schistosomiasis — almost 500 million people annually. Women and children are more prone to this disease also, as many are left uncured or without any medical attention at all.

•   In many developing areas, women are assigned to fetch water, no matter how far they have to go. But their water consumption is often restricted, as males want it to be consumed primarily by elder males and male children.

•   According to the United Nations and UNICEF, one girl out of every five doesn’t go to school because the schools lack sanitation services. Those who go to schools without sanitation often fall prey to serious communicable diseases.

•   According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people affected by Guinea worm disease is increasing every year because of the consumption of polluted water.

HOW TO PROTECT CHILDREN AND WOMEN FROM THESE CONDITIONS

•   The first steps in providing safe water are promoting and supporting proper hygiene behavior across all strata of society, regardless of gender.
•   Providing and encouraging the use of safe, affordable — yet environmentally friendly — sanitation and hygiene technologies.

•   The conversion of slums into livable localities will also help improve the lifestyle of women and children as well as promote hygiene and clean water.

•   Education about gender equality will also help promote hygienic habits in women and children, as well as the availability of clean water.

According to the U.N., without the availability of proper drinking water and sanitation, future generations of women and children will be prone to chronic diseases, which could become epidemics. Therefore, it is imperative to make water available to them and educate them about sanitation.