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Water, Sanitation & Hygiene

Looking at Water Differently

School attendence is positively correlated to access to safe water and sanitation facilities.

On March 22, the world will come together to celebrate World Water Day. But why?

In the United States, water is often taken for granted. We don’t hesitate before flushing or pouring out that glass of water we didn’t finish. An extra-long shower is considered a luxury because of the time it takes, rather than the water it uses.

In many developing countries, though, water is a luxury. Here are a few things you may not know:

  • 663 million people don’t have access to safe drinkable water.
  • 158 million people rely on surface water such as streams and rivers for bathing, washing, and cooking.
  • 22 million people in rural areas and 140 million urban dwellers do not have access to safe drinking water.
  • Nearly 50 percent of all people using unimproved drinking water sources live in sub-Saharan Africa, and an additional 20 percent live in Southern Asia.
  • The average American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day, while the average person in a rural community in sub-Saharan Africa uses 8 gallons. The World Health Organization standard is 13-26 gallons per day, with an absolute minimum of five gallons per day in emergency settings.

Has progress been made?

  • In 2016, Plan International supported the construction or rehabilitation 7,891 water points.
  • 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water since 1990. 

How are women and girls affected?

  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected by lack of access to water and sanitation.
  • Girls and women carry 44 lbs. of water for an average of 6 km every day. Imagine carrying two cases of soda, or a 40” flatscreen television, for more than 3.5 miles.
  • Each day communities—mostly women and girls—spend 125 million hours collecting water.
  • At minimum, 500 million girls lack access to the necessary water and facilities to manage their periods.

Why is water important to the health of people in developing countries?

  • Lack of clean water and sanitation spreads diseases like diarrhea and intestinal parasites.
  • A child dies from diarrhea every 86 seconds—approximately the amount of time it takes you to brush your teeth.
  • In low- and middle-income countries, one third of health care facilities do not have a source of safe water. While hospitals should be a place to get well, for many they are a place where disease thrives.
  • 160 million children suffer from stunting and malnutrition; 50 percent of under-nutrition is linked to lack of clean water and sanitation.

What about education?

  • When schools have adequate water and sanitation facilities, attendance rates increase—especially for girls.
  • Globally, students miss 443 million days of school every year due to WASH-related diseases.
  • Globally one-third of all schools lack access to drinkable water and sanitation.

Did you learn something new?

Spread the knowledge. Use these facts on social media. Tag @PlanUSA and use the hashtag #WorldWaterDay

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