How Many People Lack Access to Clean Water?
When it’s so easy for us to turn on a faucet to get a glass of water, it’s hard to comprehend how many people lack access to clean water worldwide. Though improvements have been made globally, 2.2 billion people are still without access to safely managed drinking water. Of those, 884 million people don’t even have clean water they can collect within a 30-minute timeframe.
Contaminated water causes millions of deaths annually. It contributes to 60% of diarrheal deaths worldwide.
Every year, 1.7 billion children under the age of 5 suffer from diarrhea. About 446,000 of them die from the ailment annually.
Meanwhile, 95,000 people die from cholera (while 3 million suffer from the disease), and 129,000 die from typhoid (out of 11 million who become infected).
Millions of people also suffer from tropical diseases that come from unclean water or the lack of hygiene that results from it. Some, like Guinea worm disease, are extremely painful parasitic infections. Others, like trachoma, cause blindness or visual impairment in 10 million people.
Water stress prevents people from practicing proper hygiene, which is so important to prevent disease spread, from parasites to bacterial diseases. About 2.3 billion people lack access to basic facilities, including soap and water, to wash their hands.
Adequate handwashing facilities are disproportionate throughout the world. While households in developed countries may have two or more bathrooms, three-quarters of people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have anywhere to wash their hands at home. In Central and Southern Asia, 31%, or 620 million people, don’t have adequate handwashing facilities.
When considering how many people lack access to clean water, it’s important to take sanitation into account. Poor sanitation contributes to 60% of deaths from diarrheal diseases and causes plenty of other illnesses.
Approximately 3.6 billion people do not have sanitation that is safely managed. At least 494 million people are forced to defecate openly in the streets or bushes.
Clean water and proper hygiene and sanitation could prevent many diarrheal deaths worldwide, and reduce the global disease burden by 10%.
Contaminated water sources, lack of basic water services and changing weather patterns all contribute to water stress in countries. While the problem is extensive, you can make a difference.
 Global WASH Fast Facts.” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html. December 8, 2021.
 World Health Organization and UNICEF. “Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2020: Five years into the SDGs.” Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 2021.
 World Health Organization. Global costs and benefits of drinking water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO). 2012.