Access to safe water is a crucial component in public health. According to the World Health Organization, close to one-tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by increasing access to clean drinking water, hygienic sanitation, and proper water management systems.

Water is fundamental to human health and survival, and it is inextricably tied to the education and economic growth of populations around the world. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the right of every human being to receive enough water for personal and domestic use (between 50 and 100 liters of water per person per day). To meet these standards, water must be safe, acceptable, affordable, and physically accessible.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 is to: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” Goal 6 targets include achieving universal and equitable access for all to safe and affordable drinking water, and adequate sanitation and hygiene by 2030. Reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 milestones could have a profound impact on global health.

Worldwide Water Challenges:

  • 3 in 10 people don’t have access to safely managed drinking water services
  • 6 in 10 people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities
  • Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population and is expected to rise
  • Unclean water and poor sanitation are a leading cause of child mortality; diarrhea is estimated to cause 1.5 million child deaths per year
  • 620 million children don’t have decent toilets at school and around 900 million can’t wash their hands properly (which is an obstacle in particular for girls and young women attending school and completing their education)

Every year on March 22, we celebrate World Water Day in order to focus attention on the importance of protecting and sustainably managing freshwater resources. World Water Day 2019’s theme is, “Leaving no one behind,” which reflects the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It is a call to action to provide safe water for all people – especially those who have been marginalized or ignored based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, economic status, and other factors.

When everyone has access to safe, clean water – leaving no one behind – we can make significant strides in global health outcomes.

Learn more about American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine’s global health program.