What’s in the Water? 4 Facts That Will Shock You

Water is life-giving—or at least it’s supposed to be. But for children and families in impoverished communities, it is a death threat. Diarrhea, which is little more than an inconvenience in the developed world, kills 3,000 children around the world every day, making it the second deadliest illness for children.

Today’s post is the second in a four-part series introducing you to our proactive, sustainable approach to ending poverty and improving lives. Our Four Pillars—Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods—comprise a 8- to 10-year, integrated program that equips and empowers impoverished families and communities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Today we’ll take a look at the Health & Water pillar, where we work toward positive, lasting change by expanding access to clean, safe water and improving health.


1. Water Kills 3,000 Children Every Day – Unsafe Water, That Is

Water is life-giving—or at least it’s supposed to be. But for children and families in impoverished communities, it is a death threat.

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation causes a myriad of waterborne illnesses, including dysentery, diarrhea, and parasites. Diarrhea, which is little more than an inconvenience in the developed world, kills 3,000 children around the world every day, making it the second deadliest illness for children.

Because children’s bodies often aren’t strong enough to fight these waterborne illnesses, they are especially vulnerable to the threats of unclean water. Even when it doesn’t kill outright, dirty, diseased water ultimately destroys long-term health, educational opportunity, economic sufficiency, and, consequently, children’s futures.

So, coupled with Food & Nutrition, the Health & Water pillar is foundational to our mission of providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials.

We help communities secure consistent access to clean water by building rain catchment systems, water wells, and filtration systems, and by creating access to municipal water systems. Once a water system is in place, protecting that water supply is the next vital step to continuing health. So we teach communities about water management and conservation as well as proper sanitation, and we help them implement these life-saving systems.

2. Without Toilets, a Community’s Waste Goes Where?

Here in the U.S., we take restroom facilities for granted. But so often, the communities we work in do not have this basic necessity… anywhere. When members of Feed the Children’s U.S. staff and volunteers visited the community we serve in Hambongan, Philippines, they couldn’t wait to sink their toes into the sand at the beautiful beaches there. But they were quickly cautioned away—the beaches were contaminated with human waste. This community, like so many, had no toilets.

This is the only water source in San Juan, Honduras.

Properly built and maintained latrines are essential to protecting the water supply and improving the overall health of a community. So, through our sanitation project, we implemented a latrine system and taught the people of Hambongan how to dispose of waste so it wouldn’t go into the water. Every household in the community now has a toilet.

Disease is declining, and quality of life is improving. Instead of staying home seriously ill, more children are attending our school and feeding center. And, now better educated and equipped to bolster their own community, their parents are part of the savings and loan program we helped establish there, with 10% of their profits going directly back to the school and feeding center.

As health increases, so does hope.

3. Carrying Water Traps Many Women and Children in Poverty

At a water station in Kenya
A water station in Kenya
In the Maparasha community of Kenya, our water project is making a dramatic difference in the lives of children and families. Up until just a couple of years ago, the women and children spent most of their daylight hours carrying water the three kilometers from the mountain source to their village. The children had no time for school, and the women had no time to support their families. But everything changed when we built a water line to cover the distance.

Since then, the children have been filling their school seats instead of their water buckets, and the women have embarked on small business enterprises—supporting their families and the local economy—now that water transportation isn’t their full-time job. And for so many like the Maparasha community, easier access to clean water means better-watered fields, more reliable food sources, and improved health.

4. It Only Takes $10 Per Citizen to Provide an Entire Community with Access to Safe Drinking Water

Access to clean water produces gradual, powerful changes that break the cycle of poverty and improve—even save—lives. It’s energizing to see the difference it makes.

And we need to be energized—we in communities who flip faucets on without a thought, we who have hope and resources to share. We need to be energized about the difference access to clean water makes—because we need to be the ones to expand that access to children and families around the world.

We need to make sure children like six-year-old Daniela and two-year-old Jason in San Juan, Honduras get to have clean drinking water just like our own children do. The siblings live in a dilapidated shack with six other family members and no clean water. And the problem goes beyond their own home.

Daniela and Jason's main water source has been the dirty river running behind their shack.
Daniela and Jason get their water from the dirty river behind their shack.

There is no clean water source at all in the community of 10,000—just a dirty river that runs beside Daniela and Jason’s shack. As long as their community’s water problem remains, the children’s health and safety are in danger every day.

Feed the Children has established two feeding centers in San Juan, and now we would love to provide access to clean water for the whole community. It would cost $100,000 to set up a community water source—that means that for just $10 per citizen, the water problem in San Juan could be solved.

Most of us don’t have $100,000 to spare. But some of us have $1000 or $100. Nearly everyone has $10. With your help, water could cease to be a hazard for Daniela and Jason—it could be health and hope.

Join us or learn more about our clean water projects here.