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Topic 6

Water and Hygiene

Building blocks of a healthy life

Fast Facts

One in six people worldwide does not have access to clean water.


Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related illness. 99% of these deaths happen in developing countries.

1 billion people gained access to improved drinking water since 1990, while two billion more now have access to proper sanitation. Yet globally, 748 million people still drink dirty water.

In Depth

Clean water saves lives

Safe drinking water and better sanitation can help transform lives in the world’s poorest communities, and are essential to helping to break the cycle of poverty.

In many developing countries, lack of access to clean water can contribute to a community’s overall experience of poverty. Often, women and girls must walk for several hours to collect water for their households. This can lead to girls struggling to attend school due to lack of time after this chore is complete, which means they are unable to get an education. Not having enough water can also mean less crops to grow vital food supplies, seeing more families go hungry.

Where there is little or no access to safe water, it has to be collected from dirty rivers and streams and families are exposed to disease and water-borne illnesses such as cholera and dysentery.

Many of the waterborne diseases found in poor communities aren’t commonly found in developed countries because of sophisticated water systems that filter and chlorinate water to eliminate disease carrying organisms.

Yet in many developing countries where numerous health risks are associated with water-borne disease, water supplies can be significantly improved simply by providing access to basic facilities such as wells and toilets. Hygiene practices like washing hands with soap after visiting the bathroom and before preparing food can also help to significantly reduce the incidence of diarrhoea and other potentially fatal illnesses.

Improved access to water and sanitation facilities means improving the lives of everyone in a community. For women and girls especially, this can also mean shortening the time spent unwell, or fetching water – time that can then be spent at school or on other life-supporting activities.

Learn more by reading the case study below and introducing some of the individuals CARE works with to your class.

Zimbabwe: School toilets give community a healthier future

In Zimbabwe, a CARE Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project has been embraced by teachers and students, with benefits being felt by the whole community.

Read More

Teaching This Topic

Teaching Notes

In countries like Australia, clean water is available at the turn of a tap. Yet across the world, nearly one billion people do not have access to clean, safe water. Improving access to clean water is one of the best ways to eradicate poverty.

This topic can be incorporated into the curriculum of several subjects including Health and Geography. This is suitable for most high school year levels at your discretion.

Continue reading the next chapter: Food and Nutrition

Get Started


CARE Australia
PO Box 372 Collins Street West
Melbourne VIC 8007

Phone +61 3 9421 5572
Fax +61 3 9421 5593