Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Enough Water is as Important as Safe Water

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 5: Health Problems from Unsafe Water > Enough Water is as Important as Safe Water


Many people do not have enough water to meet their daily needs. When there is not enough water to wash, people can get infections such as scabies and trachoma. Not having enough water to drink and wash with can also cause infections of the bladder and kidneys, especially in women. (To learn more about these illnesses, see Where There Is No Doctor, Where Women Have No Doctor, or another general health manual.) In hospitals and other health centers, if there is not enough water for washing, infections can spread from person to person. Especially for children, not having enough water can mean dehydration and death.

A woman with a baby strapped to her back carries a bag and balances a jug of water on her head.

Women's burden

When water is scarce, the people who collect and carry water — usually women and children — have to travel long distances and carry very heavy loads. This leads to injuries to their necks, backs, and hips. Collecting water often takes so much time and strength that they and their families use much less water than they would if it was plentiful. The search for water can take so much time that the other work women do to support family health, including caring for children and tending crops, does not get done.

Water can prevent and treat many illnesses

Water is used to reduce fevers and to clean wounds and skin infections. Drinking a lot of water helps to prevent and treat diarrhea, urinary infections, coughs, and constipation. Washing hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before eating or handling food also helps prevent many illnesses.

Water pouring onto hand.
Hand submerged in bowl.
Arrows point from folded cloth to pot of hot water to hot compress on arm.
Cleaning wounds with soap and water helps prevent infections. Treat minor burns by holding them in cold water. Hot soaks and compresses treat abscesses, boils, sore muscles and stiff joints.


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