Nadiya Hussain: 'I can never take clean water for granted'

4 min read
Two young boys carrying water containers and smiling.
Image: WaterAid/DRIK/Habibul Haque

Great British Bake Off winner, author and WaterAid ambassador Nadiya Hussain has seen firsthand what it's like to live without clean water and decent toilets. She tells us about her experience of visiting Bangladesh and why she supports clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene for everyone, everywhere.

Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can do very little or move in any direction without the cold hard facts.

The facts are often a stark reflection of reality. But knowing this reality is what allows us to stand up and take notice of some of the tangible life situations that we are so very far away from.

In Bangladesh, the country that my parents and grandparents emigrated from, these are the facts:

  • One third of children under five years old in Bangladesh are stunted. That’s 5.4 million children.
  • One in eight people don’t have access to clean water – that is 21 million people. 
  • An estimated 63 million people, or 39% of the population, do not have access to basic toilets – that is nearly equivalent to the entire population of the UK. 
  • One in three people in Bangladesh live below the poverty line.

This is the same Bangladesh that my grandparents raised their children in, and the same place my father took his young family back to every year so we could experience these truths, so his children would think twice before leaving the water running when brushing our teeth.

“It’s normal for you to have water on tap but I don’t think you realise it’s an extravagance for some,” he would say sadly. As children, we were more focused on sun and swimming during our summer holidays, but still we could not help but be aware of the hunger, poverty, illness and sadness which we saw in my father’s village.

Visiting Bangladesh taught us to understand that there is a world outside the comfort we had become accustomed to.

The next generation

Now, as a mother to three beautiful, healthy children, what I saw as a child and what I see as a mother have not changed, yet somehow feel very different. It leaves me in disbelief, but now better equipped to teach my children about this very real existence and how they can help change the world for the better.

All we want for our children – all any parent wants – is that they grow and develop so they can reach their potential and become the next generation of thinkers and leaders.

This is why this summer I am supporting WaterAid on Healthy Start, their campaign to end malnutrition and get children off to the healthiest start in life. Ending malnutrition requires a focus on the first 1,000 days, from even before babies are born through their first precious two years of life. As a mother, I know that these years are the most important stepping stones to help children in their next phase of childhood.

WaterAid’s campaign highlights the significant role that clean water, good sanitation and proper hygiene can have in addressing malnutrition in children. Unsanitary water and unsanitary conditions have a direct link to malnutrition, in a never-ending loop – 50% of malnutrition is linked to chronic diarrhoea and worm infestations caused by poor sanitation, dirty water and lack of hygiene.

Giving every child the best start in life

Lack of clean water and safe sanitation and their direct link to disease is the second biggest killer of children worldwide.

That lack of clean water also keeps girls out of school and keeps women away from work, either because they are sick or because they are spending hours each day walking to fetch water, leaving many in poverty.

All I want for my children is that they grow up in the healthiest environment possible. That is what I want for all children – it is what every parent wants.

World leaders have pledged to end malnutrition and reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and basic sanitation by 2030. If by giving children a start in life that includes access to clean water and decent toilets, then we are a step closer to a healthier, happier generation.

You can help too by signing our petition to ask the UK Government to include taps and toilets in their plans for schools globally.

Sign the petition now >