Ever wondered why people don’t move closer to water or dig their own toilet? You’re not alone. Here are the answers to the seven questions you ask us most. 

1. Why don’t people move closer to water?

Around the world, millions of people have to walk long distances to collect water every day. Moving closer to the source might seem like the obvious solution. But for most, it isn’t an option. 

In the world’s poorest communities, most people are farmers. Leaving their land would leave them without food for their families. 

Many people move to a town or city for work but end up living in slums where there is no clean water or decent toilets, often putting them in an even worse position than before.

And moving closer to dirty water doesn’t make the water any safer. Natural water sources like rivers can be filthy – full of waste and parasites that spread diseases like cholera. They can dry up too, so moving whole communities closer to dirty, unreliable sources of water isn’t the answer.

That’s why we tap into groundwater, drill wells and harvest rainwater to bring clean water to where people live, work and go to school.

Discover more about the technology we use to change lives >

2. Why don’t people just boil water?

Boiling water is difficult where fuel is expensive and in short supply. And burning fuel on a regular basis can give you breathing problems. 

Boiling water doesn’t stop women and children having to walk for miles every day, carrying heavy loads of dirty water. It doesn’t remove all the nasty stuff from water, like arsenic and nitrates, which can cause serious health problems. 

This is why we help bring clean water to communities, so they don’t need to boil water before using it.

 

3. Why are so many people still without a decent toilet? 

Globally, one in three people don’t have a decent toilet. This basic human right is still not enough of a priority in many of the world’s poorest countries.

Politicians rarely want to talk about where people do their business, let alone spend money on toilets. And with such limited funding, not enough is spent on educating people about the importance of using them. 

Building loos without promoting the benefits of using and maintaining them can mean they don’t get used. And toilets that aren’t cared for quickly fall into disrepair. 

When we install decent toilets we also promote good hygiene – helping people stay clean and healthy. We show governments the difference this makes to whole communities: children don’t miss school with stomach ache or die from diarrhoea and girls can go to the loo privately and safely.

When I have to defecate in a field it makes me feel so dirty and bad. I also feel scared there are lots of snakes out there, big snakes and they are so poisonous.
Manisha, 10, Nepal
Thumbnail WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

4. Why don’t people dig their own wells and toilets? 

Unless you know what you're doing, digging your own well can be risky. The water you collect from it might be dirty or even dangerous. Wells are easily contaminated, spreading diseases like cholera. 

The same is true with building your own toilet. It’s not as simple as just ‘digging a hole’. Holes dug without expert help can collapse. Waste needs to be carefully stored and removed so it can’t make people ill.

We help communities build wells and decent toilets that last. We provide training, so local people can develop the skills they need to look after their new facilities for years to come, ensuring your support makes a lasting difference.

 

5. Why not just treat the water? 

Purifying water can be a life-saver in emergencies. When thousands of people lost their homes in the 2015 Nepal earthquakes we distributed purification drops to treat dirty water – but only until longer-term rebuilding work could get underway and vital water supplies could be restored.

Water purification is too expensive to be a long-term option. It would mean manufacturing purifying kits for the millions of people around the world who lack clean water, and finding a way to reach them. Helping people get access to clean water close to home is a much better idea.

6. Why do you talk about girls and women so often? 

In the countries where we work, the burden of collecting water falls mainly on girls and women, while men are usually farming or working to support their families.

Not having a decent toilet has a bigger impact on girls and women too. They are more vulnerable to harassment and even attack when going to the toilet outside. And girls are more likely to drop out of school when they reach puberty, because they don’t have anywhere to manage their periods.

Because girls and women are most affected by a lack of clean water and decent toilets, we share a lot of their stories. But we also meet plenty of remarkable men too. 

Read our stories from around the world >

Today is the best day of my life here. Having water nearby allows me to do and work on other things.
17-year-old Tahiry celebrates after clean water arrives in her village in Madagascar.
Thumbnail WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

7. How have you helped people so far?

Since 1981, we’ve helped 25 million people get clean water and 24 million people get a decent toilet. That’s no small feat – but it’s only been possible by working together with governments, companies and incredible people like you!

The problem is still huge – right now, 844 million people don’t have clean water and 2.3 billion people lack a decent toilet. 

But together, we’re making real progress. We know we can make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere, within a generation.

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