In pictures

The Begum Family standing outside their eco-san toilet in Chalim Chala Community, Shakiphur

Family portraits from across the world show progress in access to water and sanitation.

From chickens and cows to motorbikes, rubber shoes and radios, a special gallery reveals the items that generations of families from across the world say represent the progress made in their lives as a result of access to water and sanitation.

WaterAid interviewed and photographed 18 families in countries including the US, Ethiopia, Japan, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sweden and the UK. Each story highlights how families across the world share a common bond around water, despite the cultures, countries and continents between them.

The photos are released to highlight WaterAid’s ‘Made of the same stuff’ campaign, which celebrates the progress that has been made over the last 35 years in providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene to some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities.

In a show of good news, 6.7 billion people across the world today now have access to clean water, while 2.1 billion more people have access to a decent toilet now, as compared to 1990.

Photo: DIGDEEP / Jake Viramontez

In Northwest New Mexico, USA, 68-year-old Pentecostal preacher, Sister Sarah Begay has dedicated her life to championing rights to water in the Navajo Nation with the support of DIGDEEP, a global water organization that delivers services in the United States.

Sister Sarah only got access to running water and a bathroom at home in 1998. Today, her grandchildren do not know anything different, thanks to her tireless work. She says:

“Before we had running water at home, life was unpleasant and unhealthy—a heartache. When I was young, I remember melting snow and getting water from dirt ponds. We had to filter the pond water before we could use it for cooking or washing because we didn’t want to drink it and get sick from all the bugs.

“My grandchildren grew up in this house with water running through their house. It was really awesome to have that kind of blessing in our home. My kids were very grateful that they were able to take showers, be clean, be healthy.”

Sarah is pictured holding a plaque from the local school district recognizing her 30 years of devoted service to the community, and the progress she has made.

Photo: WaterAid / Dennis Lupenga

In Malawi, access to water led to improved health for local farmer, Rafiq Moyenda, 26, and his family. It also means Rafiq has had more time to invest in business; opening a popular barbershop and grocery store in his village, and even buying a motorbike, to help him with his business. He says:

“Our way of life greatly improved. Our economic status improved as my wife would bake doughnuts which brought us more money. Our daughter, Fortune, stopped suffering from diarrhea and her school studies improved.”

Photo: WaterAid / Kathryn Stevens

Outside of Seattle, WA, USA, Dr Oahn Truong, 49, is pictured with her husband Chung and her son, Ryan outside their home in Seabeck, WA, holding a photo of the heavily contaminated river in Vietnam where she learned to swim. She says:

“We collected water from the river using a pail and rope. It was used for all of our needs including drinking and bathing. During the monsoon season, I showered by running through the streets with my friends… I was so happy to arrive America, where I didn’t have to wait in line for water. I remembered marveling at the purity of clean water; the toilets in America are so clean and not like the outhouse we had in Vietnam or in the refugee camp.”

“I escaped death and was blessed to make it safely to America. I have learned that my work as a doctor is a concrete way I can give back and improve the quality of life for others. I have seen many people die as a result of illness that could be easily prevented. My youngest sister Hang, died at 6 months due to dysentery illness. As a family doctor, I am aware that there are a myriad of illnesses that can be prevented through the access to safe water and sanitation.”

Every year, 78 million people are turning on a tap or using a pump for the first time. If just 8% more people can be reached each year then everyone, everywhere will be provided with lifesaving water facilities by 2030.

Ending the sanitation crisis is a big challenge. Every year, 69 million people are closing a toilet door behind them for the first time every year; but there’s a lot more to do. It’s going to take a combined global effort to reach everyone everywhere with a decent toilet, but the progress we’ve made on water shows it is possible. Together, we’re made of the stuff that makes history.

Click here to see the full gallery.