Turn the page on poverty

Children and water


Children in India enjoying the benefits of safe water.

Living without safe water and sanitation seriously affects children’s health, education and family life.

In many countries, children as young as 10, usually girls, are responsible for collecting water. Every litre of water they carry weighs 1kg and might need to be carried up to three or four miles.

Impacts on education

Collecting water is not only physically stressful but extremely time consuming, leaving little opportunity to attend school.

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities in schools also prevents girls from attending school, particularly during menstruation. Of the 113 million children currently not enrolled in school worldwide, 60 percent are girls.

Attendance at school can be significantly increased by improved sanitation. For example: in Bangladesh, a school sanitation programme has increased the enrolment rate of girls by 11 percent every year since it began in 1990.

Health matters

Children are most vulnerable to disease from drinking dirty water and using poor sanitation.

Despite great improvements in the past two decades, diseases caused by unclean water and inadequate sanitation will claim the lives of over one million children every year. Malnourished children are more vulnerable to disease and prone to diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and malaria. These four diseases, plus malnutrition, account for seven out of ten childhood deaths in developing countries.

In Papua New Guinea, one in ten children dies before their fifth birthday. In New Zealand, one in one hundred children dies before their fifth birthday. Diarrhoea is the second most serious killer of children under five worldwide (after pneumonia), but in most cases it can be prevented or treated.