According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme on Water Supply and Sanitation, 780 million people worldwide use unsafe sources of drinking water. Many orphaned children living in institutions lack access to safe drinking water, particularly those located in rural areas.
In many developing countries and rural areas, sources of drinking water become contaminated due to poor sanitation (e.g. fecal contamination). Bacteria, viruses and other water-borne pathogens thrive and make the water unsafe to drink. In some industrial areas, toxic substances pollute drinking water and make it unsafe to drink. In general, water-borne pathogens provide the most immediate risk to the health of orphaned children. Water-borne pathogens can cause diarrhea, which is one of the leading causes of death for children under 5 worldwide. Preventing diarrhea through providing safe drinking water is critical to improving the overall nutritional and health status of orphaned children.
Water can be disinfected chemically with agents such as chlorine. While this method is effective in reducing the risk of water-borne disease, it does not necessarily make a water source safe to drink. Speak to local public health officials about local regulations for safe chlorine.
Water can also be disinfected with filtration systems and other purification technologies. Most purification systems operate by gravity flow or water pressure from a piped supply. Filtration water purification systems are effective in removing most water-borne pathogens and chemical pollutants from drinking water.
If purified water is not available, water should be boiled to make it safe to use for drinking, food preparation and hand washing. Boiling is the most reliable way to make water safe to drink because it kills disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. NOTE: Boiling water does not remove toxic substances from water. If water is a known source of toxic substances it should not be used.