Blog post

World Water Day

3 min read
22 Mar 2014


Today is designated as World Water Day by the UN.

Currently, a large proportion of the world’s population lacks access to clean and safe drinking water, and this is a major cause of infant mortality in the developing world. Diahorrea is the second largest cause of death worldwide, amongst children under the age of 5, killing around 760 000 a year, and most cases are caused by lack of access to clean drinking water, or lack of proper sanitation (toilets, etc.). (Interventions designed to improve access to clean water, proper sanitation and to improve hygiene are known collectively as WASH interventions.) Further, improved access to clean water and better sanitation and hygiene may help prevent many deaths from other diseases, such as acute respiratory infections, which kill well over a million children every year.

So it is clear that improving access to clean water and sanitation in the developing world has the potential to save very many lives.

So, the ability to provide access to clean water to those who currently lack such access (and to get people to make use of it) has the potential to save many lives. With this in mind, it is incredibly important to know how to design a charitable intervention which actually improves such access. This is much less easy than it sounds. For example, it is one thing to build a new well, but wells can often fall into disrepair relatively rapidly, and clean water can become re-contaminated in various ways after being removed from the well. We need to use evidence to inform our decisions of where to combat these important issues.

Recently there have been some promising preliminary results in randomized clinical trials run by ‘Innovation for Poverty Action’ and ‘Poverty Action Lab’, on the provision of dispensers for chlorine, which sterilisers water, in the developing world. These results have lead to the founding of ‘Dispensers for Safe Water’, which we have already looked at in some depth. This intervention seems to avoid many of the problems with other WASH interventions, for example, chlorine remains in the water for up to 24 hours, preventing recontamination in many cases. Our report on this new charity can be found here.

Although donations to Dispensers for Safe Water are potentially very high impact, they are not among our highest recommended charities. However, this is one of the most promising charities we have seen in the area of WASH; one which may well prove highly effective (they claim a cost effectiveness ratio of 1 DALY averted per/$67.50 donated), if results from the early Randomised Controlled Trials prove replicable. If you’re looking to donate in recognition of World Water Day, Dispensers for Safe Water looks to be a great investment!