The family’s plight was far too common. In the developing world, nearly 700 million people lack access to water that is fit to drink.2 UNICEF estimates 68 to 84 percent of water sources in South Asia are contaminated.3 People in these areas, such as Ragnar and his family, drink the only water available, but it often carries disease, such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid or polio.4
With higher metabolisms and proportionately more water within their bodies,5 Ragnar’s four children were among the most vulnerable and often the first to get sick. They risked becoming some of the estimated 6,000 children who die every day from waterborne diseases, many of them preventable.6 One of the most common symptoms of these diseases is diarrhea, which depletes the body’s fluids. Though typically a minor symptom in developed countries, diarrhea kills 1.5 million children every year in areas such as Africa and South Asia.7
In addition to battling physical ailments, Ragnar’s children struggled in school. Unsafe water can cause vomiting, stomachaches, headaches and confusion, things that not only affect one’s physical wellbeing but a child’s ability to learn. For example, long term exposure to arsenic in drinking water can lead to cognitive impairment, in addition to reducing a child’s chances of survival.8 Among the world’s poor, such as a daily-wage-laborer family like Ragnar’s, contaminated water can also exacerbate malnutrition, making it difficult for children to focus and excel in school, stunting their chances at a better life.9
Though typically a minor symptom in developed countries, diarrhea kills 1.5 million children every year in areas such as Africa and South Asia.
Ragnar wanted better for his children. He wanted them to be well and to excel.
Concerned for his jaundiced son, Ragnar took him to the local hospital. A doctor recommended filtered water, but as much as Ragnar desired his family to be healthy, he simply could not afford such a luxury. In dismay, Ragnar and his family trudged on, continuing to haul the water that, despite its necessity, made them sick.