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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Global Water Crisis is Also a Sanitation Crisis

March 22, 2012

It's World Water Day today and the world is talking about access to clean, safe water for the 7 billion people who live on this planet we call home. The good news is that we're actually on track to meet our global goal of reducing by half the number of people who lack access to clean water. The piece of the puzzle you may know less about, however, is that this focus on water is also about a focus on sanitation. 

There are more people with mobile phones on our planet, than people with toilets, notes UNICEF on Twitter today (#waterday).

Over at, they put it simply in their great graphic: "3 Things Most of the World Can't Do: Take A Hot Shower, Get Clean Water from the Tap, Flush Away Yesterday's Dinner."

Believe me, I understand feeling like there's just so much progress yet to be made—when it comes to tackling hunger, poverty, health care access, and inequity around the world (just to name a few!)—there are days when you wake up feeling like there's simply no way to turn it all around. But there is. And we can.

The water crisis is one of the most pressing issue of our time. Drought caused more death in the last century, according to the UN, than any other natural disaster and is the "single most common cause of food shortages in the developing world." But clean water is critical as it relates to sanitation.

Residents collect water from a local well (Photo is from our Photo of the day on flickr)

And this is where the foundation comes in. We are working with our partners on behalf of the the 2.5 billion people who do not currently have access to clean, safe toilets. The foundation's Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) work is focused on the creation of affordable, sustainable solutions to this major part of the crisis, including "reinventing the toilet."

And if you live in the United States and are interested in spreading awareness about the water crisis in this country, you might want to check out Participant Media's newest film, Last Call at the Oasis. The film is about waging information and inspiration against apathy when it comes to the global water crisis. And while the film is focused on the United States, the message can be carried forth as a global one: we need to protect water as the precious resource it is.

Inspired to act? Check out the World Water Day site,, or follow @gatesfoundation and use the  #waterday hashtag today. Join the global community in speaking up about the importance of clean water and safe sanitation to the health and lives of billions around the world. Learn more about our work to reinvent the toilet as a means of addressing the sanitation crisis and get involved!

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