More than 844 million people around the world face incredible challenges getting access to safe drinking water.

Water Issues Across the World

More than 844 million people around the world face incredible challenges getting access to safe drinking water. 1 in 9 people must travel more than 30 minutes every day just to access water, and the water collected is often unclean. Rife with bacteria, this water causes chronic illness, fatigue and poor nutritional absorption for millions of people. UNICEF reports that simply improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene could prevent the deaths of 297,000 children under age 5 each year. Read on to learn more about the global water crisis and what you can do to help.

Key Takeaways:

  • • The water crisis is twofold: There isn’t enough water to go around, and/or the water that is available isn’t safe to drink.
  • • Poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) have contributed to widespread waterborne illnesses, the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5.
  • • Water scarcity impacts every aspect of life, including:
    • – food security/nutrition
    • – gender inequality
    • – girls’ education

The International Water Crisis and Its Impacts

Although the amount of fresh water on the planet has stayed roughly the same through time, our population has exploded, increasing the demands on water sources dramatically. Additionally, pollutants like pesticides, livestock runoff and industrial waste have contaminated fresh water supplies, making it more difficult to find safe drinking water. Water scarcity has a ripple effect on every other aspect of life, and simply creating access to clean water can greatly improve the lives of millions of people around the globe. 

Food Security and Nutrition

As you might imagine, a lack of water means that growing crops and raising livestock become far more difficult. Severe water shortages can kill the food a community was depending on to survive, leading to food insecurity, malnutrition and even death. For crops that can be salvaged, a family might have enough to survive on for the year, but not have any excess to sell so they could purchase other necessities or seeds for the following year. 

Water collection is an arduous task, taking hours out of the day to trek back and forth to the water supply.

Gender Inequality

Women and girls  as they are almost always responsible for collecting water for their families. Water collection is an arduous task, taking hours out of the day to trek back and forth to the water supply. In fact, worldwide, women and girls spend traveling to and from water collection sites. This leaves little time for other activities, including school, learning about Christ or simply relaxing after a hard day’s work. 

Donate to Make a Difference


Girls' Education

In a family with multiple children, the girls are usually responsible for collecting water. Girls will wake up before their family to go collect water, traveling upwards of 30 minutes each way. This needs to be repeated multiple times a day, leaving little time to go to school. For girls who somehow manage to find time to learn, poor WASH and lack of access to bathroom facilities at school mean that girls will stay home during their menstrual cycle simply because they don’t have water to clean themselves. Millions of children around the world aren’t getting the education they need to accomplish their dreams, simply because they lack access to water.

Country Spotlights

Let’s look at just a few countries where Cross Catholic Outreach has helped communities gain access to clean, safe drinking water.


The water crisis in Ghana is not about water shortages but about polluted water. Year after year, Ghana’s fresh water supply is tainted by toxic heavy metals from small-scale illegal gold mining. Heavy metals like mercury and lead are difficult to filter out, even by a professional water treatment facility, and families cannot boil them out

Children (especially girls) miss school to collect water for their families.


Zambia’s rainfall has decreased steadily over the years (2.3% per decade), leading to severe droughts and water shortages. In addition to the impacts on health, the water crisis has had a ripple effect on every other aspect of life for the Zambian people, from electricity to education. Children (especially girls) miss school to collect water for their families. Additionally, cholera and other waterborne illnesses can cause chronic diarrhea and fatigue, keeping children at home while they are sick. Zambia depends on water for about half of its electricity production, and the water shortages have caused power outages across the country. 


In Nicaragua, one in three rural communities does not have access to clean water. Water collected from nearby streams is contaminated, not only with insects and debris but also with bacteria, parasites and pesticide runoff from nearby farms. Unable to fully sanitize their water, families are often sick with waterborne diseases like hepatitis A and typhoid fever. CCO is helping these families by installing professionally drilled wells and thorough water filtration systems.

In Kenya, children are usually responsible for water collection for their families.


In Kenya, a lack of access to clean water has kept children out of schools and families away from Mass and spiritual growth. Children are usually responsible for water collection for their families, and often have to travel miles and wait in long lines to get water. This means they miss days of school, often becoming discouraged and dropping out altogether. The water collection process often must be repeated two or three times per day, leaving little time or energy for spiritual formation.


The landlocked country of Malawi is so densely populated (512 people per sq. mi.) that it puts a strain on the environment’s natural resources. Even if they can get access to water, pollutants common in high-density areas (industrial waste, pesticide runoff, sewage, etc.) make families sick. Additionally, floods have caused pollution of normally safe water sources, and droughts have caused water scarcity. 

How Can I Help?

Cross Catholic Outreach’s Water for the Poor provides dependable water sources for impoverished rural communities suffering from thirst, waterborne illness and a lack of modern infrastructure. For more information about how you can help, please click here

Donations from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.