While travelling to every country in the world without flying, I raised funds for the charity WaterAid. Here’s why…

A Basic Human Right

It’s almost unbelievable that in the 21st century 4,000 young lives are lost every single day to diarrhea, an easily preventable and easily treatable condition. That’s almost 6,000,000 children over the four years and one month of The Odyssey Expedition.

These children, the vast majority of whom are under the age of five, die through drinking unsafe water or being subjected to bad (or non-existent) sanitation.

That’s a holocaust. And we have the power to stop it. This isn’t just about sending plumbers to the slums of India or engineers to rural Africa to dig wells, it is about persuading the United Nations and the governments of the world to prioritise the delivery of safe water and proper sanitation and to make it a basic human right.

The unbelievable truth is that 2,500,000,000 people worldwide do not have access to a toilet. That may seem like an insurmountable number, but it’s not – thanks to the great work done by charities like WaterAid, it is decreasing by the day. The dream is that by 2020 no human being will have to ever again suffer the indignity nor take the risk of squatting in the street.

There are two ways you can support WaterAid through The Odyssey. One is by simply watching the YouTube videos. However, this only equates to $1 per 1000 unique views. If you really want to help, please donate directly via www.wateraid.org.

The Key Statistics

884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world’s population. (WHO/UNICEF)

2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is almost two fifths of the world’s population.  (WHO/UNICEF)

1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation – 4,000 child deaths a day or one child every 20 seconds. This equates to 160 infant school classrooms lost every single day to an entirely preventable public health crisis. (WHO/WaterAid)

WaterAid projects providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene education cost just £15 per head. (WaterAid)

For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, $8 is returned. (UNDP)

Hand-washing with soap at critical times can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by up to 47%. (UN Water)

The integrated approach of providing water, sanitation and hygiene reduces the number of deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases by an average of 65%. (WHO)

The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is commonly 20kg, the same as the average UK airport luggage allowance. (HDR 2006)

In the UK the expansion of water and sanitation infrastructure in the 1880s contributed to a 15 year increase in life expectancy in the following four decades. (HDR, 2006)


Every year, the average person produces 35 kilos of faeces and 500 litres of urine. (UN Water)

One gram of human faeces can contain 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts, 100 parasite eggs. (UNICEF)

No sub-Saharan African country is on-track to meet the sanitation Millennium Development Goals. (WHO/UNICEF)

Every year, around 60 million children in the developing world are born into households without access to sanitation. (UN Water)

In the developing world as a whole, around 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers, polluting them and affecting plant and aquatic life.  (UN)

At any one time half the hospital beds in developing countries are filled with people suffering from diarrhoea. (UNDP)

Children in poor environments often carry 1,000 parasitic worms in their bodies at a time. (UNICEF)

Intestinal worms infect about 10% of the population of the developing world. Intestinal parasitic infections can lead to malnutrition, anaemia and stunted growth. (WHO)

Education and Economics

Lack of safe water and sanitation costs sub-Saharan Africa around 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year. (UNDP)

443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.

11% more girls attend school when sanitation is available. (UK DFID)

40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa. (Cosgrove and Rijsberman, 1998)

Households in rural Africa spend an average of 26% of their time fetching water, and it is generally women who are burdened with the task. (UK DFID)

How YOU Can Help

Sewage systems and the flushing toilet have saved more lives than any other invention known to man. They allowed Britain to leave the Big Stink behind and with it the bad old days when people (including Kings and Queens) would have 17 children on the off-chance that one of them might reach puberty. Now infant mortality in Britain one of the lowest in the world.

But the Third World, shackled by corrupt, inept and misguided leaders, has no such luck. You walk through villages, towns and cities in India or Sub-Saharan Africa and the stench is sometimes unbearable. Woman and children squatting by the side of the road, embarrassed and vulnerable. Their government waste billions on wars, on nuclear weapons, on statues and palaces. Meanwhile, millions of children are dying for no good reason.

There are four horsemen of the apocalypse in the 21st century – Aids, Malaria, Corruption and Bad Sanitation. They all need to be fought, but the lack of sanitation kills more children than the other three put together.  Children can’t vote, they can’t protest, they can’t escape – they die quietly and out of sight.  But by donating just a small amount to this noble and necessary charity, YOU can help put an end to this terrible situation.

Please give what you can.

Abbreviations used:

DFID – UK Department for International Development
HDR – UN Human Development Report (2006)
OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
UNDP – United Nations Development Programme
UNEP – United National Environment Programme
UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund
WEDC – Water Engineering Department, University of Loughborough
WHO – World Health Organization
WSSCC – Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Geckazo

    how mañy money did you spend traveling?

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