How Water Plays a Role in Health and Food Security
Today is World Water Day, an annual United Nations holiday that highlights the importance of water and raises awareness about the global water crisis. This year’s theme is Groundwater, which makes up most of the liquid freshwater in the world. Water is crucial for health, and higher demands for water because of rising populations, urbanization and economic growth mean that sustainable use of this precious resource in nutrition security is a top priority.
Groundwater from boreholes and wells is used to supply water to many communities Rise Against Hunger supports. It is common for participants in our programs to use groundwater for household consumption as well as watering their gardens. Due to worsening climate change and excess extraction, groundwater is sometimes less available for communities around the world. When families are unable to utilize groundwater through boreholes, they often resort to consuming water from nearby lakes, streams and rivers. This practice contributes to high child mortality. One report found that “95% of diarrheal deaths in children under 5 years of age could be prevented” with the implementation of proper water-related interventions. Additionally, poor water and sanitation systems disproportionately affect women, making them more prone to waterborne illness contributing to anemia and worsened nutrition status.
A less known and more recent discovery is the impact of untreated water on the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in the body’s digestion and immune system. Drinking unclean water can cause imbalance in the gut microbiome, leading to lowered immune function and reduced intestinal barriers to pathogens. With a lowered immune response, fighting off something like the common cold becomes more dangerous. Consecutive infections in childhood can have serious long-term effects, including faltered growth and cognitive deficits.
Rise Against Hunger utilizes conservation agriculture techniques, such as mulching and direct irrigation, to ensure water is used only when needed. We also utilize and encourage the use of borehole water as a hygienic alternative to river water. The photo above displays a well that was installed near the garden as part of the Elevating Women and Youth Farmers project, our Empowering Communities project implemented with partner AMEDD. Additionally, nutrition training always demonstrates the importance of hygienic handling of food before consumption.
Water is a precious resource crucial for nutritional health and, therefore, crucial for Rise Against Hunger’s work to address global food insecurity. Today, in honor of World Water Day, we encourage you to calculate your Water Footprint and then consider ways to lower your footprint.
- Water, sanitation, hygiene and enteric infections in children https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3717778/
- Water, Women, Nutrition: UNICEF Maternal Nutrition Programming Guidance: https://www.unicef.org/media/114561/file/Maternal%20Nutrition%20Programming%20Guidance.pdf
- Gut microbiome, enteric infections and child growth across a rural–urban gradient: protocol for the ECoMiD prospective cohort study https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/10/e046241