In the United States, hard, contaminated water can include sulfur or hydrogen sulfide — a chemical capable of corroding plumbing — but in third world countries like Nepal, contaminated water can prove to be far more dangerous. For this reason, UNICEF is appealing to people all over the world for donations, which will be used to provide emergency water kits.
Following the devastating earthquake that recently hit Nepal, about 1.7 million children are now in urgent need of aid in the worst-hit areas. Drinking water is often scarce or unsafe to drink following such natural disasters, so people need to find a source of safe water, or a way to treat and store drinkable water. Destroyed housing also leads to overcrowded camps, which creates a lack of toilets and excreta disposal, creating a serious challenge to personal hygiene.
When drinking water becomes contaminated, it can spread diarrhea, cholera, and other diseases. Children are the most vulnerable, as their immune systems are developing. Even diarrhea can prove to be fatal without proper health treatment. After the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, thousands died from cholera outbreaks.
“The earthquake has caused unimaginable destruction,” said Rownak Khan, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Nepal, in a press release. “Hospitals are overflowing, water is scarce, bodies are still buried under the rubble and people are still sleeping in the open. This is a perfect breeding ground for diseases.”
UNICEF is also working hard to deliver trucks of water to camps to provide displaced peoples with safe drinking water, establish toilets in camps, and conduct communication campaigns on hygiene and handwashing.
“We have a small window of time to put in place measures that will keep earthquake-affected children safe from infectious disease outbreaks — a danger that would be exacerbated by the wet and muddy conditions brought on with the rains,” said Khan. “That’s why it’s so crucial to get essential medicine, medical equipment, tents and water supplies out to these areas now.”