Fighting Waterborne Disease in The Gambia

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Posted on 5/22/2013

Although clean water is essential to survival, the African nation of The Gambia is plagued by several water-related issues, including severe drought and desertification. At the same time, waterborne diseases are prevalent in the country, and the CIA World Factbook states that Gambians are at very high risk of developing major infectious diseases at some point in their lives.

A Nation at Risk

Unsafe water supplies, inadequate sanitation and improper hygiene cause millions of deaths around the world each year, largely affecting children in developing nations like The Gambia. Today, about 11 percent of Gambians lack access to improved water sources, while 32 percent do not have access to improved sanitation facilities, according to the CIA World Factbook.

One of the most prevalent waterborne illnesses is diarrhea, which kills about 1.34 million children under the age of 5 worldwide each year, according to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Diarrheal diseases are a significant problem in The Gambia in particular. Last year, in a random survey of caregivers with children, researchers found that 7.7 percent said their children had diarrhea at that point, while 23.3 percent reported that their children had diarrhea within the previous two weeks. Despite the devastating effects diarrheal diseases can have on children, less than half of caregivers said they brought their children to a health center.

On top of diarrheal diseases, Gambians are at high risk of developing other waterborne illnesses, including hepatitis A and typhoid fever.

Drops of Hope

Many of The Gambia's deaths due to waterborne illnesses could be prevented if residents had access to clean water supplies, improved sanitation facilities and better hygiene techniques. To help Gambians meet these needs, ChildFund Germany recently donated a water filter to The Gambia's Sintet Early Childhood Development Center, which works with 153 children in the western region of the country. Thanks to this gift, the children who visit the center have access to safe, drinkable water.

ChildFund has made similar water filter donations throughout The Gambia since 1984, ensuring that 79 percent of families in our program areas have access to drinkable water, as well as adequate sanitary facilities.

To support us in our goal of reducing the spread of waterborne illnesses in The Gambia, consider sponsoring a child. For just $28 per month, you can help ensure a child in need has access to food, health care and education, allowing him or her to emerge from poverty and live a happy, productive life.