The Right to Water

Safe and clean water is a human right. Yet every year, 3.5 million women, men and children die from disease because they don’t have the access they need to water, sanitation and hygiene. That is nearly 10,000 people every day.


People living in crisis zones are particularly vulnerable: Wars and natural disasters can cut off water supplies in an instant. Those who lose their homes may be forced to live in overcrowded spaces without adequate toilets, washing facilities or garbage collection. In unsanitary conditions like these, preventable diseases can quickly spiral into serious epidemics.

In 2014 alone, the International Rescue Committee reached 3.3 million people whose lives have been affected by conflict with access to clean drinking water and sanitation services.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

A girl pumps water in the village of Kanajak in South Sudan. Civil war has plagued the world’s newest nation since 2013, uprooting more than 2 million South Sudanese from their homes.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

Children in northern Pakistan clean pots and pans at a wash station rebuilt by the IRC after the country was hit by devastating floods in 2010.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

Villagers fetch water at a water point near the market town of Kaga Bandoro in northern Central African Republic. Waves of sectarian conflict have forced more than a million people in the country to flee their homes.

Photo: Zoriah/IRC

Haitians living in a camp for people who lost their homes to a powerful earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010, wash their hands after participating in a community clean-up.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

Boys collect water at a tap the IRC installed at the Arbat camp in northern Iraq for refugees fleeing the four-year-long civil war in Syria.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

IRC health workers teach Burmese children how to wash their hands in the Site One refugee camp in northeastern Thailand.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

An IRC team installs a water system at a primary school with almost 300 students in Galkayo, Somalia. The effects of conflict and drought have compounded the chronic poverty in the town of 50,000 residents.

Photo: Tyler Jump/IRC

A woman receives a jerrycan for storing clean water during an IRC distribution on Panay Island in the Philippines. A powerful typhoon — Haiyan — ravaged the archipelago nation in 2013.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

A young woman in Thailand washes her clothes with clean water in a laundry area in the Tham Him camp for Burmese refugees.

Read more about how the IRC is providing access to clean water and other critical aid in crisis zones.


The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities.

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