World Water Day

22 March 2020

Right now, we all know that washing our hands frequently is one of the most important things we can do to keep ourselves and our families safe from Coronavirus. Now imagine you have no clean water.

Find out more about World Water Day and the importance of clean water for families affected by disaster.

Climate change and the water crisis

This year’s UN World Water Day is about is about water and climate change.

2.2 billion people are currently living without access to safe water. The water crisis is real, and it’s also inextricably linked to climate change.

Climate change is causing more extreme droughts in some regions around the world.

One of the most devastating effects of droughts is the strain they can put on food supplies. In countries where communities don’t have reliable sources of nutritious food, droughts can cause food prices to go up, leading to social unrest, famine and migration.

We work with farming and nomadic communities in places like Somaliland.

Families there can no longer grow crops or feed their cattle and sheep because of the severe drought brought on by many years of poor rainy seasons.

About climate change

We also see how climate change and the water crisis have reduced the availability of natural resources, leaving communities far more vulnerable to extremist groups.

This can contribute to complex conflict situations, like in the Lake Chad Basin which originally reached across Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

We work with communities in the Lake Chad Basin and Somaliland to provide them with essential aid items such as water filters and water carriers, to enable them to produce safe drinking water.

We also provide other aid items to enable them to regain their livelihoods.

Our aid

Water, just like shelter, is a human right. Whoever you are, wherever you are – you are entitled to clean, safe water.

When disasters devastate whole communities and force families far from home, it can be hard to ensure access to clean water.

Families often find themselves in inhospitable areas or overcrowded camps where finding safe water is a daily struggle.

By providing families with water containers and water filters, we can make safe drinking water one less thing to worry about.


Tshamaya lives in Minawao refugee camp, Cameroon.

In 2012, his whole family were forced to flee their home in Nigeria in search of a safer place to call home. Five years on, Minawao refugee camp has become their hometown.

Their lives would have been much easier if they hadn’t all become ill. On their arrival at the camp, the family started suffering from stomach aches, caused by drinking unsafe water. But they didn’t have a choice – it was a matter of drinking dirty water or no water at all.

Using the water filter he received, Tshamaya was able to produce safe drinking water for his family. Tshamaya says:

Since we started using the filter that we received, nobody complained again of stomach ache.


Floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters. It compromises clean water, putting lives at risk.

When floodwaters recede, the land is often blanketed in silt and mud. Water can quickly become contaminated with dangerous materials and untreated sewage, and families are often left without safe drinking water.

This can lead to outbreaks of deadly waterborne diseases like typhoid, hepatitis A, and cholera.

Floods can also increase the risk of diseases like malaria, as standing water acts as a breeding site for mosquitoes.

Flooding caused by Cyclone Idai had put thousands of families at risk. Find out how we have responded.



When families are unable to access clean water, water filters enable them to produce safe drinking water. 

The filters can remove viruses, bacteria and pathogens that can be found within contaminated water, as well as chemicals, heavy metals and faecal matter.

A water filter can turn up to 1000 litres of unsafe water into clean drinking water – that’s enough clean water for a family of four for a month.

Watch this video to find out how our water filters work.


By working with disaster-affected families, we’ve learned that it’s important to provide water carriers along with water filters. 

This makes sure families have a place to store the purified water, so it can be kept clean and safe to drink.

In the Philippines, our collapsible water carriers were particularly welcomed by women, who told us they were light and easy to carry.

Sometimes, families even use the collapsed carriers as bowls to eat from or to store food.



Using the water filter and carrier she received, Jeanba was able to produce clean water and store it safely for her family to drink.

Thanks to your support, we can give people like Jeanba the tools they need to rebuild their lives after disaster.



Why do communities struggle to access clean water after a disaster?

Whether it’s a cyclone, flooding or conflict, disasters can cause huge amounts of destruction and damage – and clean water is often compromised. Hand pumps break and local water sources get filled with debris, dirt or even chemicals.

How can disaster-affected families produce safe drinking water?

There are three main methods to do this: disinfection, sedimentation and filtration.

Disinfection uses chemicals, boiling or sunlight to rid water of bacteria. Sedimentation allows dirt to fall to the bottom of a water container over time. Filtrationphysically removes dirt by passing water through a material such as ceramic or sand.

We provide water filters because they are the most reliable and safest way to produce clean water.

Do all ShelterBox responses involve water filters and carriers?

No, they don’t. Every response is different, so the decision to distribute these is based on the needs of the affected families.

How long do water filters and carriers last?

If kept in their original packaging between 10°C and 30°C, a water carrier can last up to ten years. A water filter reaches the end of its lifespan after treating 1000 litres of water.

Read our Disasters Explained series to explore different natural disasters, how they occur and their effects on communities.

How much do you know?

Do you have an ocean of knowledge about water? Or are you more of a puddle?

Take the ShelterBox quiz for World Water Day to test your knowledge and find out.


Shelter kits

Our shelter kits provide communities with the tools they need to start rebuilding their homes and their lives.