Clean Water and Sanitation

Clean water isn’t a luxury—it’s a basic human right.

Free The Children helps provide communities in need with localised clean water sources and sanitation facilities. We also work with individual community members to promote local education in basic hygiene practices and waterborne disease prevention.

This not only helps to reduce the spread of disease, it also relieves children—especially girls—of their daily treks to collect water, freeing them to attend school.


For many developing communities around the world, the same water source that’s used to collect household water for drinking and cooking is also used as a dumping ground for human and animal waste. Often remote, these water sources are also plagued with bacteria and contaminants.

It’s no wonder, then, that 80% of illnesses in the developing world are linked to poor water and sanitation.
What’s more, these stagnant, unclean sources of water are frequently located many miles from communities, forcing women and children to spend hours each day hauling back-breaking loads of water to their homes.

Without a reliable, sustainable source of clean water, children are either too ill or don’t have time to go to school. And so, the cycle of poverty continues.

Did You Know?

  • More than 780 million people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water.
  • Worldwide, 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation facilities.
  • Around the world, 1 out of 4 deaths in children under the age of five is due to a water-related disease.
  • Diarrhoea kills more than 3,000 children each day. 88% of diarrhoeal disease occurs because of unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
  • About 1 in 10 school-age girls in Africa drop out once they reach puberty because they don’t have clean or private washrooms to use at school. Ensuring that girls have their own latrines at school is crucial to ensuring girls continue to receive an education.
  • Many of the areas where Free The Children works have dry climates and face issues like deforestation, changing weather patterns and global warming.


Through implementation of all five Adopt a Village pillars over three to five years, Free The Children aims to improve access and change not only circumstance and opportunity, but also behaviour. Ultimately this leads to a change in community status, resulting in long-term, effective and meaningful development.
When first beginning to work in a community, Free The Children focuses on improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities, while also implementing programmes to increase the practice of healthy habits and clean water usage.









Through the continued implementation of these activities, we begin to see long-term change in our communities and, ultimately, fewer incidences of water-related disease and illness.

Our Sustainable Clean Water and Sanitation Projects Include:

  • Hand pump systems
  • Boreholes and wells
  • Water catchment systems
  • The piping of clean water into a school or community
  • Clean water education and sanitation
  • Hand-washing stations and latrines for schools

Research shows that our programs have a lasting impact.

A 2011 study on Adopt a Village by Mission Measurement assessed the programme on three levels: overall effectiveness, sustainability and cost-effectiveness. The study has found that projects implemented through Adopt a Village have met all three objectives, and Free The Children continues to strive to make its programmes effective, sustainable and cost-effective.

Since the creation of the clean water and sanitation pillar, Free The Children reports:



“1,000,000”,”people provided with improved access to clean water, health care and sanitation.”




Meet Matilda

Like most young girls in Sierra Leone, 15-year-old Matilda Yusuf is responsible for collecting water for her household, her parents and three sisters.

Before Free The Children built a well in the Kono District, fetching water was a difficult, even dangerous task for Matilda.

Sierra Leone’s national water and sanitation system was completely destroyed during the country’s decade-long civil war, causing widespread risk of water-borne disease. Although the war officially ended in 2002, contaminated water is still a very real problem in Kono. Stagnant water in the old wells is also an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying malaria, a disease responsible for 40% of deaths in Sierra Leonean children under the age of five.

But the water Matilda hauls from Free The Children’s well every morning is clean, and suitable for drinking, cooking, laundry and other domestic chores.

“Clean water is important to our health,” she says, “because sicknesses like typhoid come from unclean water.”

Matilda’s family are not the only ones benefitting from the well dug by Free The Children. Local school children and their families can also access fresh water, she says.

Matilda is grateful to Free The Children and was inspired by the organisation to pay it forward.
“Free The Children is special in my life,” says Matilda. “It encourages me to help others.”