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Inside Latin America’s clean water crisis

Kelsey Campbell
Mar 02, 2018

Latin America is home to some of the world’s largest rivers and lakes. The region gets more rainfall than most other places around the globe. So why is it that Latin America is suffering a major water crisis?

The answer — while there is plenty of water in Latin America, most of it is contaminated and not fit to drink. But the people who live there have no choice. They must drink, bathe, and wash their clothes and dishes with water filled with trash and animal waste.

“Contaminated water affects people in many ways,” one of our Latin American partners said. “But most of all, the children in the villages suffer the consequences of drinking dirty water filled with bacteria and disease. This causes many different illnesses like cholera.”

Children who are sick from drinking dirty water are unable to focus in school. Severe diarrhea dehydrates their bodies, sapping them of energy so they can’t run, play, and do other activities they love … let alone receive an education. And when children don’t have the opportunity to receive an education, they won’t be able to find a good job. The chains of poverty will never fall off a community.

Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru are three of the Latin American countries that suffer most from a lack of clean water. Below, you’ll discover why each of these nations is in the middle of a water crisis and what you can do to help.


Approximately 90 percent of the water in Guatemala is contaminated; litter and sewage runoffs are the main culprits. And people are left with water sources that cause disease and sickness.

The mountains of Guatemala make it difficult and dangerous to look for water. It is also a time-consuming task that can take all day. That’s time that a child could spend in school or a mother could spend working to provide for her family.

In theory, Guatemalans have the opportunity to buy purified, bottled water. But most poor, rural families can barely afford to put food on the table, much less pay for clean water.

Maria has lived all 70 years of her life in Guatemala. And it was only recently that her neighborhood received its first ever water well — a gift from generous donors. Before this well was built, her family members, who are all melon farmers, had to walk miles every day to collect water for their crops and other chores.

“Now we are all blessed because the well is close,” she said. “We have water for cooking and hygiene. I am happy, and I do not have to walk.”


Much like in Guatemala, water is very challenging to find in Honduras. And the water that is accessible is dirty and filled with bacteria.

Not only is the water unhealthy to drink, but also washing with the water irritates people’s skin. As a result, men, women, and children are often plagued with skin diseases in addition to malnutrition complicated by waterborne illnesses.

Providing fresh, clean water means children don’t have to suffer from dehydration or preventative diseases such as pink eye, earaches, rashes, and even scabies. Clean water is also vital for medical professionals who serve people suffering from these conditions.

The dry seasons are especially hard for the people of Honduras. Even the small, dirty springs where community members usually collect their water dry up. Suffering without water in the humid Honduran heat is almost unbearable.

But the gift of clean-water projects and wells makes sure that people have clean, cool water all year-round.


The majority of Peru’s natural water resources are polluted with metals and harmful toxins. Unfortunately, no one is really sure why, but many assume it is because of local mining and sewage runoff.

Peru is an agriculture-based country where people rely on gardens and fields to support their communities and themselves. However, without easy access to water to help grow their crops, their harvests won’t come in. Without water, food shortages happen. And without proper food, the plague of malnutrition continues.

Collecting water from dirty rivers and lakes also presents many other hidden dangers besides life-threatening bacteria. Elida, a mother of five, said she used to worry when her children went to the small creek next to their community to bring back water. “They have to be alert because there are snakes around this area,” she said.

But even if the snakes didn’t get them, the sickness usually did. Elida’s children frequently suffered from diarrhea, parasites, and malaria. Now, thanks to clean water, their health has improved tremendously.

“Now, we walk only five meters to clean, abundant, and safe water,” she said.

Everyone should have access to clean water, but for thousands of people living in Latin American countries, this is not a reality. But you can help them gain access to this dire life-source!

By helping to provide clean-water projects in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru, you’ll be providing opportunities for health, education, and security. And, most importantly, you’ll also be opening the door for communities to hear about the love of Jesus Christ!

Click below to learn more about how you can provide clean water to people in Latin America and around the world.

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