Clean water saves lives

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.

Read how our water filters and carriers can enable disaster-hit families to produce clean water.

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.

A family posing with their water filter.
“I suffered too much with my wife and children always sick. When my wife fetches water, I filter the quantity that I can and I keep the filter for the next time", Tshamaya says.


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

This can include, for example, when a hand pump is broken, or a river is contaminated.

The filters can remove bacteria, viruses and protozoa that can be found within contaminated water.

A water filter can turn up to 1,000 litres of unsafe water into clean drinking water.


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 2018 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.

Woman producing clean water.
In Cameroon, Falmata pours her safe drinking water in the water carrier to store it. "Now I have the possibility to store drinking water for two days. I live much better with them", she says.

Safe water after disaster

"Drinking water source points were broken and open wells were contaminated with flood water".

Minati’s house got submerged when monsoon rains and severe flash flooding battered Odisha, India in 2020.

The roof was torn, the walls had collapsed, and utensils were soon floating in the floodwater. Minati’s access to clean water was compromised.

We worked with our partner Habitat for Humanity India to distribute emergency shelter to families in India, including water filters.


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. Filtration physically 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.

Read our Disasters Explained series to explore different 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.

Mosquito nets

When disaster strikes and families and are left vulnerable to insect-borne diseases like malaria, mosquito nets can help reduce the risk of infection.

Solar lights

When disaster strikes, families often have no access to electricity. Solar lights can allow families to rebuild a sense of normality.