Water is often the most pressing issue on the humanitarian agenda in disaster situations, said the world's largest disaster response network, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in a statement to mark World Water Day today.
"For us water is both a blessing and a curse. Last year we responded to the needs of over three million people whose lives were destroyed by floods and drought. We also brought water to about one million people living in poor communities. It is in communities like these where most of the 3.4 million deaths from water-related disease occur each year," said Uli Jaspers, water and sanitation expert with the Federation.
There are one billion people living in the world today who lack adequate access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion who live without basic sanitation.
"We are putting more resources into community-based water projects which reduce disease and also lift the burden on women and children who are often responsible for collecting water for the household in poor communities," said Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, Head of the Federation's Health Department.
Examples of the Federation's work world-wide, include the construction of 300 community dams to hold water for 500,000 people whose lives were direly affected by last year's earthquake in Gujarat, India.
The International Federation is also responding to other water related emergencies around the world such as the cholera epidemic in Southern Africa and the on-going droughts in Central America and Central Asia.
Since the Federation established specialised Emergency Response Units for water and sanitation, it has deployed them in reponse to 14 major disasters around the world from floods.
Read more about the Federation's water and sanitation activities