Access to clean water at home has made 12-year-old Sonia's life much easier. She no longer has to walk long distances or plead with her neighbours for water each day. Photo by Annila Harris, World Vision
World Water Week gives me the opportunity to talk about something so many of us take for granted – our unquestioned ability to turn on a tap and know that we have clean water. The concept of walking hours to collect water, carry it home and then having no other option but to drink it – not knowing whether it is contaminated or not – is so foreign to many of us.
My team and I are focused on achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality rates under five by two-thirds. We at World Vision recognise that this can only be achieved if diarrhoea-related mortality is drastically reduced. It seems unbelievable, but millions of children around the world are dying from preventable diseases like diarrhoea. More often than not the cause is contaminated water.
In the summer of 2008, I was in Myanmar assessing the availability of safe drinking water. I was surrounded by unhygienic conditions and vulnerable groups of people (children, young, old and disabled) waiting in long queues to collect water for the day.
In one village, I recall a queue of women waiting to collect water from one small brass tap on the external wall of a water storage facility. Inside, the pump operator washed his motorbike with a high pressure hose, in clear view of those waiting. Despair and resignation was apparent on these women’s faces, patiently waiting in line for something so essential to life.They wouldn’t say anything about this injustice, possibly for fear that they would be denied access to this water if they spoke up.
More children die every day from diseases caused by unsafe water than from AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. Worldwide, 780 million people lack access to clean water sources; this is about one in nine people.
In rural areas, water collection from sources like wells, streams, or springs can take hours each day – a burden that falls primarily on women and young children. And despite the hours of walking time, and the associated risks of walking alone for hours, the sources they finally reach are often unsafe.
I am so proud to be a part of the team who is focusing on simple, affordable and accessible interventions at the household level. We place emphasis is on long-term solutions through the use of low cost technologies like rainwater harvesting, hygienic latrines, and the promotion of simple practices including hand washing with soap, and treatment of drinking water.
Since 2011, World Vision has provided clean water to 2.35 million people in communities around the world. More than just drilling wells, World Vision’s water and sanitation programs are integrated with other important community development programs such as health care, education and economic development to transform communities and improve well-being of children and communities. All of this is made possible thanks to the support of generous Australians through programs like child sponsorship.
So today, as we drink our standard 2 litres a day of water to make sure we are healthy and hydrated, let’s spare a moment for those less fortunate who do not have such a basic, yet important resource. I know I will.