Access to healthy water
Having access to healthy water should be seen as a blessing and not taken for granted as many countries around the world are challenged to provide this basic necessity. There are a few reasons as to why this topic is meaningful to me. The first is that coming from South Africa, many people who live in rural areas do not have access to clean, running water. The second reason is, having lived in South Korea and now China, you daren’t drink water out of the tap, as you are putting your life at risk. As a result the issue of having access to clean, healthy water is an issue in my own personal life, as I continuously need to spend my money on bottled water and it should not be this way, as all living things in this world have a right, a basic right to have access to clean water!
No access to clean, healthy water can:
- Place people at risk for water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases and in severe cases, death.
- It compromises people’s safety.
- It makes education elusive and economic opportunity farther out of reach.
Furthermore here are some interesting and extremely sad facts about the world’s access to healthy water and their affects on women and children, sanitation and the world economy:
- Out of 663 million people, only 1 in 10 people lack access to water.
- Women and children spend 125 million hours each day collecting water.
- In Africa and and Asia, women and children walk an average of 3.7miles a day just to collect water.
- Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water -related disease.
- Water-related diseases affect more than 1.5 billion people every year.
- Water, sanitation and hygiene related disease kills nearly 1 million people each year.
- Diarrhea is the 3rd leading cause of child death, which a majority of cases are water-related.
- 160 million children suffer from stunting and chronic malnutrition as a result of poor quality water and sanitation.
- $260 billion is lost globally each year due to lack of quality water and sanitation.
- Time spent gathering water around the world translates to $24 billion in lost economic benefits each year.
- In low and middle income countries, 1/3 of all healthcare facilities lack a clean, healthy water sources.
Isn’t all of the above shocking? I would like to know your thoughts.
As I have already mentioned, I currently live in China and so I thought it would be interesting to research the lack of clean, healthy water in China. As a result I came across the following article Public Health: A sustainable plan for China’s drinking water.
In brief the article is about China making drinking water safety a priority, as serious health and social problems in their population are caused by poor water quality. According to this article every year 190 million people in China become ill and 60 000 of those people die from diseases in the water from pollution such as liver and gastric cancers. The water is polluted in China as wells and aquifers are contaminated with fertilisers, pesticides, heavy metals such a arsenic and manganese from mining and the petrochemical industry, as well as domestic and industrial waste. As a result one can see China has a big problem at providing clean, healthy water.
What I have learnt from this article is to just keep things simple and instead of China spending billions on using chemicals and water processes to clean water, they can:
- Clean rivers and lakes from industrial and agricultural pollutants.
- Prevent pollutants from entering water in the first place.
- Use cheaper technologies to purify water such as water purifiers on taps and use the lower quality water for bathing, showering, cleaning dishes and laundry use.
To sum up what I have learnt and how I can give back to the community is in a video that I watched called For women it is personal produced by the organisation called Water Org. This video explains that in most parts of the world where there is a lack of clean water and sanitation it is usually the women’s responsibility to find and collect water for their families and when they do find water it is very expensive to buy. What I liked about this video is that Water Org. has begun a program called WaterCredit. It is is a microfinance tool to work in water, sanitation and hygiene, where poor families can have access to small loans for household water connections and toilets. These loans take the burden off women spending all day walking to find water and instead allows them to spend the time to begin small businesses at home to send their children to school and pay off their small loans.
The results of this program have been phenomenal in various ways, namely:
- It has increased the young girls’ attendance at school, increased their level of educational and literacy scores as they no longer spend time walking to find water and now can spend time on their education.
- It has improved girls and women’s sanitation and health ,as they do not need to delay defecation and urination.
- It has reduced baby and mother mortality rate, as they now have access to clean, sanitised water when giving birth.
- Women and young girl’s psychological stress has decreased and been replaced with more dignity, as their personal hygiene has improved.
- Women and young girls no longer experience physical injury carrying heavy loads of water.
- Women and young girls safety has increased from rape and sexual assault as they no longer need to go and relieve themselves or collect water in dangerous places.
- The world has realised that women have skills and knowledge outside of just taking care of their home and now have time start and have their own businesses.
Upon reading about this program, I have realised I too can help this initiative by telling people about it and later becoming involved in a program like this to help poorer communities wherever I travel and teach. I can also talk to my children at school about how we should not take water for granted, how we should not waste water, ways to make water clean e.g. boiling water and lastly ways to save water.