Tuesday, March 21, 2006

World Water Day

Happy World Water Day!

So today, I'm going to begin by plagiarizing the World Water Day website - their graphics are much beter, so please, if you have time surf on over there and take a look!


In 1992, the UN General Assembly designated March 22 as "World Water Day" to draw the international attention to the critical lack of clean, safe drinking water worldwide. It is a time when we are encouraged to pause and consider the largest public health issue of our time - the global scarcity of clean water.

The facts are mind boggling. More than 1 billion people world wide – 20% of the planet’s entire human population – lack access to clean, safe drinking water. According to the United Nations, this world water crisis leads to the death of more than 4,500 children every day and is a leading cause of poverty, disease, and social instability world wide.

Despite the apparent abundance of clean water in the US and most of the developed world, more than 20% of the Earth’s population lacks clean, safe drinking water.

This world water crisis isn’t confined to one particular region of the planet, though the crisis is most severe in developing nations and particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Poverty, health, education, and economic growth all are impacted by the lack of clean water and sanitation in these communities, creating a perpetual struggle for basic survival.

And now for water in Madagascar: (source, Human Development Report, 2005)

Population without sustainable access to improved sanitation (pit latrine, flushable toilet, etc.):
1990 : 88%
2002 : 67%

Population without sustainable access to an improved water source:
1990 : 60%
2002 : 55 % *

* that’s 12 years and only a 5% improvement!

In truth, PCVs Mark and Jon, who are water systems engineers, have probably single-handedly done more to improve sustainable access to an improved water source during their combined 6 years in country than almost any other project. Unfortunately, all their efforts are being undercut by the number of water systems that go off-line each year because of poor construction and improper maintenance training or unavailability of key replacement parts due to remoteness or expense.

This World Water Day we are celebrating the new W.A.S.H. (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) committee in the Fianar region and we are going into the next year with high expectations of better coordinated efforts, involvement of key actors and funders (such as Rotary International), and integration of project objectives. For SantéNet, our Kôminina Mendrika (Champion Communes) project is hoping to develop objectives for construction of water systems, education about the importance of latrines, and encouraging behavior change for use of home chlorination of water and, of course, handwashing.

I personally as a PCV have felt the psychological pains of not having regular access to a reliable water source. It was probably doubly traumatic for me, coming from a plumber’s family in the land of lakes in northern Wisconsin – we occasionally worried a little when lake levels got to low, but there was never a threat to the cubic meters coming out of the faucet. To go for days at a time not knowing if I would have water tomorrow took a mental toll during my two years in the remote north of the island. Now I rarely have any water concerns again, but I do not take for granted a single flush of the toilet or turning on the faucet. I still go into the field regularly and see communities that suffer on a daily basis.

So, today when you take your showers or buy a bottle of purified water, think of the millions around the world that don’t have that luxury.