Why water? Water is the topic of 2010’s Blog Action Day, an annual campaign to utilize social media to raise awareness around important global issues. And because water is essential for life – which is kind of a ridiculous and cliché statement. But it’s true. Right now, almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us. Can you imagine what your life would be like without clean water?
Lack of water drives conflict, limits development, and endangers the health of communities around the world.
Jeffery Sachs claims that the lack of accessible, clean water is driving local conflicts, a fact unchanged by the evolution of technology or civilization. This map highlights examples of these conflicts over the past two thousand years, and by looking at the examples of the past decade you can see that the largest conflict zones we hear in the news – Sudan, Palestine, Somalia, Central African Republic – all have some roots in water scarcity. Civil conflicts also reinforce the challenges water scarcity, and high numbers of internal displacement and refugees are at the highest risks. In places like Darfur, where water is often a great distance from villages and camps, women who venture out to reach clean water sources become the victims of gender based violence.
Water is also an issue of sustainable development, and the lack of water will dictate the ability of the community to achieve higher standards of education, improved health, stable food sources, and economic vitality. Contaminated water contributes to the spreading of preventable disease and endangers maternal and child health, as does poor sanitation and hygiene. Children cannot succeed in schools if they are unhealthy, malnourished, or unclean. Girls’ education especially suffers when a school’s facilities do not have water or gender appropriate latrines available. Economic development programs cannot flourish in a community stagnated by lack of water, and when clean water becomes a luxury instead of a necessity. When women and children, who are often those responsible for getting water for their families, are forced to spend all of their time searching for sources of clean water, they cannot participate in schools, in local organizations and civil society, or in increasing their household income. Maria Otero, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, writes on the “Ripple Effect” of water, and its importance as a policy objective for United States development and diplomacy policies around the world, adding “water represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities and challenges of our time.” One of my heroes, CARE’s CEO Helene Gayle, also discusses water’s ripple effect.
So, why water? Because it’s not just important, it’s essential.
Media Source: charity:water