Women carrying water in rural Ethiopia

WaterAid: Providing Safe Water and Sanitation in Ethiopia

Water is essential to life. Without water, humans and our world would not survive. Yet, 11% of the world’s population –  783 million people –  do not have access to safe water. Although many people living in the western world including myself often take water, sanitation and hygiene (collectively known as “WASH”) for granted, there are millions of people around the world who do not.

In fact, the figures are shocking:

  • 2.5 billion people – almost 35% of the world’s population – do not have access to adequate sanitation. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s almost 1,400 children a day. (WaterAid 2012/WHO 2008/The Lancet 2012*)
  • The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is commonly 40 pounds, the same as an airport luggage allowance.
  • Providing water, sanitation and hygiene together reduces the number of deaths caused by waterborne diseases by an average of 65%. (WHO)

When I was in Ethiopia this past June, I witnessed firsthand the drastic unavailability of water and sanitation services. It could be seen every time I left the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa, and headed out along the roads leading to the rural population which make up 90% of Ethiopia’s 90 million people. Woman walking for hours with yellow jerricans on their backs. Mule carts loaded with empty and full jerricans. Even children carrying jerricans and walking miles in search of safe water.

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Vivekananda Camp, Delhi India

A Snapshot of India

Sometimes it is true that a picture can paint a thousand words. This week’s photo challenge: A Split-Second Story, inspired me to dig deep throughout my vast archive of photographs, each one telling a story of a certain place and time. In my opinion, there is no place on earth that a simple photo can tell so much about a place than India.

India, one of the most populous countries on the earth, is full of color, contradiction, glory and pain. It is a place of wonder, sorrow, fear and hope. India bursts with humanity on every street or corner you pass. You can see it all there – poverty, wealth, good, bad, happy, sad, beauty and tragedy.

Behind the beautiful, lavish parts of India always lies the most abject poverty imaginable. Nothing can prepare you for the stark reality of desperation, misery and despair of walking through a real live slum in the heart of India’s capital. Sometimes the most severe poverty is hidden behind the walls and within the confines of a slum. Other times, it stares right back at you like a hard slap across your face. You try to look away, and ignore the creeping, uncomfortable nagging guilt. But you can’t.

Dignity

Vivekananda Camp, Delhi India

Woman leaving the newly constructed toilet compound thanks to WaterAid.

Irony

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Women living on the street, outside the walls of the American Embassy near Vivekananda Slums in Delhi, India.

In the background of the lush green, beautiful grounds of the American Embassy lies the Vivekananda Camp, one of many unauthorized slums that surround every single part of Delhi. I visited this slum as part of a tour with WaterAid, a global NGO that provides safe drinking water and sanitation to areas around the world that do not have access to it.

The stark contrast between the neighboring American Embassy and the Vivekananda Slum were almost too hard to morally comprehend. These two places represent the immense contradictions and inequalities that can be found all throughout Delhi and India as a whole. One of the greatest inequalities ever seen anywhere in the world is right there staring into your face, making it impossible to not feel deeply distraught.

In the Vivekananda Camp, a slum of approximately 500 households, there is no running water, no sewer lines and people live in absolute dire circumstances. Thanks to WaterAid, improvements to sanitation have been made by the building of a Community Toilet Complex (CTC), a compound containing 20 toilets for women, 20 for men and a few for children as well as a couple of showers, providing some sort of dignity in a place where dignity hardly exists.

When I saw the old woman leaving the Community Toilet Complex, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was moving slowly, at a snail’s pace, with the help of an old wooden cane. She was heading back into the deep confines of the dirty, dingy slum, to her home.  I watched her gait with wonder and hope. She had to be in her eighties and most likely spent almost all her life without a proper toilet. Finally after all these years she had the one thing every human being on this earth is entitled to: Dignity. It brought tears to my eyes for the simple things we take for granted.

Less than a third of people ( 772 million people) have access to sanitation in India, and 90 million people in India do not have access to safe water per WaterAid.  Over 186,000 children under five die from diarrhea every year. With 17% of the world’s population (over a billion people), the water crisis in India is only getting worse and is becoming life or death for millions of people.

-WaterAid

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-Second Story. To view more entries, click here

 

Note: Right after I posted this today I saw the following tragic press release from WaterAid. Lack of toilets reportedly linked to murder of Uttar Pradesh girls . Via @WaterAidAmerica

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World Water Day 2014: My #WaterStory

Author’s note: A modified version of this post was published today as well on Elephant Journal. To see this post click here

This Saturday, March 22, is World Water Day – a day delegated by the United Nations to recognize the importance and need of safe water around the world. In honor of this important day, I am thrilled to be working with the Mom Bloggers for Social Good and WaterAid to help raise awareness of the desperate need for safe drinking water and sanitation around the world. Safe water and sanitation transforms lives and is one of the keys to bringing people out of poverty.

What it’s all about. A Day. A Message. A Vision for Change. “Every drop Every Day”.

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Every day, millions of women walk miles to fetch water, often carrying a child too. When the child gets too heavy to carry, they are left at home, often unsupervised. Photo credit: WaterAid.

Did you know that 783 million people do not have access to safe drinking water?

Step back and think about this statistic for a moment. What would you do if you were not able to simply turn on your faucet and fill up your glass or pot with clean, safe water? How would you manage and care for your family?

To most of us in the Western world, the thought of not having instant access to clean, safe drinking water is literally unimaginable. However, for 11 % of the world’s population, this is a tragic reality. When you combine having unsafe drinking water with poor sanitation, it leads to diarrhea which kills 2,000 children every single day. Something completely unthinkable to many of us.

Millions of people are trapped in a world in which clean, fresh and safe water is not even a remote option and sanitation is also lacking. In fact, 1 in 3 people worldwide or 2.5 billion people – do not have access to a safe, private toilet. Not having safe water and sanitation lead to dire consequences and sadly reinforces illnesses, disease and death while significantly contributing to poverty.

In honor of bringing attention to the importance of safe water and sanitation for all, WaterAid has asked that we share our #WaterStory. When I was in India this past May with Mom Bloggers for Social Good, I saw firsthand how safe drinking water and sanitation needs impact people living in extreme poverty. I spent a scorching afternoon with temperatures climbing almost to 120 degrees Fahrenheit touring one of WaterAid’s work sites. Here is my story.

My Water Story:

Behind the beautiful, lavish parts of Delhi always lies the most abject poverty imaginable. I have read several books on the slums of India and thought I’d know what to expect when I saw them in person. Yet nothing I’d ever seen in all my years of travel could have prepared me for the stark reality of desperation, misery and despair of walking through a real live slum in the heart of India’s capital.

Vivekananda Camp

Women sitting outside the American Embassy near the Vivekananda Camp, an unauthorized slum in Delhi, India.

In the background of the lush green, beautiful grounds of the American Embassy lies the Vivekananda Camp, one of many unauthorized slums that surround every single part of Delhi. We visited this slum as part of our tour with WaterAid, a global NGO that provides safe drinking water and sanitation to areas around the world that do not have access to it.

The stark contrast between the neighboring American Embassy and the Vivekananda Slum were almost too hard to morally comprehend.  These two places represent the immense contradictions and inequalities that can be found all throughout Delhi and India as a whole. One of the greatest inequalities ever seen anywhere in the world is right there staring into your face, making it impossible to not feel deeply distraught.

In the Vivekananda Camp, a slum of approximately 500 households, there is no running water, no sewer lines and people live in absolute dire circumstances. Thanks to WaterAid, improvements to sanitation have been made by the building of a Community Toilet Complex (CTC), a compound containing 20 toilets for women, 20 for men and a few for children as well as a couple of showers, providing some sort of dignity in a place where dignity hardly exists.

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The Community Toilet Compound (CTC) inside the Vivekananda unauthorized slum.

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The entrance to the CTC which is a pay per use system costing 1 Rupee ($0.02) per use for women, 2 Rupees per use for men and free for children. The charge is used to maintain the facility.

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Inside the women’s CTC. This one is a clean facility. Others have run into problems with clogged sewers. Each CTC is managed and monitored by a community worker from FORCE, a local NGO. Therefore, when there are issues with a CTC it can be resolved.

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This concrete wall was added to the women’s toilet and shower area to provide privacy from the peeping Toms.

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A Vivekananda women using the CTC (left) and a FORCE Project Coordinator on the right.

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Vivekananda Slum.

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Less than a third of people ( 772 million people) have access to sanitation in India, and 90 million people in India do not have access to safe water per WaterAid.  Over 186,000 children under five die from diarrhea every year. With 17% of the world’s population (over a billion people), the water crisis in India is only getting worse and is becoming life or death for millions of people.

This post was written on behalf of my meeting with WaterAid India and our tour of the Vivekananda Slum. All statistics are sourced from WaterAid. All photos are mine.

What you can do:

Just in time for World Water Day, WaterAid is teaming up with Mom Bloggers for Social Good and Global Team of 200 member Jennifer Barbour March 16 – 23 to get a firsthand look at community involvement around water, toilets and hygiene education stands to revolutionize life within the Latin American Caribbean region.

We’ll be meeting up with inspirational women and girls who are eager to share their own #waterstory: a telling example of how smart investments around safe water and toilets can drive entrepreneurship, empower women and improve the health and wellbeing of entire communities.

Follow the journey on Jennifer’s blog and on social media using #WaterAidNica, then join us for a special World Water Day Twitter chat on Friday, March 21, 1pm ET, where Jennifer will be sharing her experience and welcoming your questions about all that she’s seen.

 

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The things we take for granted: Access to safe water

Today’s post is a guest post written by Sarah Dobsevage, Institutional Development Manager of WaterAid America. The post is about her recent experience in Senegal when a water pipeline broke down causing severe water shortages throughout Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. 

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The author, Sarah, with her mom, Ruth, and daughters, Meira, standing, and Talia, in her arms, in Saly. Photo credit: Sarah Dobsevage

 

As a mom, as a professional and as someone who loves to dive deeply into new cultures and experiences through travel, I’ve had an admittedly good lot in life.  I have two beautiful daughters, a tremendously fulfilling job at an international non-profit called WaterAid, and the opportunity to spend time overseas in support of WaterAid’s programs that are helping poor communities in 27 countries across the world get access to toilets and clean drinking water.

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Guest Post: On the Ground in Madagascar with WaterAid

Clean water and sanitation are a worldwide problem that impacts millions around the globe. The figures are startling and unimaginable. Per WHO/UNICEF estimates, 783 million people  (11% of the world’s population) in the world do not have access to safe water. 2.5 billion people (35% of world’s population) in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation. Tragically, around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s almost 2,000 children a day.

WaterAid is one of the world leaders in providing clean water and sanitation throughout the developing world. I have been honored to see their work on the ground during a May trip to India and have been sharing stories about their amazing work around the globe on my blog. Earlier this summer, I shared a story about the work WaterAid is doing in Madagascar to provide toilets and taps to school children.

Over the summer, WaterAid has worked to to reach 12,000 children in 31 schools by providing 150 taps and 100 toilets in Madagascar. Ernest Randriarimalala a field officer with WaterAid visited one of the projects in mid-July and I’m honored to share his update of the progress that has been made on the ground below.

Per Randriarimalala, “A key element of the photos here is about the hopes, dreams and potential for the future of the children in this primary school in Tsimahavaobe village. Some photos show children drawing and presenting their drawing of what they want to be when they grow up“. I hope you find this report inspiring of the the good we can do by giving people the simple luxury of safe water and sanitation.

WaterAid Madagascar

Children who have been helped by WaterAid’s work in Madagascar. Photo credit: Ernest Randriarimalala/WaterAid.

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Water for the World

When I was in India this past May with Mom Bloggers for Social Good, I saw firsthand how safe drinking water and sanitation needs impact people living in extreme poverty. I spent a scorching afternoon with temperatures climbing almost to 120 degrees Fahrenheit touring one of WaterAid’s work sites, an unauthorized slum named the Vivekananda Camp.

Vivekananda Camp.

Women living outside the Vivekananda Camp, an unauthorized slum that ironically is located right behind the walls of the American Embassy in Delhi.

At this one location, the people had been fortunate to finally receive somewhere safe and hygienic to use the bathroom. A community toilet compound. Although the slum did not have running water, at least it had somewhere people could go to take care of their bodily needs and help eliminate the spread of deadly diseases and the horrible humiliation of open defecation.

As I stood outside the Community Toilet Complex (CTC), I couldn’t help but rest my eyes on a painfully slow-moving woman. A woman who had undoubtedly spent her entire life living within the confines of a slum. She was hunched over and bent on her cane and slowly dragged her feet across the ground, one step at a time, as she left the Community Toilet Complex we had just toured.

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WaterAid Providing Taps and Toilets for Madagascar’s children

Close your eyes for a minute and picture Madagascar. What do you see? I see miles upon miles of pristine beaches, lush green tropical forests, exotic flora and fauna and brilliant blue sea. Madagascar, an island nation of 22 million people off the southeastern coast of Africa is home to several exotic species, 90% of which are unique to the country. Because of its isolation from other landmasses, most of Madagascar’s mammals, half its birds, and the majority of its plants exist nowhere else on earth.

This former French colony who gained their independence in 1960 is also home to a lesser, more ugly reality: Poverty. According to the World Bank, 69% of the population of Madagascar lives below the national poverty line threshold of one dollar per day (2011 statistic). With poverty brings hunger, malnutrition, disease, hardship and also lack of services such as access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Although running water, electricity and sanitation are provided by the government, sadly these services do not reach all the people. Based on 2010 estimates only 34% of the rural population have access to an improved water source (World Bank).  Sanitation fared worse: 79% of the urban and 88% of the rural population live with unimproved sanitation services (2010 estimates from the CIA World Factbook).

Not having safe drinking water or adequate sanitation is a major hurdle in receiving an education. In a country with only 64.5% literacy rates, education is a key to lifting people out of poverty yet what child, especially a girl, would want to go to school without a toilet?

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Last week WaterAid launched an exciting summer campaign to help provide proper sanitation and safe drinking water to Madagascar’s children. Over the next couple of months, WaterAid aims to reach 12,000 children in 31 schools by providing 150 taps and 100 toilets in Madagascar. What is so wonderful about this campaign is that all summer long you can follow the stories and updates of the children who will be impacted as well as the progress of the construction through the celebration on September 19th when the children return to school with taps and toilets for the very first time.  

Project Sekoly: Improving School Water and Sanitation in Madagascar

In Madagascar only 41% of the population has access to safe water and 11% to sanitation. We’ve been working here since 1999 and have helped more than 177,000 gain access to safe water and 145,000 to sanitation.  – WaterAid
Tsimahavaobe primary school in the town of Morondava is one of many schools in Madagascar with no toilets, no supply of safe water, and nowhere for pupils to wash their hands. We are asking supporters to join Project Sekoly, to help fund sustainable water and sanitation facilities for desperately poor schools in Madagascar. Your support will ultimately result in the poorest children in Madagascar staying healthy, gaining a better education and having the opportunity to achieve their potential. – WaterAid
What you can do?

Over the next few weeks you can follow the story as children in Madagascar get the water and sanitation they need to keep them healthy enough to build their dreams.

Follow their story on Twitter at the hashtag #buildfutures

About WaterAid:
WaterAid was founded in 1981 and works tirelessly to provide clean water and sanitation for Africa, Asia and Central America. Since its inception, WaterAid has dramatically changed lives and has worked closely together with local organizations, communities and individuals, to employ affordable and locally appropriate solutions to provide safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene education to people in developing countries

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In the Background: Life in a Delhi Slum

Behind the beautiful, lavish parts of Delhi always lies the most abject poverty imaginable. I have read several books on the slums of India and thought I’d know what to expect when I saw them in person. Yet nothing I’d ever seen in all my years of travel could have prepared me for the stark reality of desperation, misery and despair of walking through a real live slum in the heart of India’s capital.

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Moms advocate for safe water: Recap of World Water Day 2013

Last Friday, March 22 was World Water Day 2013, a powerful day of advocacy and awareness worldwide about the importance of safe water and sanitation. As part of the Global Team of 200, a group of social good mom bloggers from across the country who concentrate on women and girls, child hunger, and maternal health, I wrote my piece titled “Coming together for World Water Day“.

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Photo credit: WaterAid

Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good and The Global Team of 200 wrote this piece today on the popular blog site Babble called “Mom Bloggers in the Importance of Water” which documents the work our volunteer team of social good mom bloggers did for World Water Day 2013. I was honored to read it and wanted to share it with you all.

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Coming together for World Water Day, Friday March 22

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This Friday, March 22, is World Water Day – a day delegated by the United Nations to recognize the importance and need of safe water around the world. In honor of this important day, I am thrilled to be working with the Global Team of 200 and WaterAid to help raise awareness of the desperate need for safe drinking water and sanitation around the world. Safe water and sanitation transforms lives and is one of the keys to bringing people out of poverty.

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Water is just the beginning because… it helps build a more prosperous future. For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of $4 is returned in increased productivity, thanks to time saved and better health. Photo Credit: WaterAid.

Did you know that 783 million people do not have access to safe drinking water?

Step back and think about this statistic for a moment. What would you do if you were not able to simply turn on your faucet and fill up your glass or pot with clean, safe water?

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Until recently, Ayelech, a 22-year-old mother of two living in Lehayte, Ethiopia spent over two hours a day searching for water and carrying it home in two large jerry cans on her back. She gave birth to her second child Oytiba while on the side of river filling her cans. Photo credit: WaterAid.

What would you do if you had to spend an hour or two each and every day fetching clean drinking water?

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With a safe water source close to home, people in the world’s poorest countries have a lot more time and water to cultivate crops, saving money and improving their diets at the same time. Photo credit: WaterAid.

How would you manage? How would you live your life? And more importantly, how would you care for your family?

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School-age children spent their days scrambling up narrow rocky trails, carrying home dirty water instead of going to school. Photo Credit: WaterAid.

To most of us in the Western world, the thought of not having instant access to clean, safe drinking water is literally unimaginable. However, for 11 % of the world’s population, this is a tragic reality. When you combine having unsafe drinking water with poor sanitation, it leads to diarrhea which kills 2,000 children every single day. Something completely unthinkable to many of us.

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Every day, millions of women walk miles to fetch water, often carrying a child too. When the child gets too heavy to carry, they are left at home, often unsupervised. Photo credit: WaterAid.

Millions of people are trapped in a world in which clean, fresh and safe water is not even a remote option and has led to dire consequences. Preventable deaths and diseases, wasted time spent fetching water each day, lack of access for girls to education due to no adequate sanitation, and lower economic output for the nations without safe water and sanitation. Not having safe water or sanitation keeps people trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty with little chance of escape.

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Water really is just the beginning…..these children are thrilled with their recently constructed toilet that provides them with good sanitation and privacy. Safe water really helps keep girls in school too. Photo credit: WaterAid.

But there is hope as the problem of unsafe drinking water is entirely solvable.

This Friday, join WaterAid and the Global Team of 200 to help spread the word about global water poverty. There are a variety of ways you can participate in this day and help spread awareness.

How you can help:

  • Follow WaterAid on Twitter and Facebook and share our posts on the #20ways that water is just the beginning of the road out of poverty. Also follow along with the Twitter has tag #WorldWaterDay 2013 for the latest news.
  • Join the World Water Day Google+ Hangout at 1.30pm EST/ 5:30PM GMT on Friday, March 22 at http://ow.ly/iZCdj  – WaterAid and other leading water organizations (such as  +charity: water, +Water.org, +Water For People, +People Water) will be discussing the world water crisis and solutions in a celebration moderated by YouTube star Justine Ezarik and WaterAid America’s Head of Policy and Advocacy, Lisa Schechtman (@LSchecht).
  • Make a donation: as experts in practical, hands-on water solutions WaterAid has brought clean water to 17.5 million people. But we need your help to achieve our aim of helping 1.4 million more people this year.

Please also watch WaterAid’s beautiful video “Water is Just the beginning” and share it.

Lives are transformed when hours spent carrying water are instead spent with family, tending crops, raising livestock or starting a business. Simple access to water, toilets, and hygiene education keeps families healthy, women and girls safe, and children in school. In communities around the world, WaterAid has helped 17.5 million people take the first steps out of poverty.

Together we can make the world a better place!

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Photo credit: WaterAid.

Visit www.wateraidamerica.org/worldwaterday for all the latest World Water Day news. To learn more about WaterAid’s work and statistics, please click here. 

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WaterAid: Imagine life without access to clean water

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All photos credited to WaterAid and used with permission.

Can you imagine living a life without access to clean water or sanitation? Something as basic yet critical as clean water and access to a toilet is a luxury that many people around the world in developing nations simply don’t have.

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