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.

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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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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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