By: Amanda Viviers
World Water Day on March 22 is observed globally each year to highlight the importance of fresh water.
It’s hard to understand the context of the availability of water when it has always been there at the turn of a tap. So as the world slows to recognise the importance of this sacred resource, I wanted to highlight some of the impacts of fresh water in the developing world.
Clean water is a privilege. It takes infrastructure, environmental policies, and the capacity of communities to work together. It’s something that often can be assumed is a core part of every human’s existence. But it’s not! We are not all one and the same. The privileges afforded to some are not the same as others.
Water Changes Everything
When safe water comes to a community, everything changes.
Access to safe water and sanitation is essential in preventing malnutrition, particularly during challenging times like the global food crisis. When children have access to safe water and sanitation, they spend less time sick, and more time playing and learning, while families are no longer forced to spend hours collecting water. Currently, there are 345 million people experiencing severe food insecurity and that number does not include those who are impacted by the impact of lack of access to water as well.
A Moment of Reflection
Take a moment to reflect on what it feels like to drink a glass of fresh water when you are thirsty.
Now remember that this feeling is the same right that every person, made in the image of a loving, kind and generous God, deserves to experience. This is a hard truth to digest in contemporary times, but it is also magnified by the Global Food Crisis.
It’s an opportunity for us as Christians to reflect on what our response is, to help those who are most vulnerable.
A Collision of Crises
The difficult collision of the global food crisis with unsafe water and sanitation is placing children’s lives at risk. Water is the key element that impacts children’s nutritional development. Safe water is even more important to children impacted by the global food crisis because unsafe water and sanitation can lead to, or worsen, malnutrition. Up to 50 percent of malnutrition is linked to chronic diarrhoea, parasites and other infections caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
These conditions leave children unable to absorb nutrients properly, regardless of the food they eat. Because of this, access to safe water and sanitation is just as important as food for children and families facing food insecurity.
Lessons Being Learnt
The following principles, can show us how we can continue to find ways to advocate and support this vital need in the developing world.
1) Water solutions need to be facilitated locally.
We’re learning that the local approach in the area of water and sanitation needs to be facilitated by our local church partners who have decades of trust and relationships within their community. So that they are maintained and carried on with the infrastructure required.
2) Community ownership and education are key to a successful, sustainable water intervention. As part of the project, the community is empowered with knowledge about hygiene, sanitation, and water storage.
3) Access to water is for all, not just a small group.
Water initiatives have a far-reaching effect, often being open to the general community and not just the children or families involved in the programs.
Some countries that these lessons have been gathered from are:
- Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Uganda, where roughly half the population do not have access to basic drinking water (47%, 50%, 56% respectively).
- Kenya, Togo, and Haiti, where roughly a third of the country do not have access to basic drinking water (62%, 69%, and 67% respectively.)
Take Time to Learn
As the world celebrates World Water Day on March 22, take some time to think about how you can learn more about the lived experience of poverty, and the impact of water and sanitation.
And, if you’re a person of prayer, I’d love to encourage you to take a moment and pray.
- Pray for those who are experiencing the Global Food Crisis and its impact.
- Pray for those who are experiencing the effect of water scarcity and its impact on their local neighbourhood.
- And pray for the infrastructure, and skill required to maintain these services, to come to places of poverty – so that when safe water flows, everything changes!
Article supplied with thanks to Compassion Australia.
About the author: Amanda Viviers is an Author, Public Speaker and Radio Presenter, and is the Creative Director at Compassion Australia.