Clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene
Nigel Barraclough, a speaker for WaterAid for 15 years, outlined the problems facing countries across the world, particularly in the global south. With his background in the water industry, he was an authoritative speaker, more so because he had lived in Uganda for several years and experienced for himself the problems of living without a reliable water supply.
Here’s a quick quiz for starters (answers at the end of the next paragraph):
a) How many people don’t have a decent and functioning toilet – can be compost – in the world?
b) How many people don’t have access to clean water?
c) How much water do you use daily (on average)?
d) How much water does it take to grow 100g of coffee? This is water that could go to ordinary people and forms only a small part of demands made by the developed world for fruits and other luxuries.
To set this in context, in 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 64/292 recognising ‘the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights’. Thirteen years after this was passed, here are the answers to the questions above:
a) 1.7 billion
b) 3 billion
c) around 100 litres
d) 1,900 litres.
WaterAid does all it can to improve matters with its simple aims of ‘Clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene’. Founded in 1981, with King Charles as its long-time president, it has now provided clean water to 21.8 million people. Perhaps this is a drop in the ocean (pun intended) but each village or town with clean water has freed people from hours of thankless trudging to and from a reliable water source, leading to higher school attendance, less sickness and lower mortality rates. The extra time enables people to focus on educating themselves and their families as well as making a living, often by growing subsistence food crops. Nigel showed us a picture of Evelyne, from Burkina Faso, whose life was changed by ready access to clean water.
Despite its considerable success and excellent reputation for reliable, long-term solutions, WaterAid’s problems are increasing, largely because of climate change. More and worsening extreme weather events and long-term changes in weather patterns; more droughts; declining crop and fishing yields; loss of habitat – the list goes on. It’s worth checking WaterAid’s excellent website where they give several detailed case histories of their successes.
One that resonated with me was from the La Guajira area of Colombia where, before WaterAid Colombia began work in the area, around 96% of the people had no access to clean water. Lina and Elvira had to make an hour-long journey to a neighbouring village’s well whenever they needed water. Now they have a well in their village.
Nigel finished by pointing out that each year on 22 March we have World Water Day to draw attention to these problems. October 15th is Global Handwashing Day – we take for granted the ability to wash our hands but for many in the world this is still an unattainable luxury.
I have supported WaterAid for many years with a monthly donation and note with pleasure that his fee for speaking will go to that charity. Thank you, Nigel.