Water: A Matter of Life and Death
By Patricia Patyrak
March 22, 2012
Editor's note: Today is World Water Day, a day designated to acknowledge the global clean water shortage and promote conversations about how we can make better use of the limited amounts we have. Here, Patricia Patyrak writes about the fluidity of water as it crosses borders from nourishment into preventable disease, and the vital importance of this natural resource.
There is a silent and deadly problem in this world that kills more people every year than any form of violence or disease. It does not discriminate against age, gender or ethnicity, but claims the lives of nearly thousands every day. This silent killer is contaminated water.
If you knew that the water you were giving to your child was slowly killing them, would you continue to hand them a cup? What if you or your child had to walk miles every day in harsh, unbearable conditions, worrying about being attacked by wild animals or rebels, just to fetch contaminated water? Would you sacrifice your life? For millions of people in the developing world, this is their daily reality.
On any given day, women and children in the developing world will spend their entire day collecting water for their family’s needs. Also on that day, more than 13,000 people will die from water-related diseases, and 6,000 of them will be children.
Water is a health problem. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to an improved, clean source of water. More than 2.6 billion people—half of the developing world—live without basic sanitation. While you read this article, a child will die every 15 seconds from contaminated water. In fact, more than 80 percent of the world’s diseases can be attributed to unsafe water sources, sanitation and hygiene.Water is an economic problem. An estimated 40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa. Most of the developing world is living on less than $1 a day. Their perpetual poverty only worsens when their source of water is a lake, river, stream, pond or mud hole. Such sources may provide the necessary amount of water to survive, but they also subject people to contaminants and both waterborne and water-related diseases. Unimproved sources of water cause illness. Illness not only costs money to treat, but prevents productivity and thus, sustains an impoverished lifestyle. Access to clean water, adequate sanitation and health education could be the determining agent to break the cycle of poverty.
Water is an education problem. Young girls are often prevented from attending school because they must travel great distances to retrieve water for their families. If their communities are provided with a clean source of water, these girls will spend less time retrieving water and have more time to receive an education. Clean water can revolutionize a family, community or a nation. It can be the difference between a young girl receiving an education or not.
Water is also a woman’s problem. In many developing countries, women and their daughters bear the primary burden in collecting water to sustain their families. Women must maintain the household, which means taking care of children, cooking and cleaning—all of which require water.
We can do something about this, and spreading awareness about the world water crisis is a start. One example is Living Water International (LWI), which since 1990 has provided integrated water solutions for the developing world that address disease prevention, better health and hygienic practices and encourages multiple uses of water for sustainable development. Currently, LWI operates in 22 countries in the regions of Central and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Though each country operation is different, the principles remain the same—to provide a cup of water in Jesus’ name to the thirsty and dying, to give them hope and a chance at an improved quality of life.
There are many ways to get involved and become a part of the solution. LWI offers a fundraising project for youth groups, churches and college students called The H2O project, which challenges groups to make water their only beverage for two weeks. In that two-week period, save the money normally spent on soda, coffee or juice and contribute it back to LWI to drill water wells around the world. It only takes $1 to give one person clean water for one year. For those that want to experience the impact of a new water well in a village, LWI offers mission trips to Central America. This seven- day trip focuses on drilling and installing a well in a village, sharing simple, healthy hygiene practices with the women and facilitating a VBS program for the children.
You can learn more about Living Water International, The H2O Project or mission trips please visit www.water.cc.
Sources: World Health Organization, LWI