World Water Day 2020: We all have a role to play
Today we’re celebrating the nonprofit partners in our network like Village Water, that work to secure access to safe water and sanitation around the world.
The article below was written by Beth Llewellyn, Fundraising Officer at Village Water
Every year on March 22, we celebrate World Water Day. It’s a day to remember how important water is to our daily lives. It’s a day to mobilize each other and address the issues that truly need our focus.
As the global population grows, so does the demand for water, which depletes natural resources and damages the environment in many places. This year’s theme, ‘Water and Climate Change’, explores how the two are inextricably linked.
We’ve got ten years until the ambitious international Sustainable Development Goals —17 global goals set to achieve a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for all—are set to be achieved. So many of these goals are underpinned by having access to safe water and sanitation: good health and well-being, reducing poverty, gender equality, improving food security and access to work and education and of course, tackling climate change.
Founded in 2004, Village Water is a non-profit organisation working closely with local communities, council and businesses in rural Africa to improve access to everyone’s basic human rights of safe water and sanitation.
Real progress has been made and millions have been reached since The United Nations declared safe water and sanitation as a human right in 2010, with over 90% of the world’s population now able to access improved sources of drinking water. Village Water is proud to have played a part in this in Mozambique and Zambia.
What does ‘improved’ water source mean? Sources that have the potential to deliver safe water by nature of their design and construction, and include: piped water and protected dug wells and springs.
But there is still a long way to go. And, people living in the world’s poorest countries are most at risk.
In another 10 years, we can achieve so much. But, only by working together.
We’re building water systems, not just pumps.
Right now, 22% of water points in sub-Saharan Africa are broken. Communities don’t know how to look after their pump long term or how to engage with their local water services, or they are not maintained or managed by donors or the NGOs who funded or installed them.
At Village Water, we work with a coalition of partners—councils, civil society groups, public services, small enterprises and communities themselves—to ensure each project is locally-appropriate and sustainable. As a result, 92% of the water points we’ve installed since 2004 are functioning. All construction and repairs of wells are done by local enterprises we trained over the last 10 years and we have annual plans in place to fix those that are broken.
We revisit every village we work with, so we can know the positive impacts of our projects last for generations. Take Nalitongo, the first village Village Water ever worked with 16 years on, the pump in Nalolo village is still fully functioning and the community is thriving.
The villagers explained how because of the safe water point they no longer went hungry. With more time and energy, they were able to set up 8 village gardens so there was enough for everyone to eat, and sold the surplus. They invested the additional income back into their community and built a school which still teaches two classes a day. Safe water and better health means so more opportunities for everyone.
Power to the people, especially girls and women
We say especially girls and women because they are disproportionately affected. Women and girls represent half of the population and therefore half its potential. But, today gender inequality persists, women and girls face discrimination in their homes and are still underrepresented in their communities.
It’s women and girls who bear the burden of fetching water for the family, carrying heavy containers many times a day, often over long distances. This means crippling neck and back pain. It means less time to work or spend in school which means women are more likely than men to be illiterate than men, have fewer career prospects, earn a lower income or own less land. Stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of dignified, private wash rooms and toilets mean many girls drop out of school completely.
Our menstrual health education programs break the taboos around periods. In 2018, we set up the first sanitary pad workshops in 6 schools, providing sewing machines, sanitary pad templates and hired a professional tailor. That year, 657 girls learn how to make their own reusable and washable sanitary pads.
Women in the community are given a voice through safe water and sanitation. Gracious used to hand-dig wells, which is laborious and dangerous. She learned safer drilling techniques with Village Water and after completing the training, set up her own business, employing local people whilst also making safe water available to families in the area.
Water can help fight climate change
Global emissions of CO2 have increased by almost 50% since 1990. Water and climate change are intrinsically linked so water projects should be taking action to tackle it.
Without a safe source of water near home most people in rural areas get their water from streams, rivers or collect surface water from holes in the ground. The water is dirty so it must be boiled to make it safe to use. Women and girls spend hours every day collecting water and firewood.
Open fire stoves contribute to indoor air pollution and respiratory disease such as pneumonia. The use of these wood fuels also increase pressures on local natural resources and contributes to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases from deforestation, when communities extract wood faster than forests can regenerate, and destroys wildlife habitats.
But, with a safe water point water no longer needs to be boiled, so CO2 emissions drop, and air quality improves
Natural disasters are exacerbated by climate change. Flooding after the 2018 Cyclone Idai in Mozambique reached catastrophic levels, killing hundreds and leaving hundreds of thousands displaced. We set up an emergency appeal, raising over £20,000 to reach 5,550 people who were in desperate need of water, food, shelter and basic health care.
In 2020, we’re looking at how we can incorporate climate-reducing solutions into our project and help those who are impacted by natural disasters out of their control. We’re aiming to rehabilitate 1,000 broken pumps so rural communities can access safe water near their home, removing the need to boil water to make it safe. Many of these projects will take place in resettlement camps that were set up to accommodate families who’d lost their homes because of the cyclone.
Everyone has a role to play, and we must act now
We have ten years to achieve universal access to water and sanitation as set out in The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Together, we can help more people access their basic human rights and make the water crisis history.
Right now more than ever, we’re all realizing the importance of washing hands, and having clean water to do so. With the current uncertainties and health issues we’re facing globally our thoughts go out to people who don’t have that option.
Help us reach more people for World Water Day. You can support safe water projects by leaving Village Water a donation.
For more information on our work, visit www.villagewater.org