A Glass of Clean Water Before it Gets Hotter

A glass of water in a desertThis summer the United States and many other places around the world have taken a back seat to the deadly crisis of drought. Texas, eastern China and predominantly African countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya and many others are all suffering some of the most severe droughts of the century. While many here in the US are suffering high temperatures of 110+ degrees, there are many countries suffering the same and worse, a lack of clean water. While some of us may be able to go to the sink or refrigerator and pour a glass of cool clean water and even add ice cubes, not everyone can take clean available water for granted. In many places in sub-Saharan Africa, collecting water for a family to drink can be a days worth of work. Often times, children miss school if their family needs to collect water that day. It is not unheard of for families to walk up to four hours in a day to get water, and then tirelessly carry it back to their home. That walk is often also a risky one, particularly for women and girls who experience attacks on isolated paths.

As we all know, access to clean water is essential to our health and wellbeing.  Without clean water, people are susceptible to dangerous health risks such as diarrhea. It has been stated by the Water Aid Organization that “Diarrhea kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined” making it the second leading cause of death to children worldwide according to the WHO. As a result, many organizations and projects work to make clean water readily and easily available to communities who lack this resource.

A water catchment system

One such example is a Zimbabwean grassroots organization, New Hope Foundation. In 2005, New Hope saw the need for clean water in schools. They decided the best approach was to first provide water purification tablets to 100 schools. Just one of these tablets can purify 4-5 liters of water and are easy to transport and use. New Hope then learned that 33 of the schools were operating without water, or with water only once per week. They were in the midst of a cholera outbreak at the time, making the situation that much more important to address. They quickly put together a plan for water holding tanks to be placed just outside of the schools. The tanks ensure a decent amount of water could be supplied at all times. They received funds from UNICEF to purchase the tanks, but still needed them delivered and installed. New Hope then approached Firelight for help to transport the tanks and to conduct two workshops about the tanks design and water sanitation. Now, children have a larger supply of clean and available water to be used for hand washing and drinking. Community members are trained on water sanitation and water tanks, making the water supply that much more sustainable.

Others have taken different approaches to achieving consistent access to clean water. Knowing that women and children typically use large,

women using the hippo roller at a water source

heavy buckets to carry water, two South African engineers designed the Hippo Roller. On average, grown women carry about 5 gallons of water on their heads. This is about the same size as an airport luggage allowance for a comparison. Inspired by the wheelbarrow, the Hippo Roller is basically one big wheel filled with water that can be rolled long distances. This makes it possible to transport more water with less physical strain.

Another project, from the Vestergaard-Frandsen Foundation, provides carbon-based filtering systems to communities in Kenya. The filtering systems decrease the need and expense of firewood to purify water, making clean water more affordable and readily accessible.

Water is essential for good health, as well as a standard to our quality of life. Clean, accessible water enables children to be bathed, hands to be washed, and food to be prepared with a smaller chance of contamination. Africa is one of the lowest consumers of the world’s natural resources, yet continues to struggle for access to the clean water that many of us easily reach for without a second thought.

So while we sit in our offices, cars and homes and sweat and complain about the heat, we may want to give a little more thought and consideration to the water crises going on around us and the grassroots groups working to correct them. Even small donations make it more possible for grassroots organizations to form partnerships with organizations like Firelight and many others that bring forth new ideas, resources, and fresh ingenuity to solving their community’s needs. What we here in the States can do is help them to achieve these important goals by showing our support, applauding their efforts and staying informed.