Imagine waking up tomorrow without water to brush your teeth, brew your morning cup of coffee, or take a shower. For millions of people all over the undeveloped world, that is their reality: They wake up in homes that do not have running water. And to get water for their most basic needs, they must often walk long distances.
My grandmother grew up in the 1930s when her village of Cambita in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, was under the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. When her family needed water, she walked more than a mile to the nearest well. She was always proud to tell the story of the day she was walking to the well when a man on horseback rode up to her. As he approached, Mamá Amparo realized it was Trujillo the dictator himself, and her heart pounded. “Hey, little girl, where are you going?” he said to her.
“I’m walking to the well because there’s no water in our neighborhood,” she said. Mamá Amparo said he was surprised by just how far she had to walk to get the water, and about two weeks later, a public faucet was installed in her neighborhood. There was still no running water in her home, but she never had to walk a mile for it again.
And despite complaints from her neighbors, Mamá Amparo never waited in line to use that faucet. She defiantly told everyone the faucet was hers, since Trujillo himself had ordered its installation after their conversation. It was only natural for her not to have to wait in line to use it.
Now, about 80 years later, there are about 783 million people worldwide, without access to safe drinking water, which are living like my grandmother did. In these underdeveloped areas without access to water, droughts are common, which cause severe food shortages. Lack of water also results in improper sanitation and hygiene measures, and prevents the development of these countries in areas such as education, nutrition, and economic growth. The deaths that occur as a result of these chain reactions measure more than any other natural disaster during the last century.
World Water Day Turns 20
Today is the 20th annual World Water Day, which generates awareness about the importance of fresh water and sustainable management worldwide. UNESCO established 2013 as the International Year on Water Cooperation and its focus is to educate the public about how international water cooperation can help countries in need of fresh water.
UNESCO wants to generate conversations about how to find innovative ways to increase availability of fresh water resources across the globe and ensure sustainability of these resources. Working together, innovating, and continuing to build awareness about this subject is part of the International Year on Water Cooperation celebration.
Using green toilets and faucets and taking shorter showers will help preserve water for future generations. However, there are organizations like the International Medical Corps that are working to make water, sanitation, and hygiene a priority worldwide and supporting their cause is also a great way to contribute in getting access to fresh water to areas in need.
Through their work, International Medical Corps educates vulnerable populations on hygiene and disease prevention practices and help prevent water-related illnesses. Here’s how to help support International Medical Corps:
1) Donate to their organization to fund their multiple programs worldwide
2) Help them raise $25,000 to pilot and pre-position the innovative DayOne Waterbag which uses water purification packets to provide clean water after a natural disaster.
Happy World Water Day!