In the hours after the Haiti earthquake, World Concern took an inventory of the basic needs facing people who had lost everything. Food, water and shelter were the top three. But when it came right down to it, water was the single greatest need. Within a few days, people would be fighting for their lives – desperate for a drink.
When I visited Port-au-Prince a week after the quake, one of the most tense moments I encountered was a fight about water. People wanted it, and we were trying to meet the need as best we can. But the need was too great. Water truly equals life and survival.
Today is World Water Day. If you have the opportunity to run the tap and receive clean water today, consider yourself privileged. One in six humans have to live using an unclean source for drinking water. It means they walk miles to get a drink, and waterborne diseases like typhoid and intestinal parasites become a part of their lives.
In post-earthquake Haiti, broken sewage lines intermingled with water lines, making the water dangerous to drink. In places where we work in Africa, poor sanitation leads to contaminated water sources. This contaminated water leads to disease and parasites, which slows learning, stunts growth and prematurely kills millions of people.
Only though community hygiene education and improved water sources are we able to change the equation. At first, it may be through an emergency supply of bottled water, like in Haiti after the earthquake. Longer-term, our humanitarian aid may include improving water systems, or even inventing them entirely, as we do in dozens of poor communities throughout the world.
For this World Water Day, you can change the life of someone in desperate need, by digging a hand-dug well for $300, to benefit several families, or investing in a machine-drilled well. A share is $100, the entire well is $3,000. It will will transform an entire village. (And with grants we get a 5:1 match on machine drilled wells in Kenya!)
So here’s to good health, and safe water – even to families in Haiti and in other hurting places around the world.