Think for one moment of a time when you were extremely thirsty and in need of a drink of water. Perhaps you may have been exercising or working outdoors on a hot summer day; to quench your thirst you proceeded to the kitchen faucet or refrigerator and filled your glass with safe, clean drinking water. None of us have ever given it a second thought that the water would not be there for us. It is something that those living in the developed world take for granted. We have all been conditioned to believe that water is an infinitely abundant resource; always there when we need it. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Water scarcity presents a real problem and constitutes a growing threat to the stability in many regions of the world.
Are you skeptical or do you know someone who may be skeptical about this issue? Well, imagine the same scenario of working outdoors under a hot summer sun; only now, rather than residing in the developed world, the skeptic is living in the developing world. Desperate for some water, you may head to a nearby village or stream in search of water. Sadly, when you arrive you learn the villagers have no water and the stream you sought water at is polluted. Hard to contemplate, isn’t it? Yes, of course, but this is the cruel reality many of the worlds’ citizens face each and every day. Are you or that person you know still skeptical? Let’s take a closer look at the issue.
United Nations Leads the Way by Taking Note of the Problem
Historically, the U.N. has taken the lead when it pertains to the global crisis of water. Through its international conferences such as: The United Nations Water Conference (1977), the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990), the International Conference on Water and the Environment (1992) and the Earth Summit (1992), the U.N. has been at the forefront in assisting the peoples of the world garner access to clean water. Through the 10 year period, “The Decade”, the world body was able to help 1.3 billion people achieve success in gaining access to clean water – no small accomplishment! In 1993, the U.N. declared March 22 as World Water Day in an effort to heighten awareness of this issue. The global body deemed 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation. Based on U.N. statistics, the added attention the crisis receives is highly warranted.
For example, there are close to 1.1 billion people who do not have access to clean water, and approximately 2.5 billion people who lack proper sanitation. As a result, 6-8 million people die each year from waterborne diseases and from the consequences of disasters. The exponential growth in the global population places an undue burden on an already fragile resource. By 2050, estimates peg the world population at 10 billion people –4.4 billion of whom will reside in areas where severe water shortages will undoubtedly occur. By 2030, there will be a 50% increase in the demand for water; the greatest portion of the demand coming from agriculture, which uses in excess of 70% of the global water output. The majority of the usage comes from irrigation of farmland necessary for food production. A growing population will require more food increasing the hardship of an already weakened resource. Further exacerbating the problem, the U.N. points out, is the fact that 85% of the global population dwells in regions where the geography is unforgiving; namely, the land is extremely arid. To illustrate this, consider that 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in water-scarce areas and this part of the continent will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goals target by 2015. NGOs Pitch in to Tackle the Problem
According to the international Christian organization, Samaritan’s Purse, 1.58 million people die from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, improper sanitation and poor hygiene. This equates to one person dying every 20 seconds. Regrettably, the majority of the deaths are children. This is all very preventable. Samaritan’s Purse has been doing their part to assist the new nation of South Sudan mitigate some of its water scarcity issues. The organization is drilling wells to help communities gain access to a clean water source. “Every well will provide water to about 60 households, which is about 300 to 400 people,” according to Ken Isaacs, the Vice President of Programs and Government Relations. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/wells-for-south-sudan/
Mr. Isaacs continued by saying, “That well will give them access to clean water. That well will give them closer proximity to the water source, reducing the amount of time that the ladies have to walk to get it and also increasing the amount of total liters or gallons that’s available for the household. The net result of all this is a healthy family.”
Another international NGO performing quality work in this respect is WaterAid. The organization lays out four aims as part of its Global Strategy:
“…promote and secure poor people’s rights and access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.” · “…support governments and service providers in developing their capacity to deliver safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.” “…advocate for the essential role of safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation in human development.” · “…further develop as an effective global organization recognized as a leader in our field and for living our values.”
What was particularly alarming to me personally in WaterAid’s report was the statistic that 4,000 children die each day from diarrhea. Can you imagine a child in the developed world dying from diarrhea? It’s a travesty that this occurs in our world today. The Human Right to Water
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly acknowledged that every person has a human right to sufficient, safe, acceptable, affordable and physically accessible sources of water. International human rights law recognizes water as a human right whether specifically stated or inferred as part of another right, such as the right to an adequate standard of living. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights (two documents from 1966) protect the human right to water under the auspices of the right to life, health, housing and food.
The residents of the developing world have the same right to this basic necessity of life that we in the developed world enjoy; the U.N. has taken some important steps to ensure this happens.
Important to Educate and Keep This Issue Front and Center
Is skepticism still part of your thinking, or perhaps the person you know? I am not quite sure after all that was said how one could still not believe that we face a global water crisis of immense proportions. It is imperative that we continue to engage in a dialogue on this matter. The U.N.’s International Year of Water Cooperation (2013) is an important step to keep the issue at the forefront and on the minds of policymakers, and citizens alike.