BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Historically, Argentina has struggled greatly with providing equal access to water in both urban and rural areas within the country. Recently, however, there have been greater efforts by the government to provide clean water in marginalized regions. The National Water Project of 2016-19, for instance, is a $208 million investment which aims to guarantee potable water to regions in need. Moreover, in the last decade, there have been increased efforts by state-owned water companies to improve transparency with the establishment of technical regulatory agencies.
The Slums of Buenos Aires
Despite improvements being made in the country, clean water inequality remains a serious and pressing issue. A clear example of the urgency and great need for water is evident in the “villas” or slums found throughout the greater Buenos Aires. According to data from 2016, there are 419,401 families in the peripheries of Buenos Aires living in 1,134 slums. Because there’s often little access to safe drinking water in these slums, it is common for families to drink from polluted wells— a direct cause of a variety of diseases.
And while Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández, has made it a nearly monthly effort to inaugurate piped, clean water in marginalized regions, the percentage of children who have guaranteed access to clean water in greater Buenos Aires only dropped by 3.6 percent from 2010 to 2016. Even though access to clean water is considered basic a human right, one in every three children in greater Buenos Aires lacks access to drinkable water. Given these conditions, Argentine doctor Nicolás Wertheimer knew that more must be done for the Argentinian people.
Proyecto Agua Segura (Safe Water Project)
Seeing that the process of universal clean water access shouldn’t be left to the public sector in order to accomplish quick and effective progress, Wertheimer began Argentina’s Proyecto Agua Segura (“Safe Water Project”) 2015. In an effort to maximize availability to treated water, the social enterprise first began by introducing technology in marginalized regions to help purify the water. Such technology works to rid water of parasites, bacteria and viruses.
Since its beginnings, Proyecto Agua Segura has transformed into a widespread and collaborative initiative with a variety of public and private-entity partners. The enterprise works with fellow allies in order to maximize efficiency and extensiveness. Just a few of their many partners include:
- Coca-Cola® Argentina
- The government of the Argentinian province of Salta
- Banco Patagonia
- Red Cross Argentina
- Arte y Esperanza (“Art and Hope”) NGO
Education and Purifying Technology
In addition to expanding its partnerships, another initiative made by the enterprise to spark lasting change includes the establishment of educational plans. These plans serve to teach citizens about the importance of drinking only clean and filtered water as well as why the modification of cultural habits may be necessary for their health. The project also aims to develop infrastructure in these regions in order to provide slums with clean water.
Just one of the countless cases by Proyecto Agua Segura includes the introduction of a microbiological water purifier in a soup kitchen located in Villa La Cava, an impoverished community located right outside of Buenos Aires. An average glass of water obtained from a local household in La Cava would contain floating yellow and brown sediment. The life-changing technology introduced by the project, however, can filter up to 12 liters of this contaminated water in just one hour.
Technological, educational and infrastructural initiatives by Proyecto Agua Segura take place throughout the whole country of Argentina though concentrating in the northern regions from Buenos Aires northward. While the social enterprise involves itself in providing programs within schools, in particular, Proyecto Agua Segura finds itself also providing technology and aid to community centers and to NGOs. Their work has also crossed into neighboring Uruguay where many communities are also in urgent need of clean water.
The Impact of Proyecto Agua Segura
Individual efforts made by Proyecto Agua Segura in providing clean water in marginalized regions have all certainly added up to make a profound impact. By the power of this one social enterprise alone, within four years of its founding, Argentinians and Uruguayans have been provided with 166,780,000 liters of clean and drinkable water. The project’s technology and programs have been implemented in 908 institutions to provide clean water to 2,000 families, collectively reaching a total of 100,000 people.
It has provided 98,000 children and adolescents with improved access to water. Such an outcome implies drastic improvements upon the well-being of young people particularly within Argentina, given how a leading cause of child mortality in the country is diarrhea due to contaminated water. Efforts made by Proyecto Agua Segura seek to improve the living standards of the younger generation, something which can not only decrease mortality rates but also drastically benefit children’s learning and health.
In less than half a decade, one social enterprise has uplifted the lives of tens of thousands by providing access to clean water in marginalized regions. Proyecto Agua Segura’s persistence within Argentina, and now Uruguay, along with aid from other public and private entities provide the opportunity to provide clean water to areas in need. The emergence of social enterprises, NGOs and private companies in vulnerable areas in collaboration with the government can prove to efficiently combat what remains a global human rights issue.
– Breana Stanski