HONOLULU, Hawaii– March 22 is World Water Day 2014. The first World Water Day occurred in 1993 and was established by the United Nations to recognize the necessity for easy access to clean water for all. The U.N. General Assembly asserted that water is a human right and yet millions of people still lack access to it.
About 768 million people do not have access to clean water, according to data compiled by both UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). UNICEF has conducted studies pertaining to deaths of children under the age of 5 years old which resulted from inability to obtain water. Findings suggest that about 1,400 children die each day from sicknesses they develop due to dehydration. Besides dehydration, children also suffer from complications due to poor hygiene and sanitation because of water scarcity.
Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program, has said, “Every child, rich or poor, has the right to survive, the right to health, the right to a future… The world should not rest until every single man, woman, and child has the water and sanitation that is theirs as a human right.”
Inability to access clean and safe water is also linked with high rates of poverty. While it is difficult to place causation on poverty for lack of water, or vice versa, there is a proven relationship between these epidemics. Often a domino effect occurs with people in poverty, and increases in not only lack of water, but also lack of food and healthcare, occur.
Wijesekera also stated on the matter, “What continues to be striking, and maybe even shocking, is that even in middle income countries there are millions of poor people who do not have safe water to drink… We must target the marginalized and other forgotten groups: those who are the most difficult to reach, the poorest and the most disadvantaged.”
Often people with water security do not think about this epidemic every time they turn on the shower, wash a dish or even just drink a glass of it. With such a vast number of humans unable to acquire clean water, it is important to raise awareness on this year’s World Water Day.
The theme for this year’s World Water Day is the intertwinement of water and energy. The U.N. has decided to incorporate these two entities to embrace new and innovative techniques that are being developed for sustainable energy, which often rely on water. Some of the key focal points for this year’s World Water Day include: raising awareness on the connection between water and energy, identifying policies to which U.N. Water and U.N. Energy can contribute, zeroing in on relevant stakeholders for the water-energy movement and then also persuading them to offer support.
While many of these focal points seem to be directed at elites with the power to influence change on a large scale, this does not mean that there are not ways for everybody to help.
Raising awareness for this epidemic is important, but this year, people can take it a step further by contacting their congressional representative to show support for bills helping those that lack access to water. Specifically, try and increase support for the Water for the World Act, which was introduced in 2013 by Senator Paul Simon. This bills aims to help millions of people around the world by increasing funding for projects that can supply water to poverty-stricken areas.
The description of the Water for the World Act as per Gov Track is, “improving the capacity of the United States Government to implement, leverage and monitor and evaluate programs to provide first-time or improved access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene to the world’s poorest on an equitable and sustainable basis and for other purposes.”
It only takes about a minute, but contacting Congress is a proactive step that could impact millions of people’s lives. In showing support for the Water for the World Act, your congressional leader may be more inclined to rally behind it and move it through Congress.
The Borgen Project makes it easy to contact your congressional leaders: just access www.borgenproject.org, go to “Act Now” and click on “Email Congress.” Water for the World Act is one of the first bills listed on the site, and once selected, it will direct you to a drafted e-mail that asks your representative for their support. It only takes a couple of minutes, but could impact many lives.
Water is universal; it does not matter what religion you practice, where you are from or what you look like, everyone on our planet requires it. In a way, this seems like something that should unite us, yet there seems to be an economic gap between those with unlimited access and those who struggle to find water everyday. Poverty is a common denominator of lack of water, so this World Water Day, take action to end this epidemic.
Sources: The Borgen Project, Gov Track, UNICEF, United Nations, United Nations