One in three people in the world still does not have access to clean water. Water is essential for life, but it is something so many take for granted every day. We expect it to be immediately available when we get out of bed in the morning to jump in the shower, brush our teeth, and brew a cup of tea.
But for 2 billion people in the world, those are unimagined luxuries.
March 22 is World Water Day. At Food for the Hungry (FH), we consider this a call to action to do even more to provide communities with clean, safe water. It is also a time to celebrate the successes we’ve seen in our work toward this goal.
Water Access in Guatemala
In the Xonca community in the highlands of Guatemala, more than 200 families only recently gained access to clean water. Previously, most of the families relied on rain or very shallow wells to collect the water they needed for drinking, bathing, and cooking. Given the infrequency of rain, they saved water for long periods of time. It grew stagnant, leading to waterborne diseases.
Whenever there wasn’t enough rainwater, the women and children on Xonca were forced to walk three kilometers each way to gather water from a river. Carrying the heavy water back to their community was difficult work. The task kept children out of class and kept women away from their jobs. Even worse, the journey through the rural area of dense forest was unsafe for women and girls.
A Community Plan
So the community came together and, with the support of FH, put a plan in motion to provide clean water from a nearby natural spring.
First, they pooled their money to purchase land where the tank would be installed. Then FH provided collection and distribution tanks for the water. FH also provided a chlorination system to purify the water, and piping to deliver water into their homes. The whole community came together to provide labor, carrying the materials uphill for 20 minutes from the closest road.
Today, those 200-plus households in Xonca have access to clean and safe water in their homes. Water from the spring is piped directly into the community. They established a monthly fee paid by users to cover ongoing maintenance for the system. This created a sustainable path for years to come.
It is a privilege for FH to come alongside communities like Xonca. Each day, FH works to support communities as families and children learn to overcome challenges and live up to their God-given potential.
Bolivian Families Struggled for Water
South of Guatemala in Bolivia, FH’s Bolivia con Agua (Bolivia with Water) project has been working with communities to provide solutions for safe and clean water for the past two years. Recently the Llave Mayu community received a new water supply and distribution system.
Sebastiana and her daughter live in Llave Mayu and used to walk an hour each way to a river every weekend to gather water for the week and do their laundry. Sometimes they were able to buy water from local trucks, but often Sebastiana did not have the money to pay for that “convenience.” And, when they could afford it, bacteria and parasites often contaminated the water that the trucks brought.
FH Provides In-Home Solutions
Two years ago, FH supported the community in installing a water system and putting sinks in every house.
Now Sebastiana and her daughter have water in their home for drinking, cooking, bathing, and laundry. She said, “We do not have to go to the river anymore. We can wash the dishes, do the laundry, and wash up in our new sink. I’m grateful for having water at home. It is much more comfortable, and we save a lot of time and money.”
Jose also lives in Llave Mayu. He had to buy water from the trucks for his household needs. Even that was a struggle because the trucks do not come every day. One of the things that bothered him most was that his children had to bathe outside, since they had no running water in their home.
After the water system came to Llave Mayu, Jose had a sink in his house. He built an indoor shower so he and his wife and his children could bathe indoors. He says, “Now I am very happy and thankful to God for His help. We have water for all our needs.”
FH’s Worldwide Water Efforts
FH reaches hundreds of thousands every year through our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs. But there is so much more to be done.
Right now, as we focus on World Water Day, FH is responding to emergency situations in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Mozambique, and South Sudan to provide access to clean water for people who are displaced due to disasters or conflict. The needs are many, but the solutions are there to save lives and build more resilient futures.
World Water Day: A Day to be Thankful
On this World Water Day, be thankful for the very simple things you can do. Are you able to pour a glass of clean water from your kitchen faucet, do laundry at home, take a shower, or flush a toilet?
Remember one in three people in the world don’t have these conveniences, and let us commit to ensuring that these simple things are no longer considered luxuries in the future.
Stewart Goodwin is FH’s WASH Technical Advisor, based in Washington, DC.
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