When I was a kid, my family had a well. It had an electric pump, and the only problems we had were when an earwig crawled into the control box and shorted out the system, or when the PH balance got a little off and we had to chlorinate the water for a day to kill the sulfur smell. I’m sure some of my readers have similar stories.
But can you imagine what it would be like if you had to search all day just to find a water supply, no matter if it was safe to drink or not? Worldwide 800 million people do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion have nowhere safe and clean to go to the toilet.
As a result, 2,000 children die every day from easily prevented diarrheal diseases with countless more unable to attend school. Millions of women are unable to work because they spend so much time collecting water and caring for sick children
Ruby lives in Balar Math, an overcrowded informal settlement in Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka. There are no water or sanitation facilities here.
Her life is very challenging, as she described:
This slum has existed for 10 years and is in a shocking state. Hanging latrines feed straight into a garbage-filled ditch in the middle of the slum. Five thousand households live here with no clean water and no sanitation. There are old handpumps but they are not deep enough and the sinking water table means that only a small amount of water can be drawn from them each day.
Many people get very ill here and I think it all stems from the open latrines. Smell the stench, it’s disgusting. We get fevers, coughs and terrible diarrhea and there are no healthcare facilities that we can use. We spend lots of time bringing water from a handpump about 20 minutes’ walk away. You have to queue for at least two hours to get the water. I earn between 500-1000 taka per month and I have to spend about 100 taka on water. At least we are surviving. Our biggest fear is that we get evicted from the slum by the government.
WaterAid, founded in 1981, transforms lives by helping the world’s poorest people gain access to clean water and sanitation. Together with local organizations, communities and individuals, WaterAid uses affordable and locally appropriate solutions to provide safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene education to people in developing countries. For example, in Nigeria, WaterAid and local partner organization COWAN have helped communities to dig wells fitted with a handpump, construct latrines and learn about good hygiene.
WaterAid has programs in 27 countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific region and Central America, and offices in the US, the UK, Australia and Sweden.
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