Today is World Water Day, a day established to raise awareness of the importance of water and help people understand why maintaining freshwater resources is so important.
As Americans, access to safe drinking water is a part of everyday life. Running water allows us to shower and make coffee in the morning, water the lawn in the afternoon, start dinner in the evening, and keep us hydrated throughout the day. Imagine now that there is a water main break and for the next few days, there is no running water. Most of us would rely on bottled water or the use of a friend’s shower to get us through.
But what if that was not available either? What if we had to send our children for water every morning, walking three miles each way, and waiting 20 minutes in line at the pump? Getting water would be the number one priority of our children each morning, even before going to school. This scenario might sound outrageous, but for millions of families around the world, it is a part of everyday life... with one exception: there is no water service to be restored.
Without access to safe water and sanitation, life for these families is difficult – especially for the women and girls. In most families in the developing world, it is a girl’s responsibility to fetch water for her family. The long walk to the pump may force her to miss school... and if her school doesn’t have clean water, she is even less likely to attend. But by providing access to water and sanitation services, the number of girls who are absent from school can decrease by up to 37%. This in turn would increase literacy rates and give girls and women greater economic opportunities – important keys in breaking the cycle of poverty.
That’s why Plan works with communities to improve access to safe drinking water for girls and boys, and to raise awareness of the importance of waste management. Every year, we help communities build 2,000 (gender-specific) school latrines, and in the last three years we have helped families build an average 100,000 toilets per year, benefiting several million people. We also provide water points in communities and schools, especially in rural areas, and establish community-based organizations to ensure the continued management and maintenance of water points.
Below are just a couple of photos of some of the water and sanitation points built by Plan around the world. Enjoy and be thankful that you or your children didn’t have to walk six miles for water today. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones... there are billions of people around the world who did.