When I look at the international aid community’s focus, at least as shown in the media, I am often struck by the emphasis on food, and not water. After all, we need both and in reality, water is the more important of the two — you can live much longer without food than without water. But when the mega-fundraisers take place, and the subsequent celebrities, development experts, and celebrity development experts are all trotted out onto the giant global media stage, the message is always, “More food.” (Part of the reason for this is, understandably, that “Clean water” is a more difficult thing to give: sending shiploads of food is much more tangible as well as impressive. Still….)
Fortunately, there has been a slight shift in this perspective over the last few years. I’ve noticed it mainly because there seem to be a few more aid organizations (charity:water, and LIFESAVER Systems among them) focused solely on water. Another factor is the inclusion of this as a component of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
With a recent and formidable increase in weather-related disasters (flooding, drought, tsunamis and hurricanes), economic and political turmoil (aid monies decreasing, infrastructures battered by conflict and corruption), you would think that the news on the water front would be pretty bad too.
Surprisingly, it’s not. Probably due to its inclusion in the MDG’s (Goal 7, Ensure Environmental Sustainability), clean water and sanitation have actually improved markedly in many countries over the last 10 years. I very happily discovered this when updating my “Water” numbers recently. I had been using 2001 figures because I couldn’t find anything earlier. Then, about a month ago, I found much more recent data from the World Health Organization database. I was amazed as I updated the numbers that many developing countries had improved their water and sanitation systems by 20, 30, even 50%!
Despite this, of course, we still face grave challenges in terms of ensuring Clean Water for everyone on the planet. (The current cholera outbreak in the Somali refugee camps in Kenya is a stark reminder.) But after updating those figures, I am quite hopeful.
Thanks for stopping by,