Brand new Southampton society, WaterAid, joined the Hub for the first Series of the year on Thursday 18th October. Alice Dibblin, president and society founder, talked us through how life changing access to safe water would be for millions of people worldwide.
Access to water changes lives but what are the obstacles to accessing safe and abundant water? Well, some you would expect; there are places across the world where there are no running water taps meaning that a family there, often in rural places, will spend up to a quarter of their day collecting water. Not to mention the sheer effort this takes, doing so leaves far less time for getting educated and making a livelihood. Water is a critical factor in breaking incessant poverty cycles that are passed down from generation to generation.
Then there are the sources of that water themselves. We know that too often water presents enormous risks. One water source may be used for washing, for livestock and for collecting drinking water. Disease spreads easily and around four thousand children die everyday from preventable water borne diseases. Not only that, sometimes there are other risks. Imagine having to negotiate crocodiles every time you need to wash your clothes – almost sounds ridiculous, but WaterAid has worked in villages where that was a daily threat.
There are also issues surrounding women’s safety. Social stigma affects women and cleanliness and, compounded by a lack of safe facilities, women often resort to making themselves vulnerable to assault each time they need to go to the toilet. Also when water is scarce or when little water must be shared between communities, conflict and hostility break out.
However, water is not just an issue of access or even an issue of sanitation but also one of inequality. Where the average European can use around 200 litres in a single day, there are entire families on the African continent using 10 litres between them. Think what we need water for; washing, cooking, cleaning, for livestock etc. Then imagine sharing the equivalent of one toilet flush with everyone in your household. That’s before we even account for the water needed to grow the food we eat, the materials for the clothes we wear and a multitude of other hidden ways in which we consume water every day.
So, what are the solutions? WaterAid is currently working in 27 countries and are approaching the issue in two ways, the first; providing practical solutions to increase access. These include toilet facilities as well as pumps and water harvesting technologies. These are installed with the involvement of the community, who contribute towards the cost and help with the building. The materials must be available locally and where possible made from recycling things otherwise thrown away. Most importantly, and this is something neglected by water projects in the past, the infrastructure must be maintained by people in the community and it must be possible for them to pass on this training. The second strand of WaterAid’s work is education about hygiene and sanitation. Often the charity will work with elders in a community, this way everyone is more likely to get the information they need.
Well, sixteen million people now have a reliable, safe water source and eleven million have access to toilets; improving health, education and livelihoods.
What have been the results of WaterAid’s work? Well, sixteen million people now have a reliable, safe water source and eleven million have access to toilets; improving health, education and livelihoods. WaterAid here in Southampton, in their very first few weeks, have already raised £520. According to WaterAid, it costs £15, on average, to provide all the facilities a person needs for adequate water access and sanitation. So that’s thirty four lives already impacted in a positive way from right here on campus. WaterAid is also one of our RAG charities this year, so that total could be huge before the end of the year.
It’s not just about money though. The UK government has recognised the crucial part water plays in helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and in saving lives. They have pledged to double the number of people they reach through water projects – let them know you want them to keep that promise.
The Series is a regular speaker event run by Southampton Hub, covering a whole range of issues throughout the year. All events are free and for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up to our mailing list at southamptonhub.org