By: Anne Kirby, Staff Writer
When I visited Cuba in high school, I saw something that forever changed the way I think about water. I travelled to Cuba with about 20 others to work with churches in the Matanzas region. Our main goal was to install water filters, which would clean water and make it safe to drink. One afternoon, we travelled to the nearby town of Zorilla to paint the walls of the church, a departure from our main task of installing water filters. As our bus pulled away, my mission team and I stared out the windows, in awe of what we were seeing: no less than 100 members of the village stood in line, water jugs in hand, waiting for the drinking water that we were not yet ready to provide to them. There had been a miscommunication, and all of these people had shown up to the church to fill up their water jugs. We had to turn them away and tell them that the water would not be available until the next day. It dawned on me that these people walked miles only to be denied a necessity that I had taken for granted.
According to the World Health Organization, “844 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 159 million people who are dependent on surface water.” Essentially, this means that one out of every nine people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water. In addition, at least 2 million people use water contaminated with feces, which can cause diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. As a result of this, contaminated water is estimated to cause 502,000 diarrheal deaths each year. In lower income countries, 38 percent of health-care facilities lack an improved water source, 19 percent do not have improved sanitation and 35 percent do not have water to wash their hands. The impact of poor water conditions are so magnified that by 2025, half of the world’s people will be living in what WHO calls “water-stressed areas.”
It is evident that the lack of clean drinking water is a global issue of great magnitude. The question now is what we can do about it. Started on Nov. 6, a group of Furman students, myself included, have been part of a fundraising team called the 10 Days Campaign, in which we have given up all beverages except water for 10 days. The purpose is to support Living Water International’s work in Rwanda, raise awareness for the unclean drinking water phenomena and raise money for this cause. All money we would normally spend on other drinks will be put towards our fundraising goal of 10,000 dollars.
Efforts such as this one and my team’s work in installing water filters in Cuba are small steps in the right direction, but there is a lot of work left to be done to make clean water accessible globally. Every human deserves the right to clean drinking water, and it’s up to us to make that happen.