Clean Water is the Key to Development
Does your drinking water make you sick? Most likely not, but it is estimated that poor sanitation, hygiene and unsafe water claim the lives of 1.5 million children under the age of five every year. The United Nations also declares that more than one person in four lacks access to safe water. A priority for all World Neighbors programs is for families to have access to clean drinking water and water for farming and livestock. Access to clean water and sanitation is a fundamental need and human right which plays a vital role in improving health conditions and encouraging social and economic development.
One serious threat to villagers is guinea worm, a disease transmitted only through contaminated drinking water. This highly contagious and extremely painful disease has a debilitating affect on village life. It is a significant threat to villagers’ health and a barrier to community development. Though the disease is seldom deadly, it makes walking and working nearly impossible. Families are unable to work in their fields and subsist on less food and income since there is no known cure for guinea worm and no vaccine, having access to safe drinking water is the key to prevention.
Because of World Neighbors approach to helping a community look deeper into a village's problem through discussions and learning experiences to find simple solutions, rather than contradicting their culture and beliefs, one village in West Africa experienced a total eradication of guinea worm from their village. Once believed that the disease came from jou-jou, the gods or witchcraft, the people realized the true cause of the disease, recognizing that their water was the source of the problem. World Neighbors taught them how to strain their water with cheese cloth which cleaned the water of the larvae. The benefits to the community were immense through an increased supply of clean water and an eradication of guinea worm.
Clean water is the key to successful development. Crops cannot reach their full potential if communities’ water sources are distant, meager or contaminated. Health care services may be available nearby, but if the clinic does not have a source of clean water or proper sanitation, then its capacity to heal is greatly diminished. Families may be eager to adopt practical and proven techniques for improved hygiene and sanitation, but they are unable to do so without water.
One of the unique ways World Neighbors addresses the issue of water in communities is to work with the community on the management of the water system. This community involvement applies to all aspects of a water project, including the maintenance and repair of the physical system; the management of the distribution of water; conservation of the land around the water source, and concrete financial and governing rules about the water program. Combined with education on hygiene, food preparation and clean water for good health, World Neighbors water projects are long-lasting and are maintained by the community members.