In many rural communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa, hundreds of people are unable to access safe, clean water, suffering from several different diseases and illnesses as a result. Relying predominantly on women and girls to walk miles away from home to collect water – dirty water that makes them and their families sick – the communities are gender biased and women are not considered as important as men.

Unclean water and gender inequality limits the potential of many people and communities, and contributes to the cycle of extreme poverty.

The Water Project, however, is determined to change this. A nonprofit organization that brings sustainable water projects to communities in sub-Saharan Africa, The Water Project provides those communities with access to clean water and the means to maintain proper sanitation.

Admirably, the organization seeks to instill hope in suffering communities by making clean water the norm. Clean water improves health, breaks down poverty and supports education.

Lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation, however, is the primary reason that girls drop out of school. They spend valuable learning time walking to streams or ponds to gather water, only to eventually drink it and get sick. The Water Project, however, empowers girls by bringing safe, clean water to their communities.

In addition to improved health conditions, clean water strengthens opportunities for quality education. Access to safe water ensures that girls remain in school, which opens the door to future careers and earned wages. Because women reinvest up to 90 percent of their income back into their households, compared to 40 percent by men, this is imperative.

The efforts of The Water Project have inevitably taught communities to see the value of women and potential of girls. It has unlocked a generation of leaders. Education provides endless opportunities, but clean water liberates, encourages and inspires.

Sarah Sheppard
Photo: The Water Project

4Liter Challenge is a movement that asks Americans to try to live on only the essential amount of clean water. The idea is to help Americans understand the problem of lack of clean water through experience.

There is an online sign up for a system where use of water can be documented and shared via social media. Using social media helps the organization to spread awareness for clean water globally. During the challenge, participants must try to live on only 4 liters (about one gallon) of water a day for up to five days. The challenge aims to help Americans consciously think about how they use water.

An estimated 783 million people do not have access to sanitary drinking water. The UN reports “it is not yet possible to measure water quality globally, dimensions of safety, reliability and sustainability,” so this figure is probably an underestimate.

4 liters is the absolute essential amount of water required to survive, but 50 is generally recommended to maintain a healthy life. Moreover, 80% of disease derives from lack of sanitized drinking water. According to PR Web, “4,500 children die every day from water borne diseases.”

The average American uses around 500 liters of water a day. Sustainability is not just a third world problem.  Increasingly, preservation of clean water is becoming a global environmental issue worldwide. Additionally, Problems accessing clean water are often exaggerated by political instability or natural disasters. Global unity is needed to solve these challenges in order to provide clean water.

In 2010 the UN recognized access to sanitation and water as a human right. This right states that the sufficient amount of water is 50 to 100 liters, water must be affordable and accessible, and its collection time should be under 30 minutes. The 4Liter challenge was started by DIGDEEP water. In line with the UN goals, DIGDEEP’s focus is human rights and building sustainable water sources worldwide. A core value of the organization is “Water is precious, and so is human dignity.”

All funds raised by the 4Liter campaign will go to sustainable water projects in South Sudan, Cameroon, and New Mexico. These projects aim to promote sustainability using adjusted, locally implemented programs that empower communities.

– Nicole Yancy

Sources: DIGDEEP Water, PR Web, Aleteia, UN
Photo: LXX Magazine