Imagine walking over a mile with a five gallon bucket to a local water hole, digging for water to fill your bucket and then carrying the 40 pound load all the way back to your home. For us, this is inconceivable in a country where access to clean water is abundant. And how far will that 5 gallons take you? Just think about how much water you use in the morning: for coffee, brushing teething, shaving, showering, etc…..
This is the reality for many women in Africa. Yes, I did say women as this is considered women’s work in many parts of the continent. As a result, many girls end up dropping out of school just to keep up with the need to gather water for the family’s existence.
This was all brought to witness by Amy Hart who made an excellent documentary entitled “Water First.” Amy visited UAlbany yesterday and spoke in Professor Berger’s and Van Acker’s classes. Her film highlights the efforts of Charles Banda, who founded the Fresh Water project of Malawi. Charles’ heroic effort to bring clean water to villages throughout Africa is related to the United Nations Millennium goals. These goals were established in 2000 and are well known throughout the rest of the world but not as much in the US, mainly due to lack of media on the topic. To learn about these, go to:
Charles shows how having access to water is fundamental to achieving any of these goals and necessary for villages to have the kind of food security and therefore begin to develop their social goals.
Of the 900 million people in Africa, 600 million do not have access to sanitation and 300 million of those do not have access to water. That is equivalent to the entire population of the US. For us, a case of diarrhea is an inconvenience. For those in Malawi, it is often a death sentence. 4,000 children die each day due to water borne illnesses that could be easily remedied in our country with antibiotics. Charles’ program has shown significant success in terms of addressing this issue. In Malawi, 70% of the medical center’s cases were due to water borne illnesses prior to his initiative. After, this number dropped to 2%
Information on Amy’s film is available at: http://www.waterfirstfilm.org. It is well worth your time to check it out. It brings a realization of how fortunate we are to have access to abundant environmental and financial resources.