Friday, 20 August 2010

day 10: water

yesterday was open day at shama - can't believe another year has gone by. the organisation is in a vibrant phase. we've expanded the staff significantly this year, and have many more women accessing the centre's programmes. there's also an expanded range of programmes, from homework support for refugee children, dancing classes, a computers-in-homes project, a home gardening programme to the usual holiday programme, language classes, driving classes and sewing & craft classes.

the major increase has come in the area of social work. we hired a new part-time social worker in march, and her case load has increased from an average of 6 to, at the moment, 35 active cases. this level of growth is really difficult to manage, and funding is always a major issue. we need more staff, more money, more space. but despite all the pressures, it's nice to have a day like today, when we share our successes with the wider community and celebrate all the wonderful women who are associated with the centre.

today i'm going to spend some time thinking about water. it's one of the most basic and crucial of our needs. but it is so much more than a need - it something that beautifies and soothes. however, i'm going to focus on the former aspect today.

the first thing i'm thankful for is that i have access to abundant clean, running water. it is extremely rare for the water supply to be cut, in fact i can't even remember the last time that happened. however, i have had the experience of living for short periods of time without running water. in india, the water supply is variable depending on where you live. actually in the village (in the region where i was born) it is pretty reliable, because every house has a hand-operated water pump that pumps water out of the ground. they look a little like this:

the beauty of the hand-pump is that the water comes out cool in the summer and warm in the winter. however, the downside is that it comes out all muddy in the rainy season, which means you have to let it settle for a while before you can use it. however, the suppy is at least constant, and if you really need warm water for your bath, you can heat it up on the stove.

in cities, the water supply isn't so constant. i don't know what delhi is like now, but i remember a time when the water supply would shut off by 8am. so everyone would have to take their baths before then, and every home would have tanks for water storage which would have to be filled up every morning.

in another city i've stayed at frequently, the water supply was constant all day, but some days, without warning, it would shut off for a few hours or maybe all day. because this was not a very regular occurrence, we wouldn't be prepared when the water supply did stop. and let me tell you, it is a horrible thing to be in a hot & dusty country without water. drinking water wasn't a problem - there is plenty of bottled water to be bought. but not being able to shower or wash clothes felt really horrible. in fact, if i had to choose of having to do without electricity or do without running water for a day, i'd definitely choose the former.

so yes, i am extremely thankful to have a constant supply of water. and because i can't stand showering in cold water and hate having to wash greasy dishes with cold water, i'm extremely thankful that i have running hot water.

i can only imagine what it's like when water is not in constant supply within the house. many people in this world have to travel some distance to bring water to the house, and they can only bring what they can carry. this is often considered women's work, so the physical burden falls on them. it must be difficult to not be able to access hot water when living in a cold climate, or cool water when living with extreme heat.

dirty water is the cause of much disease and death.
here are some numbers:

...of the more than six billion people in the world today, over one billion have no access to improved drinking water...

And according to the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, polluted water and lack of basic sanitation claim the lives of over 1.5 million children every year, mostly from water-borne diseases....

"Many millions more have their development disrupted and their health undermined by diarrhoeal or water-related diseases."

this year, on world water day (22 march), a UN
report (huge pdf file, see website here) informed us that "more people die from polluted water every year than from all forms of violence".

i'm lucky to live in an area where the provision of water is not privatised. i pay a set amount with my annual rates, and that's it. i don't have to worry about issues like

Policies driven by institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have left little room for local decisions and instead have forced privatization of water on poor countries. These international finance institutions make loans contingent on privatization and increased cost recovery‚ which often requires charging high fees for water even for people living in extreme poverty. The results in numerous countries have been disastrous – less access to water for the poor, extremely high rates, and poor water quality....

you must really read the whole article, if you read nothing else today. i'm also lucky to live in a country where water is distributed fairly. we don't have to live in a situation like this.

if you're intersted in a charity related to water, this seems to be a pretty good one. i'd also recommend an event, no matter how small, for world water day next year - just to raise awareness of the issues.

today i think about all the people who suffer because they don't have access to clean, affordable, accessible and regular water supply. my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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