For decades, experts and panels worldwide have been warning governments and agencies about the coming world water crisis. However, for many people living in low-income countries, the crisis has always been there, and according to UN-Water, in 2020, "around 1 in 4 people lacked safely managed drinking water in their homes, and nearly half the world's population lacked safely managed sanitation."
Having to walk for water…
... often means you are much more vulnerable to contagious diseases that can spread through an entire community
... keeps children out of school
... takes up time that parents could use to earn money to support their families
... means danger.
What is more, this burden affects women and girls more severely, with a pervasive negative impact on areas like education and gender equality. And the problem seems to be even more complex for people living in isolated rural areas. Here, the denial of this basic Human Right has profound repercussions on these communities' health, education, and general economic development. Ultimately, it impedes almost all attempts to realize other human rights and pursue a prosperous life. And even if some indicators have improved in the past decades, a new 2021 joint report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF paints a dire picture.
Unless the rate of progress quadruples, by 2030, 1.6 billion people won't have access to safe drinking water at home, 2.8 billion won't have safe sanitation services, and 1.9 won't have basic handwashing facilities. Looking at the available numbers and trends, it can be easy to overlook that many communities in the Global North are also being denied this basic Human Right. For example, in the US alone, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, over 30 million people lived in areas where water systems violated safety rules at the beginning of 2019. And poor people and minority communities are hit hardest, as is usual with almost all environmental and climate change-related issues: an estimated 1 in 10 Indigenous Americans lack access to safe tap water or basic sanitation. These numbers become increasingly unfair if we consider how most Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities have nurtured a balanced relationship with nature from time immemorial.
This harmonious relationship guarantees the health of both these populations and the ecosystems to which they belong. Moreover, the extractive industries imperiling and damaging water resources, whether by contamination or driving climate change, seem to bring no single benefit to the people most affected by it. All over the world, communities without any polluting record are the first to endure ever more frequent droughts and natural disasters resulting from anthropogenic climate change. And if the inequalities in accessing safe water and sanitation weren't visible enough, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has only shown how much still needs to be done. One example was particularly telling: all the schools that didn't have handwashing facilities had to remain closed for much longer, which meant thousands of children being denied an education.
Through our past work, we've seen how safe water projects can have a far-reaching impact that improves all aspects of a community's life. We believe access to safe water should be free, equitable and universal. Our aim is to fight for fairness in supporting access to safe water by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities by funding grassroots initiatives that know how these life-changing improvements should be planned, implemented, and managed by the people that will depend on, use, and benefit from them.