For example, just in the past few weeks, we learned from this article in IWGIA how indigenous Wayuu children in La Guajira, Colombia, are dying of hunger and thirst in a resources-rich area of the Caribbean that has been heavily exploited by multinationals.
And if discrimination in accessing safe water seems like a distant reality, this piece by The Guardian brings it close to home. It examines the plight of the citizens of Benton Harbor, MI, as they try to fix the lead contamination that has been making their water unsafe for years. Benton is a mostly black town that neighbors essentially white towns where water is perfectly safe. In the video below, the mayor talks to Yahoo Finance about the town's water contamination.
A glance at all the news about water scarcity and unsafe water coming up in the last few weeks may open the way to hopelessness. Nevertheless, the number of people coming together to tackle water issues worldwide is still very inspiring, and the past couple of weeks also brought us promising developments. For example, in Sri Lanka, the World Bank has just signed a bill to expand funding for the Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project, committing to additional financing of $40 million. This project will bring safe water to many more households where it's desperately needed. Additionally, it will do so through community-based organizations (CBO) while promoting women's decision-making in running these local organizations.
Meanwhile, in Uganda, one of the countries where the Azimuth World Foundation has been developing Safe Water projects, there's good news from Moyo Town Council, where 28,500 people will now have access to safe water. A new system for water and sanitation funded by the German government through KFW and the government of Uganda has been put in place, the Daily Monitor reported. Listen to the testimony of some residents in this video by NTV.
Several international events discussing climate change and biodiversity took place this month, and one of the ideas gathering increasingly more support is valuing the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples—protectors of the ecosystems they inhabit for time immemorial. Their balanced relationship with the environment through traditional strategies also applies to water management. Moreover, it provides a learning opportunity for western science, as this piece by DEVEX explains, while giving some fascinating examples from India and Bangladesh.
In Haiti as in Zimbabwe, the urgency with which we respond to the Safe Water Crisis is crucial to preventing even more catastrophic consequences like disease outbreaks. But halting climate change, the aggravating common denominator and catalyst of this crisis, is as critical as immediate aid.
Even though similarities may seem hard to find between countries as different as Zimbabwe and Haiti, many parallels unite these two nations when it comes to the water crisis. The main difference is that Zimbabwe's WASH crisis stems mainly from socio-economic problems such as political corruption and obsolete water infrastructures. And, even though these problems are also common to Haiti, here water issues are primarily a consequence of back-to-back disasters like the 7.2 earthquake that devastated the country a month ago. But in both cases, these safe water crises were aggravated and will further be worsened because of climate-linked hazards. In Zimbabwe's case, heavy drawn-out droughts—rainfall extremes that will be most pronounced in the tropics as the world warms—have significantly exacerbated the country's water crisis. As for Haiti, not only drought, but its location in a hurricane alley, which means the island experiences severe storms every season that will intensify as the planet warms.
Read the news by The International Federation of Red Cross and Human Rights Watch to better understand how dire the situation is in both countries.
The issue of water equity in the US and Canada and how communities of color have been disproportionately affected in accessing this fundamental human right in both countries has been capturing increasingly more attention from the media.
Even though the water equity conversation has been in the mouths of Canada's federal government since the '90s, safe tap water continues to be an issue for 32 First Nation communities across the country. But despite much of the Canadian political spectrum having made promises of finally addressing this crisis as robustly as need be, no commitments have amounted to anything more than statements of intentions. This lack of action is even more egregious when we hear the echoes of the atrocities and denial of basic Human Rights that Canada's First Nations have endured. Moreover, the effects of unsafe drinking water are profound and further exacerbate all the aspects that add to the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. The Conversation tries to pin down the reasons for this long delay in responding to drinking water advisories in Canada.
In the US, the picture is even grimmer. Millions of people do not have access to safe tap water, a legacy of environmental injustice that is highly racialized: black, brown, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected. And Indigenous households, in particular, are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing for water and sanitation (Dig Deep and US Water Alliance: Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan 2019). And even though the root causes are different from community to community, the common reason is the absence of government policy that guarantees enforcement of treaty obligations. Native Americans were promised a permanent, livable homeland conducive to health and prosperity in the forced exchange of millions of acres of land to white settlers. That promise has been broken, not unlike so many others made to the Indigenous Peoples of the US. Aggravating factors such as reduced rainfall and droughts are further straining supply issues like inadequate and aging infrastructure and multiple contaminants. Azimuth supports Human Rights Watch's demand that the United States Congress should "support programs that ensure everyone in the US has access to safe and affordable water." Watch the video they released that features members of several organizations giving voice to this critical concern.