World water day, billions of people do not have access to it

On the occasion of World Water Day, Amref Health Africa released a documentary with the narrator of Giobbe Covatta to raise awareness of the importance of having access to this primary source of life “resilience in sub-Saharan Africa means adapting to the lack of water “explains Covatta immediately at the beginning of the video” every day women and children walk for hours in search of rivers, lakes, streams … but here the water is dirty, contaminated, a carrier of diseases “, he explains.

In fact, the data referring to access to drinking or at least clean water are worrying: today one in five inhabitants of the world does not have enough water to drink, we are talking about 1.2 billion people. In Africa, in rural areas, only 4 out of 10 people have access to clean water, for others, when it is found, the water is too dirty. 361,000 children under the age of 5 die every year due to diarrhea or other diseases linked to water and sanitation deficiencies.

Globally, it is estimated that at least 2 billion people normally use sources of water contaminated with faeces.

The challenge in the Pader district

In Uganda, in the Pader region, the infant mortality rate is over 180 per 1000 live births, of which 8% due to acute diarrhea. In 2015, only 23.7% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa had access to safe water services, compared with a worldwide rate of 71%. In northern Uganda, sanitation is still a major challenge: only 30% of households have functioning toilets and around 600,000 families do not. Furthermore, the Pader district is currently lagging behind the rest of the country in terms of human development indices, and is characterized by high levels of poverty. Over the past 5 years, only an average of 62% of the 231,700 people in the area have had access to safe water and 39% still use open latrines.

The testimonies of Aloyo and Kilama

Aloyo Kerry is a Ugandan mother who lives in the Pader region, tormented by civil wars until 2008 and today one of the poorest regions in the world and is one of the voices gathered by Amref, the largest African health NGO on the continent and which guarantees access to clean water for thousands of people “Our challenge is the dry season and the infinite distances from water sources. You have to go and collect it about 3-4 times a day. It’s tiring ”, explains Aloyo, who says“ The water has made us free. We said goodbye to the dirty water of the streams ”. Now Aloyo has the opportunity to grow vegetables and raise her children in good health.

Kilama Simon, also in Pader, sums up very clearly the concept of ‘One Health’, the project that recognizes the relationship between man, animal and the environment “Without water, fields dry up and getting food becomes impossible. Thus, not only are we forced to share water with our animals, but they get sick, weaken, die, and with them we too: 90% of the people in these livestock and agricultural areas. It’s all connected “

The phenomenon of Water Grabbing

In an already dramatic scenario, the problem of water grabbing is added. The English expression literally means “hoarding of water” and indicates all those situations in which powerful actors take control (or divert to their own advantage) water resources by stealing them from local communities and / or entire nations whose livelihood is based precisely on those valuable resources. This is how a common good such as water is transformed into a private good or one controlled by those in power. In this scenario, it must be considered that 2,195 liters of water are consumed to produce a pair of jeans, 17,196 to produce a kilo of tomatoes and 10,850 to produce a kilo of chocolate. To stop the ‘water thieves,’ in partnership with Water Grabbing Observatory, Amref collects signatures that will be recommended to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Ministry of the Environment and the Protection of the Territory and the Sea, to ask to keep attention on the issue of the human right to water and to strengthen the work to raise awareness of Italian public opinion. Amref calls on institutions to take action to guarantee safe and drinkable water for all in Africa, as in Italy, with greater attention to the weakest people in economic difficulties.

The effect of climate change

The effects of climate change further aggravate the situation. In 2006, the United Nations cited the African continent as the most exposed and defenseless to the implications of climate change. Today, this hypothesis remains valid, in fact, according to the African Development Bank Group, among the top 20 countries on the planet with the greatest vulnerability to climate change, six are on the African continent. In 2019, in the entire continent, 2.6 million climate refugees were added to the 7.6 million displaced people fleeing conflict.

“Climate change, the onset of new infectious diseases, as in the case of COVID-19, the difficulty in accessing clean water sources, malnutrition, infant mortality. These are just some of the challenges that a high percentage of the world population faces every day ”, says Guglielmo Micucci, Director of Amref Health Africa – Italy. “In order not to succumb in the face of all this, and to be able to hope for a positive transformation, it is essential to recognize the close bond that unites us human beings with the environment that surrounds us: One Health”.

The Solar for inclusive Wash project

The stories of Aloyo Kerry and Kilama Simon – together with the shots of Esther Ruth Mbabazi – were taken up within the “Solar for Inclusive WASH” ​​project: a project funded by the Peter Wallenberg Water for All Foundation and the Water for All committees of Atlas Copco and Epiroc, historical partner companies of Amref. The aim of the project is to provide solar energy and better water and sanitation services to 48 communities in the Pader district located in Northern Uganda. Thanks to this 3-year intervention, access to WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) services will increase for 5,100 pupils in 6 schools, improve hygiene and health practices for 5,100 pupils and 23,400 members of the communities involved, and will be guaranteed access to drinking water and sanitation for a total of about 30,000 people.