1.1 Billion Human Beings Lack Access to Clean Water by Thomas Martin Saturday


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“Not having access to water and sanitation is a polite euphemism for a form of deprivation that threatens life, destroys opportunity and undermines human dignity. Being without access to water means that people resort to ditches, rivers and lakes polluted with human or animal excrement or used by animals. It also means not having sufficient water to meet even the most basic human needs.”

-United Nations Human Development Report 2006.

The California drought, record high temperatures due to climate change, and a growing scarcity of clean water over much of the planet is a grave threat to humanity. Water is required for human survival. It is the attendant primal need to adequate food characterized by grains, nuts, vegetables, fruit, and meat.

Where I live, my county is trying to get access to Lake Michigan water due to the drying up of wells, and the rapid growth of the county into an urban/suburban environment. That problem pales by comparison to the urgent need for clean water for drinking, bathing, and cooking in much of Africa and Asia.

The problem is so bad that women, who by custom or proscription, cannot defecate in sight of men and boys, not to mention neighbors and family generally, have to withhold the most common bodily functions until after dark or before dawn and to do so far away from the house or bed they call home. This need is most acute in Bangladesh. Liver infections and extreme constipation that might get a chuckling response from Americans is not the least bit funny in those places.

Children are impacted the most. 400 million of them lack access to clean, safe drinking water. It opens them up to disease and an early death. Five percent of all world disease is water related. Typhoid was endemic to the United States in the period before the twentieth-century brought in more effective sanitation. In developing nations, that has largely not occurred yet.

In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, a boy or his mother might have to go well over a mile to fill a jug to bring it back to the family dwelling. People sometimes try to find water elsewhere with disastrous results. We Americans take our access to clean water through the tap too much for granted.

Major religions and their churches, mosques, and synagogues, and temples are doing what they can via charity to help defray the costs of drilling good wells and making clean water available to people nearer the village or town where they live and not at some distance. It is commendable and much needed but it is not enough.

Struggles for Justice believes that some sort of United Nations all-out effort is needed to supplement this and to make adequate low cost grains along with clean water available to all

There is sufficient water worldwide for bathing, drinking, and irrigation of crops. But the distribution of that water is uneven, geographically related, and transportation of water poses problems, as even my local county government is beginning to comprehend. California and much of the Southwest would like to import water from the Great Lakes too. But lake levels in all the lakes are slowly falling.

Water is not a want. It is the most fundamental need to sustain life on Earth. It is literally life and death to human beings. As such, it is a human right, and the most elemental of social justice issues.

The trend for corporate business to begin to codify water as a commodity to be bought and sold on the capitalist markets of the world is particularly reprehensible. Social justice demands that all of humanity have complete access to what they need without penalizing them beyond the actual cost of making it work. Even then, it is a community matter how water is brought to people and how safe and clean sanitation is core to that right.

Water must be more urgent to world leaders, nation states, as it is to the United Nations. The developed nations of the world must properly fund the UN for this to happen. We have been seeing pictures of Mars, Pluto, and now even a distant planet in our galaxy that may have life like us. Water is vital to life on all these worlds. When is our world going to wake up to it?

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