Written in collaboration by Brooke Edwards and Maegan Clark

In 1992, the UN designated March 22 of each year as World Water Day. Although Heifer International’s focus is on ending hunger and poverty, clean water (for people and livestock) is absolutely essential for our project families and communities to thrive. In observance of this year’s World Water Day, we thought we would shine a light on how water plays an important part of our work all over the world and give you a few ways you can help bring safe drinking water to the world’s poor.

In many of our project communities, the lack of access to clean potable water is one of the most critical challenges. Many communities depend on unsafe water from unprotected shallow wells or rivers. Lack of access to water is a threat to the livelihood of a community in many ways. Inadequate access to water negatively affects the productivity of livestock and crops, and unsafe drinking water is a health hazard to both communities and animals. It is primarily the responsibility of women and girls to fetch water for household and animal use, often walking long distances in harsh conditions. Water scarcity is believed, for this reason, to affect the enrollment rates as well as educational performance of girls.


(Please note that there is no audio due to the high winds.Video by Geoff Oliver Bugbee)


In this video you'll see Fatou Dione walking in oven-hot wind churning with dust to fetch water for her husband and four children. It’s the dry season in her village of Diarrere in Senegal, and both water and food are running low. At the time this video was shot, they were eagerly anticipating the rains the following month.


To address water scarcity in our project communities when needed, Heifer partners with organizations specializing in water projects to bring deep-water wells and pumps to the area. Consistent with our methodology of helping families and communities become more self-reliant, local people are trained to maintain the wells with locally available resources. And to ensure the sustainability of the boreholes, water management committees are established and trained.
Improved sanitation is also crucial for our projects. In Uganda, Heifer participants are using a clever hand-washing station called a Tippy Tap. It allows you to wash your hands without touching anything in the process. 
Tippy Tap System
Image from www.cdc.gov

These really make sense when running water isn't available. Much better than a bucket, that's for certain. We all know hand washing is a key way to stop the spread of many diseases. In a country like Uganda, which has a life expectancy of 52.98 years (yes, in large part a result of HIV/AIDS), avoiding disease like bacterial diarrhea is of the utmost importance.



The Tippy Tap is a cheap device made of locally available materials. It was initiated by Heifer Uganda at this farm and others as one way of ensuring that family members and their visitors wash their hands with soap each time they use the pit latrine. In so doing, the possibility of spreading disease is minimized.


So what can you do to help?

  1. Help fund our Building a Sustainable Way of Life Project in Peru, which will improve community wells to ensure the availability and quality of water in wet years and dry.
  2. Team up with US-based groups who are calling for increased commitments by the US government to help increase access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation for millions around the world.
  3. Find and attend an event near you.
  4. Visit a local restaurant participating this week in UNICEF’s Tap Project, and pay a $1 (or more!) donation for otherwise free tap water.

    For more information about World Water Day please visit http://www.worldwaterday.org/ and http://oneweekforwater.org/


Author

Maegan Clark

Maegan Clark loves social media even more than Southern sweet tea. She is currently pursuing her master’s in public administration and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a specialized study in public relations. Since working at Heifer, she has deepened her appreciation for the urgency with which we must end global hunger and poverty.