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‘REFLECTIONS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY MARY DAVID

SAFE WATER SLIGHT

A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT IN OUR BLIND SPOT There are some human rights issues that you’re used to seeing splashed across the covers of magazines, making headlines, filling documentaries and taking center stage in nonfiction bestsellers. Access to safe drinking water is rarely, if ever, among them. Perhaps it is because we cannot imagine a life without water. Or maybe just the opposite we forget how much we rely on it that we overlook its necessity to our existence. And then there’s the possibility that we have no idea how common of a problem it is - that in fact one quarter of the world’s population does not have access to clean drinking water.1 But even if we do know, the problem feels so archaic, abstract and removed from the challenges most of us face that we usually look for something more concrete, relatable (and likely more “exciting”) to fill our headspace.

Whatever the reason for our blind spot, the majority of us, myself included, definitely have it. When there have been so many technological advances worldwide and we know that iPhone usage has extended to many rural and seemingly isolated parts of the globe, I often forget how many children, women, and families continue to be further impoverished as we advance. Women and girls are bearing the brunt of this challenge, as they are the ones primarily tasked with collecting water and forgo school to meet the need.2 Cumulatively, women and girls lose 200 million hours a day in productivity fetching water3 that they could have directed towards their education, mental well being, and personal development. And even when they are able to attend school, almost half of the schools in the world do not have access to hand-washing stations with soap and water.4 Imagine your child going back to school in a Covid world with that kind of reality. It makes sense then that, although morally reprehensible, every two minutes, a child dies from a water-related disease.5

One of the hardest things to come to terms with is how preventable these consequences and burdens seem. When so many of us are able to take outrageously long showers, do not monitor our water consumption, and have multiple sources of clean water within one household, why hasn’t there been a more efficient, successful global effort to ensure that the 785 million people without access to safe water get it?

It is about the most disempowered people who have already experienced the greatest losses cumulatively on the planet being systematically denied one of the most basic necessities on earth.

Unlike other human rights violations, this is one that can be successfully addressed through research, structural implementations and infrastructure. This should give us hope, because the solutions are so much more concrete and measurable than those of many other societal dilemmas. Collectively, we need to do a much better job shedding light on these realities and putting pressure on our governments and institutional organizations to act. We also must incentivize tech companies and the private sector to research and implement solutions to problems like the water crisis. There are a few companies and governments who are taking a more proactive approach through a range of techniques from utilizing atmospheric water to transporting glaciers, but much more work can and should be done in this space. Part of how we get there is by humanizing the problem - remembering this is not just about some nebulous, dry concept. This is about millions of people daily and unnecessarily dying from disease, children who are being denied the right to education, parents who are unable to keep their families safe (children under five years old living in countries experiencing protracted conflict are 20 times more likely to die from causes linked to unsafe water and sanitation than from direct violence6). It is about the most disempowered people who have already experienced the greatest losses cumulatively on the planet being systematically denied one of the most basic necessities on earth. 163 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION

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AwareNow: Issue 19: The Source Edition  

In ‘The Source Edition’, we dial into the very heart of the matter - the heart of awareness. We explore where it begins and where it takes u...

AwareNow: Issue 19: The Source Edition  

In ‘The Source Edition’, we dial into the very heart of the matter - the heart of awareness. We explore where it begins and where it takes u...

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