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World Water Day



World Water Day


Did you know?


Oxfam’s past work on water


The impact of water


Water for the future


Washing at a community water point: Cap Haiten Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

World Water Day UN World Water Day is marked on 22nd March every year, to focus the world's attention on the importance of water. Each year looks at a different aspect of the link between water and poverty - this year it is 'Water and Food Security'.

Did you know? Only 0.1% of the world’s supply of water is available for use It takes 140 litres of water to make one cup of espresso – and 1300 litres to grow one kilogram of wheat

“Oxfam aims to address the disparity in water and sanitation coverage that exists – nearly 800 million people lack access to water and 2.5 billion to sanitation. In 35 countries we are working on projects that integrate sustainable and local innovation to meet the needs of the poorest. Oxfam believes everyone including the most marginalised have a right to safe water and sanitation as a basic essential service, and advocates for development of pro-poor policies that eliminate inequality that underlie the water management policies that exacerbate water scarcity.” - Andy Bastable (Public health

There are 7 billion people living on the planet today and over 1 billion people live in chronic hunger, and rely on unsafe, and potentially deadly drinking-water. Erratic rainfall, floods and droughts have all played major roles in the cause of some of the most serious food emergencies such as the East African Food Crisis. Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries - causing more deaths during the last century than any other natural disaster.

Engineering Advisor) & Leslie Morris-Iveson (Water Programme Policy Advisor)

In any emergency, lives are put at risk by inadequate water supplies and poor sanitation. Oxfam’s water engineers are known internationally for the speed and efficiency with which they can help provide large-scale water supplies, and essential sanitation facilities, even in the most difficult circumstances. Currently, in response to the West Africa Food Crisis, Oxfam are rehabilitating and building water points across the region to ensure that people have access to safe water for themselves and their livestock. In emergencies, Oxfam hands out thousands of the Oxfam designed and created innovative bucket that allows people to collect, carry, and store, safe clean drinking water.

Oxfam also have many ongoing development programmes that work with poor communities around the world - helping people to have safe water to drink, to grow crops, to feed their livestock, to run sanitation facilities and to practice safe hygiene. One of Oxfam's supporters, Jodie, travelled to Zimbabwe earlier this year to see, first hand, the impact of Oxfam's irrigation project that is providing a water supply to a piece of land the size of 60 football pitches. The local community can now support themselves with a reliable food supply through growing crops on what was previously arid land. You can see for yourself, here.

Pakistan Photo: Dan Chung/Guardian Newspapers LTD

Oxfam’s past work on water. 50 years acting and innovating. By 2050 there will be 9 billion of us all needing water... Oxfam has been working on improving access to clean water for people around the world for over 50 years. Since 1960 the global annual water demand has tripled. See below for a few examples of our work on water over the years.

1960s - Oxfam’s first grants for water led to the development of wells and irrigation for smallholders in Jordan, and catchment dams for cattle herders in Bechuanaland. In 1967, Oxfam responded to the Bihar famine providing relief, rural development and DRR through employment on village irrigation works for agricultural development. In India Oxfam provided groundwater management, and constructed village water for health and to relieve women’s drudgery (1967-1977).

1970s - Oxfam aided the Bangladesh emergency with a sanitation response and an Oxfam sanitation unit was set up. In Northern Somalia water was provided in displaced camps including 42 solar pumps and the development of the Oxfam water kit began. (1979-81).

1980s - The first “water kit” was used in Honduras, 1981. The Oxfam Water Kit was the first of its kind to deliver large quantities of clean water to big populations in emergencies. Oxfam responded to the Ethiopia/Sudan droughts, wars and famine (1984-1985). In 1984 the Oxfam technical unit was set up.

1990s - Oxfam responded to the First Gulf War, emergency in Jordan (1990). The Technical Unit became emergencies only (1991). Oxfam provided clean water and sanitation to 2.3 million people in the Great Lakes crisis (1994). Oxfam then developed focus on engineering plus public health promotion (1995). In 1997 the SPHERE standards were developed.

2000s – The World Commission on Dams (2000). A decade of increasing responses to floods and to cholera (2000-2010). In Darfur, Oxfam implemented “integrated water resource management” due to groundwater depletion (2004). Oxfam works in Darfur on groundwater depletion and “integrated water resource management”. Oxfam aided in providing irrigation for agricultural scale-up in India (2007).

2010 onwards – In 2010, the Burkina Faso/Niger water and soil conservation was hailed as one of the th

20 Century’s top 20 “feed the world” case studies (IFPRI). Oxfam provides water to 1.8 million people in response to the Pakistan flood. Oxfam helps recovery from the Haiti earthquake in their major WASH crisis and is still ongoing (2010 onwards).

The impact of water Here are a few examples of how water impacts different interlinking areas and what Oxfam is doing to help: Water and food security Niger - With this project, communities will be given equipment and training to learn how to measure and monitor their water resources; adopt water-efficient irrigation techniques and better hygiene practices; assess risks to their water resources and build systems to help replenish them (such as sand dams or ‘demi-lunes’ – large crescent-shaped holes in the ground designed to collect rainwater). Pastoral wells will also be built for nomadic herders. This is vital work for communities that are reliant on rain to grow their crops or feed their cattle, and very relevant in the current context of food crisis in the region. This approach is also very innovative because communities learn how to monitor their natural resources, not just manage and maintain their irrigation systems. The project will also provide a scientific approach (collection of data) to measuring the impact of climate change in Niger (such research has not yet been carried out in West Africa).

Demi-Lunes - Niger Photo: Fatoumata Diabate

Water sanitation and education Enabling girls to access education, many for the first time Niger - This project will build toilets in schools, provide school hygiene kits and promote good water management and good hygiene practices in communities, to reduce water-related infection rates, improve communities' health and reduce school drop-outs due to illness. Reshma carrying water - Pakistan Photo: Timothy Allen

Pakistan - Thousands of children in Pakistan are missing out on an education, particularly girls. The barriers to girls going to school include poor quality infrastructure. Moreover, many parents do not feel comfortable about their daughters attending insecure schools, particularly if they have no toilet facilities. Oxfam will renovate schools to be flood-proof with toilets with washing facilities. These will be constructed as good examples for district councils to replicate. We will also promote good hygiene in the schools.

Drinking water and sanitation

Borehole restored in 2011 - Jamam Photo: Alun McDonald

For improved health, and to free up women and children’s time for income generation and education South Sudan - Newly independent South Sudan is struggling to rebuild itself in the aftermath of Africa’s longest war. Most existing water infrastructure is not functioning and many people, particularly in rural areas, rely on dirty streams and stagnant pools for their drinking water. Water-related disease deaths are rife. Oxfam is providing clean water through wells and boreholes, supporting the building of household toilets, and promoting safe public hygiene practices to improve community health and reduce the risk of water-related diseases.

Working together to find water Photo: Alun McDonald

Water and climate risks These may involve floods, droughts, and increasing insecurity Bangladesh - The river basin and coastal areas of Bangladesh are vulnerable to severe monsoon flooding and frequent cyclones, as well as droughts in the dry season. People in these areas are extremely poor and have limited safe drinking water; which is easily contaminated during floods. We are helping people to take precautions, such as to raise their homes, above peak flood levels; and to develop appropriate livelihoods, by providing training and assets, including cattle – which can be quickly moved during floods – and fishing boats.

Keya sits on the raised platform her family live on during a flood – Char Atra, Shariatpur Photo: Dan Chung

Water for irrigation

Repairing a water tank that will irrigate 100 acres of land – Vavuniya Photo: Abir Abdullah

To improve agricultural production, boost incomes, and reduce poverty Sri Lanka - Many thousands of people were displaced from their homes for approximately 30 years, because of conflict. They returned to find their infrastructure – including vital water supplies and irrigation systems – completely destroyed. Oxfam is helping communities to rebuild their livelihoods and infrastructure; providing training and water systems, for irrigation and domestic use.

Water for the future. Oxfam continues to lead and specialise in water and sanitation. Here is an insider peek at our upcoming projects for 2012/13 that involve our work on water: Cambodia Almost a third of people in Cambodia do not have safe drinking water or adequate sanitation. Oxfam is establishing women’s social enterprises, which purify and sell affordable clean water to their communities. We will build innovative ultra-violet water purification units, powered by solar power, to keep costs low. We are training the government and local councils in water and sanitation and to prepare for floods and cyclones. Kenya Turkana Turkana in northern Kenya is emerging from its worst drought in decades. This project will provide sustainable, accessible water supplies to 35,000 people – by building and renovating boreholes and wells, using innovative pumping technology, and training communities to maintain them. The durable solar-powered pumps will greatly reduce ongoing operating costs and avoid damaging the delicate eco-system in this very remote, drought-prone area. Also the new nearby water supplies will halve time women and children have to collect water to less than 30 minutes, allowing more time for income generation and education. Kenya Nairobi Urban Slum Ninety per cent of Nairobi slum dwellers have no access to piped clean water or basic sanitation facilities – and job opportunities are scarce. This innovative project supports enterprising youth groups to develop community water kiosks and bio-gas fuelled bio-sanitation centres – helping to raise incomes and literally clean up the slums in the process. Life in the slums of Nairobi

Liberia innovative urban sanitation solutions Photo: Andy Hall This project will provide households with biofil latrines, an innovative technology that breaks down waste matter naturally without the need for septic tanks. It will also build communal latrines, complete with wash basins and shower rooms, and raise awareness of safe hygiene practices. The aim is to develop a model to be replicated by communities and authorities in other parts of Liberia. Zimbabwe solar energy This project will equip one clinic with a solar-powered pump to deliver safe water, as well as provide vital lighting to surgeries, potentially saving countless lives. Haiti This project includes establishing very basic irrigation systems (using recycled plastic bottles and old tyres) and providing training in irrigation techniques to urban farmers. Bolivia This project aims to use the ancient technique of "camellones" (which consists in alternating raised fields and water channels) to reduce farmers' vulnerability to drought and floods. Farmers are trained to cultivate crops on raised fields, which are not flooded during the rainy season; channels around the fields help retain water, which means that farmers can water their crops in the dry season (and establish fish farms). Innovative project because it re-introduced a 3,000year-old technique. If you would like further information about Oxfam’s work with water or our upcoming projects, please contact:

Contact: Juliet Chalmers Oxfam house John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford OX4 2JY Telephone: 01865 473 930 Email:

Working on the Camellones at Puerto al Mecen Photo: Mark Chilvers

Oxfam's work on water - World Water Day  
Oxfam's work on water - World Water Day  

A six-page summary of Oxfam's work on water in the occasion of the World Water Day, March 22, 2012.