UNIT TWO: THE CHALLENGE OF CLEAN WATER
Activity 1: What type of diseases come from drinking dirty water?
1 million people die every year from a water, sanitation and hygiene-related disease each year. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.
What diseases come from drinking, bathing or swimming in contaminated water? Discuss as a group and make a list. Are any of these diseases still a problem in the US? Can you think of any recent water contamination issues in the US? Click through the images below to see how many you thought of. What is the main source of water contamination that causes illness?
** Fun Fact **
The birth of Epidemiology, or the study of where diseases come from and how they spread in populations, was originally invented through the study of waterborne disease, specifically cholera. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson is a fantastic book about how John Snow (not the GOT John Snow) discovered how cholera was spread through water and not the air… also check out the film Snow (trailer >>).
Activity 2: How Big a Problem is Poop Around the World?
Hopefully you noticed in Activity 1 that human waste is a main source of water contamination that leads to disease. A fundamental job in public health is making sure people don’t eat poop. Have you ever visited a place that didn’t have flush toilets? What was your experience like?
– 2.3 billion people (1 in 3) lack access to a toilet or latrine (hole in the ground).
– Of these, 892 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into rivers or
– The United Nations’ target to halve the proportion of the population without access to improved sanitation facilities
was missed by almost 700 million people.
– More people in the world have a mobile phone and access to the internet than a toilet.
The Guardian Newspaper has made a number of great maps that show where people lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Check it out HERE. What do these maps show? Where in the world is water access the biggest problem?
There is no one way toilets work or how countries handle poop.
Check out some examples >>
The Gates Foundation has created the Global Toilet Challenge to try to encourage innovation in toilet design to bring cheap toilets to 2 billion people. It’s not only good for health, it’s an enormous business opportunity! Check out some of the winning ideas HERE. Can your club think of some design ideas for a future toilet? (It’s a great science fair idea!)
Activity 3: A LONG Walk to Water
There is actually good news when it comes to improved access to clean water worldwide. In 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals. These were goals that countries around the world agreed needed to be accomplished by 2015. Most of the goals were not met – like access to sanitation mentioned above – BUT the goal to halve the number of people living without access to safe drinking water was accomplished!! This was mainly due to access to piped water in urban settings (there is much concern that despite access to piped water it is still not clean enough in many urban environments). However, as you saw in the maps linked above, many people still lack access, especially those living in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.
The average distance from a household to a water source in many rural areas of Uganda is just over 3 miles! How long does it take you to walk 6 miles?
Ok, now that you have your answer calculate at what time in the morning you would have to leave in the morning to get the water and still get to school at 8:00 am?
Oh, but wait! When you get to the water source there are many others there to get water so you will need to wait 30 minutes in line before you can get your water and return home so add at least half an hour to your morning routine!
On average each person in a Northern Ugandan household uses 5 gallons of water a day (the average American shower uses 18 gallons alone). How many jugs does that mean need to be transported each day for your family (each one holds 5 gallons)? How much water can you carry on each trip (the average hub weights 40 pounds)? How many trips will you have to do each day? If it’s more than 1 in the morning and 1 in the evening then you will have to double (or triple) the time you need to spend getting water in the morning. Is it still possible for you to make it to school in time? What else would you miss out on?? After school activities? Playing with your friends?
Watch this short video of Ray fetching water during his 2017 Camp. He had to carry 1 jerry can half a mile…
Video coming soon
CAN YOU DO BETTER THAN RAY??
Get a jerry can, fill it up with water, and see how far you can carry it! Organize an activity with your club where kids at your school are challenged to carry a full jerry can of water as far as they can. Share information about how far kids must walk in rural Uganda and how much water they have to transport every day!
Activity 3: A Gender Issue
Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the water crisis. Due to gender norms in many countries, they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family – not to mention fun and recreation. They are also disproportionately at risk of contracting waterborne diseases identified above like cholera or schistosomiasis. Girls and women are also at risk of animal attack or rape and potentially deadly physical assault when they must walk alone far distances away from their homes – or when they have to go out in the dark beyond their home/compound to use a shared latrine. The lack of access to toilets and private places to bath, especially at school, also makes it difficult for girls to stay in school once they start their periods.
The lack of water and sanitation lock women and girls in a cycle of poverty as they are unable to gain an education or start a business and this has been recognized by the UN as a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights. Read more about the link between water, girls and Human Rights Here.
Are there policies or norms at your school that negatively impact girls more than boys? What about in the news today? Is women’s access to medical care and services an issue in the US? Discuss what’s been happening and compare it to the rights of women elsewhere in the world.
Activity 4: What Can You do?
Do you think you can help your colleagues in rural Africa when it comes to their difficulties accessing clean water?
Wells, dams and rain catchment systems can provide a reliable source of drinking water. Sanitation facilities and hygiene training then help multiply the impact. Communities become far better able to grow themselves out of poverty.
These can be inexpensive projects and can be developed at your partner school! Ask your partner what their situation is in terms of water and sanitation. Do they have a well on campus? Do they have functional latrines? Are they separated by sex? Do they have doors? Is there toilet paper? Is there water and soap to wash their hands after they use the facilities? Are there disposable or reusable pads available to the girls for their periods? These are all things that you can help support with even a limited fundraising campaign!
A rainwater catchment system is a great way for schools to collect and store water.
Teaching girls to make reusable menstrual pads with materials in their environment empowers them to stay in school.