Published by Antoinette Siu on 08 May 2012 at 12:19 pm
Rotary International asked us to raise global awareness about water sanitation this Earth Day. By measuring our daily walking distance, we wanted to compare access on a global scale. How far do you walk for clean water?
I’m a competitive person. If you attach some numbers to it and tell me it’s a challenge, we are going to see some cutthroat results. Right before the turn of Earth Day this April, Rotary International reached out to Wiser.org about raising global water awareness. The next thing I knew, three pedometers were shipped to me and I found myself taking the long way back to my desk in our 800 square feet office.
According to UNICEF, 2.6 billion people—out of a 7 billion world population—lack access to improved sanitation facilities. 72 percent of these people are located in Southern Asia. 884 million do not use improved sources of drinking, and 37 percent of these people are concentrated in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
To further hone in on these grim statistics, across the board women are generally the ones left with the responsibility to collect water. WaterAid found that up to 26 percent of their time is dedicated to this task alone. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 18 percent of the population is relying on a source that might be more than 30 minutes away.
So, Rotary asked me, “How far do you walk for clean water?” Well, sadly enough, that’s a no brainer for me: I don’t have to. Women in Africa have to walk an average of 3.7 miles to and from the nearest improved sanitation facility each day. Each year, that amounts to spending 40 million hours per year to get clean water.
For about a week, Peggy, Gillian, and myself sported a pedometer on our hip to help bring awareness to this cause. We kept track of the distance we walk each day to put into perspective the burden of inadequate access to water faced by women in developing countries. Here are our individual results:
To no surprise, even on our most active days we spend way less time walking much shorter distances on a day-to-day average. If we took this sample of numbers and averaged it out over the course of a year, each of us roughly (taking the average of our averages) walks approximately 3.6 miles a day. Personally, I have to say, had it not been for weekend hikes, runs, and strolls around the city I would probably bring down our average as a group.
There’s a stark contrast here; while I still use my feet as a mode of transportation, I realized the greatest distances I’ve walked have been for recreational purposes. By comparison, others depend on it as a mode of survival. Although problems of clean water access will not be resolved overnight, raising consciousness in our everyday lives is an important stepping stone to starting a conversation around the issue. After all, water is vital to our humanity and, thus, ensuring everyone’s access calls for a much-needed global dialogue.
In an effort to change this reality, local Rotary clubs are:
- Installing rainwater harvesting systems at schools, clinics, and community health centers
- Providing training to community leaders on management and maintenance of water sources
- Sponsoring scholars studying water and environmental management
- Implementing a sanitation project in a rural village to construct latrines and provide hygiene education to residents
To learn more about this topic, visit these resources:
- Rotary International
- IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre
- Rural Water Supply Network
- USAID Hygiene Improvement Project
- Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council
- WHO Water Sanitation and Health
- Ron Denham’s TED Talk
We would love to hear more about your thoughts on this and related issues. Share your comments below!
3 Responses to “The Distance of Clean Water”
Leave a Reply