Clean Water Allows Students to Learn
by Denise Allen, Mission EduCare
Imagine if the closest source to water was miles away from your home or school. Imagine if you had to walk 3 to 4 hours a day struggling to carry enough gallons of water to accommodate the needs of your family. Imagine if your child was missing days of getting their precious education in primary school because it is their responsibility to bring water back for your family. Now, imagine if the water you walked for miles and hours to fetch are full of contaminates and bacteria, and that is the only source of water available to you for drinking and washing.
Unfortunately millions of people around the world do not have to imagine this, it is their reality. The UN reports that an alarming 11% of the global population, 783 million people, still do not have access to clean sanitized drinking water. Even more alarming, 2.5 billion people do not have proper sanitation facilities.
For many of us here in the United States, this is an experience we cannot fathom. Water is typically taken for granted, wasted, and not recognized for the precious resource that it is. With the exception of the few occasions when there is a water main break on your local street, we tend to not even think about access to clean water. Think of the inconvenience and frustration we feel when suddenly clean water is not available, if only for a few hours.
Until I started visiting communities in Africa and other developing areas with Mission EduCare, I have to confess, I did not think much about access to clean water myself. Mission EduCare's, aka MeCA, main goal is to provide education materials, training and infrastructure to schools in developing communities globally. During our visits to several schools in Africa, we started to observe students were impacted by lack of clean water in two ways:
1) Many students, primarily girls, were missing hours of school because they were responsible for walking to the nearest source to collect water for their families.
2) Many students were getting life threatening illnesses primarily from improper hygiene practices due to lack of clean water to wash their hands.
Since children are not fully developed to combat water borne diseases, they are likely to contract diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, and worm disease. Every year, approximately 800,000 children under 5 years old die from diarrhea related diseases stemming from lack of clean water, this is an average of 2200 children per day. This should not be the case in 2013.
In Tanzania, less than 10% of the schools have proper hand washing facilities or clean water. Some Tanzanian schools have greater than 200 students per squat-hole (i.e. hole in the ground for bathroom purposes) and do not have water for the children to wash their hands. Lack of proper sanitation is a threat to the student's health, which in turn impacts their education.
Mission EduCare is joining forces with Leon Barber to address the lack clean water for the Nambere Primary School in Arusha, Tanzania. The project, initiated by Leon, will provide a rainwater tank to support the 745 students attending the school. The time students are spending walking to gather water and fighting preventable illness is time spent away from school and learning. One school at a time, one tank at a time, we can make a difference. Just imagine.
Denise Allen is the Founder and Executive Director of Mission EduCare.