In the developing world millions of people are dependent on their immediate environment for their food, livelihoods, sanitation and shelter. This makes them very vulnerable when changes in their environment occur. An unpredictable environment can be catastrophic, for example millions of people rely on seasonal rains to water crops, refresh wells, lakes and rivers. When they are late or fail the consequences are widespread and disastrous.
The seventh Millennium Development Goal – ensuring environmental sustainability – is about trying to reduce the control that a person’s environment has over their life, by improving the environment and ensuring that it is preserved for future generations.
An important part of this is about having clean water to drink and sanitation facilities.
The video shows how improving Stidia’s environment, through the provision of clean water to her village, truly changed her life. This Tearfund project meant that, as well as improving her family and community’s access to water, she was no longer open to attack when walking for miles to collect water. The time saved meant she was able to go to school, improving her future prospects immeasurably.
Beyond the time saved by the water-tank, Stidia and her family are also now less at risk of drinking dirty water. Diahorrea caused by dirty water kills almost 2 million children every year.
Clean water and improved sanitation can also mean fewer intestinal parasites – what we often think of as worms. There’s some fascinating research that suggests that worms are one of the biggest factors preventing children from attending school. Therefore, by improving sanitation we would not need to spend so much on antibiotics and medical treatments for such conditions, and we could improve the numbers of children in education significantly.
These examples are an important reminder that one intervention to fight poverty can have important follow-on effects.
The good news is that we are on course to meet the 2015 target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water. But – the same can’t be said for sanitation, where half the population of developing regions still lack basic sanitation facilities like toilets. Our governments need to know we care about these problems, and that when we target water and sanitation, we make it easier to meet the other MDG goals.