Imagine it is World Water Day and millions are thirsty

by Timo Seidl,  2013/03/21

In Germany, people have quite a strange habit: when they talk about bad weather, they often mean rain. In our part of the world, rain is seen as a grumpy troublemaker spoiling our bathing season, a rainy day is something disagreeable like a dentist visit; necessary and reasonable, but not pleasant at all. Yet, in a sense, such an attitude is ungrateful, if not even cynical.

In the countries of the global north, a lack of water is very rare, while plenty of water is a matter of course. Yet for the majority of mankind, the opposite is the case. 85% of the global population live in the drier half of our planet, where water is rare and therefore precious. Too rare for many.

Although we live in the era of hot tubs and wellness spas, according to UN figures, still 800 million people do not have access to clean drinking water and almost 2.5 billion live without access to adequate sanitation. Every year, up to three million people die from the consequences of polluted water, that is more than 8.000 in a day.

The problem seems immense and yet we need and must not give up. A humedica project in Ethiopia shows how much can be changed by simple means. Simple pumping systems are constructed there to tackle the lack of water affecting the rural population.

Well shafts are dug and simple hand pumps installed so that the groundwater flowing in a depth of about 20 m can be pumped to the surface quite easily. One well costs about 1.500 euros. Every single well improves the water supply and hygiene of up to 1.000 persons and, what is even more important: The children finally have the time to go to school instead of walking for hours to fetch a few litres of water.

Yet water shortage is just one part of the problem. Often, the same countries that suffer from severe drought on the one hand, are affected by the most intense floods on the other. What seems contradictory at first glance, has a tragic background: when the soil is parched after months of drought, the large amounts of water that arrive within a few days, cannot be absorbed.

Flooded fields and villages, lost harvests and destroyed livelihoods are the consequence of this. As if this was not enough: the floods often lead to cholera and other diarrhoea diseases since clean drinking water is rarer than ever. The governments of the affected states are often unable to cope with the situation so that the people are thrown back on their own resources.

All the more important – especially in the chaos of the first days and weeks – is help from outside. It has been and still is a major concern of humedica to support human beings affected by a disaster by providing them with medical care and relief supplies and facing the omnipresent despair with charity.

In the course of the past years, well-trained and well-equipped humedica teams have been able to assist flood victims in Pakistan, Namibia, Benin, Mozambique, Malawi, Niger, Albania and other countries at the time of their greatest need.

Water is a two-faced phenomenon: both a deadly flood and a life-saving fluid, both a blessing and a curse. Like no other molecule, water determines the fate of human beings. This is the reason why, for 20 years already, March 22nd has been designated as World Water Day. Yet, like in the past years, there is still little reason to celebrate – at best, this day could give us reason to pause for a moment when we are about to grumble at the weather again.

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