GLOBAL: UNICEF-WHO report says women and girls bear brunt of water crisis
‘Clean Water Initiative’ makes supplying clean water to communities a priority.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Aug. 8, 2023) Women and girls are responsible for getting water in seven out of 10 households without supplies, according to the report “Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) 2000-2022: Special focus on gender” produced by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). This is the first in-depth analysis of gender inequalities in drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in households.
The report indicated 1.8 billion people live in households without water supplies on the premises. It also highlighted that more than half a billion people still share sanitation facilities with other households, compromising women’s and girls’ privacy, dignity and safety.
Women are most likely to be responsible for fetching water for households. Girls are also nearly twice as likely as boys to bear the responsibility, and spend more time doing it each day.
In a press release about the report, Cecilia Sharp, director of WASH and Climate, Energy, Environment and DRR (CEED) at UNICEF, said, “Every step a girl takes to collect water is a step away from learning, play and safety. Unsafe water, toilets and hand-washing at home robs girls of their potential, compromises their well-being, and perpetuates cycles of poverty. Responding to girls’ needs in the design and implementation of WASH programs is critical to reaching universal access to water and sanitation and achieving gender equality and empowerment.”
In response to this ongoing water crisis, Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has continued its “Clean Water Initiative” — which makes building wells and supplying fresh, clean water a top priority for every community in every country in which Salesian missionaries work.
Water for villages in Ghana
Two communities in Ghana have access to clean water thanks to funding from Salesian Missions. The water project was part of the Salesian efforts to bring water access to the Bono Region of the country. Water remains one of the main challenges in the region.
The water project improved access to quality water for a community and school that are part of the Odumase Mary Help of Christians Parish, which has 16 outstations and 22 villages. Funding provided for a borehole with a hand-pump in the Kojokesekrom community. The community has 700 residents and 300 people who come to the area to farm but do not live there.
The project also provided a mechanical borehole with a water tower and spouts in the community of Chiraa for 340 students, staff and Salesian sisters. In addition, 30 families are also benefiting from this new water access. The Sisters of Holy Family of Nazareth started Holy Family of Nazareth School in Chiraa in 2015. The school has eight classes from nursery school to grade four. The school is located in an undeveloped area and is isolated. The nearby community did not have stable water access. Until this new project, the school had to rely on a stream, which wasn’t a safe water source.
Bathrooms for students in India
St. John Paul II School in the community of Maram Khullen, located Manipur, India, has a new toilet complex thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. The school provides education to 170 students, ages 4-13, with the support of 10 staff members.
The funding was utilized for construction of the entire complex from the foundation to the ceiling and walls. Funding was also used to tile the floor, paint the entire building, and install the toilets and partition them. Separate areas of the building were provided for both boys and girls.
Father Sebastian Chennoth, who is in charge of the school, said, “The whole school will benefit from the toilet complex. It is especially true for the girls in the higher classes. It was not easy for them prior to the new complex. This was more embarrassing when some were sick or had stomach troubles. A few students even used to run to the neighboring houses for their needs.”
Houdina, a girl in class 7, expressed her gratitude for the new toilet complex. “I am very happy now. I don’t feel embarrassed anymore. I never went during school recess to the toilet, but used to go during class time to avoid the gaze of the boys.”
Fresh drinking water in Vietnam
Villages in Vietnam have clean water access thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions, The projects provided water purification systems and water tanks for the Hoa An Parish in Bac Giang, the Khop village and Thanh Binh Parish in Kon Tum, and the Tac Van Oratory in Tac Van.
The Hoa An Parish has a supply of fresh water for more than 1,000 people. The new water system will also ensure clean water for the 100 children at the Salesian oratory and 20 boarders from the boarding school. Around the parish, there are many poor households with workers staying in rental houses. Ngo Thi Man, a factory worker, is benefiting from this project. With the money she saves on water, she can spend her salary on other basic needs and help support her family back home.
In Kon Tum, more than 1,147 people are benefiting from the water supply in the Khop village where there are poor families working as farmers. Mr. Rhađê, a farmer employed part-time to protect the forest, draws potable water for his family instead of having to get it from streams which are unsafe. He is supplying fresh water to his family and the crops while saving money that he once spent on water containers. There are also 2,700 people benefiting in the Thanh Binh Parish.
At the Tac Van Oratory, there are 500 people in the local parish and 80 boys at the oratory who are benefiting from this new water supply. Around the community there are many poor families who make their living by fishing. Tran Van Ngoc, a fisherman, has an unstable income and is able to draw water for free instead of purchasing water canisters to provide clean water for his family.
First water well for community in Zambia
More than 300 residents of the Kamakuti village in Kabwe, Zambia, have clean, fresh water thanks to Salesian Missions. The project provided funding for a new borewell, water tank and pump in the village, which hosts one of the Salesian St. Mary’s Parish village chapels.
St. Mary’s Parish has four village chapels where priests meet people on a weekly basis for catechesis, prayers and sacraments. During the weekdays, the Salesian community utilizes these chapels for daily meetings and fellowship. Local women also use the chapels as meeting places and children’s preschools.
The villages lack basic services including water, proper sanitation and transportation. There is also a lack of education facilities for children, and people travel long distances to access a health center.
This is the first time this community has clean fresh water. Women and children will no longer have to travel a distance to bring back water to the village. Mr. Kasongo, a long-time village resident, could not believe that running water was now available. Another woman shouted, “Our children will live!” Children are often given the only water available from unsafe shallow wells, which can cause health complications that impede their growth.
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