Reporting by Ahmadullah Zahid, ChildFund Afghanistan
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Malik Nader fled to Pakistan and lived there as a refugee for 20 years before returning to his homeland. Now 41, the father of eight lives with his family in Sheikh Mesri New Township, a refugee resettlement community near Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan. ChildFund is at work in Sheikh Mesri through its RESTART program, a collection of services designed to help meet the needs of the community’s youngest children for education, nutrition, water and sanitation. In this remote, dry landscape, water was the greatest challenge. Malik shares his story as we mark World Water Day on March 22.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, we lost everything. We had to take our last option ― migrating to Pakistan ― and it was very difficult to live with no basic services in another country. We settled in a refugee camp, where we were provided tents and some food items.
Like other Afghan refugees, I started working as a laborer to feed our family. Twenty years of my life passed without any promotion to any other work, but still we were happy that our families and children were safe.
But after a while, the Pakistani government began destroying our small mud houses and camps, and we became afraid again. Nothing in our lives was guaranteed, and we had to deal with the Pakistani police every day. Tired of this, we finally decided to return to our home country.
Arriving in Afghanistan with only a Voluntary Repatriation Form from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), we received a piece of land from the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations. And so we began our new lives in Sheikh Mesri New Township.
At first, we lacked even the basics for life such as water, health care, food, decent roads and jobs. It was just like 20 years ago, making a start in Pakistan.
The most difficult problem was drinking water. We spent as much as five hours a day bringing water from far away to meet the needs of our children and families. Awhile after we arrived in Sheikh Mesri, the UNHCR built some wells, which helped to some degree, but they were often out of order, and water would be unavailable.
Then, last year, ChildFund built seven solar-powered water systems in Sheikh Mesri. The design is great! It’s very easy to collect water, and it’s accessible to everyone ― enough water 24 hours a day. We had dreamed of seeing water flowing in our camp, and the solar-powered water systems made our dream come true.
In fact, the UNHCR is building similar solar-powered water systems in Sheikh Mesri, which will solve 100 percent of the water needs of the Afghan returnees who are making their lives here.
Now life feels more stable, and Sheikh Mesri feels like a place where we can stay.
Were you inspired by today’s blog? Share your thoughts on the subject with your Twittter followers! This week, ChildFund is encouraging its supporters to “tweet-out” for World Water Day using the hashtag #Water4Children. Top tweeters will receive water gifts sent to a family in their honor. More details here.
By Loren Pritchett, ChildFund staff writer
To build awareness around World Water Day on March 22, ChildFund is asking its Twitter followers to compose their best tweets to shed light on the issues of water insecurity for children around the world.
Starting March 18, ChildFund’s Twitter followers are encouraged to “tweet out” about water issues or ways to solve them. The individual who tweets the most inspiring message will have a 1,000 liter water tank delivered in their honor to a family in Mexico (valued at $190). Four runners-up will each have an apple tree seedling and a watering can delivered in their honor to a child in Ethiopia (valued at $15). Both prizes will be sent from our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog; plus, all winners will receive a piece of ChildFund swag!
How to Enter:
Think of yourself as a World Water Day ambassador. We encourage each tweeter to think of a short but compelling message to inform their followers of the issues of water insecurity – especially for children. Think of the kids who fall ill from drinking unsanitary water; the farmers in drought-stricken regions who have lost their livelihoods during dry conditions and therefore cannot provide nutritious food to their children; or the young people who walk 4 miles multiple times a day to collect water.
Sample Tweets to Get You Started
Start Tweeting Today!
The five-day tweet-off runs until 11:59 (ET) Friday, March 22 (World Water Day). A panel of ChildFund staff members will choose the top five tweets and we’ll announce the winner and four finalists on Monday, March 25, 2013. Remember: we cannot see your tweets without the hashtag #Water4Children.
The Rules in One Easy List
It’s that simple – tweet out! Do your part to build awareness; join the conversation and get people talking about World Water Day and why children deserve clean water.
By Christa Nedergaard Rasmussen, National Director BØRNEfonden Togo
Last month, BØRNEfonden — ChildFund’s Alliance partner in Denmark — celebrated its 20th anniversary in Togo. Government representatives thanked BØRNEfonden for its work in the east African nation, and two former sponsored children spoke about their experiences.
As in the other program countries where BØRNEfonden and ChildFund work, development activities in Togo are aimed at creating a better future for children and youth. The focus is on health, education, income-generating activities and early childhood development.
Approximately 12,000 children in Togo are supported by a sponsor, including many from the United States.
The anniversary was celebrated in the Togolese capital of Lome with 170 guests, including representatives from the federal government, Danish companies, international and national NGOs. BØRNEfonden’s CEO, Bolette Christensen, was also present.
“It’s great to see how collaboration between BØRNEfonden and local authorities, national and international NGOs give positive results,” Christensen said.
During the past 20 years, local partners working with BØRNEfonden have built 256 schools, 80 kindergartens and 18 libraries in 28 rural communities.
But particularly in the health sector, where the focus has been to give more people access to clean drinking water, the results are remarkable. Within just the past five years, 75,000 Togolese people gained access to potable water. Working with local partners, BØRNEfonden, with the support of sponsors, helped drill 40 wells, repair 110 existing wells and supported 238 local water committees to maintain the pumps and manage consumers’ fees.
Minister of Development Djossou Semodji, speaking on behalf of the federal government, thanked BØRNEfonden for its work and many achievements. He emphasized that he looks forward to many years of future cooperation.
Also, formerly sponsored children who have become successful adults spoke about what BØRNEfonden had meant to them. “After I left school, I came to a technical school and became a carpenter,” said Abdoulaye Issaka. “Today I have my own carpenter’s shop and trains apprentices.”
“I come from a poor family from the country,” said Adjoa Adjimon, “but at one of BØRNEfonden’s summer camps, it dawned on me that all men are worth something. I got enough confidence to get an education. I have a B.A. in economics and am now employed by the Togo Post Office.”
A group of youth from impoverished rural areas who advocate for young people’s rights came to the celebration to speak about their goals, including establishing the right to go to school, protection from violence and better hygienic conditions at school.
Christenson noted about the youth’s presentation: “It is an important task they have undertaken to fight for their own and other children’s rights.”
Discover more about ChildFund’s work in Togo.
By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications
The other week I was thinking about how much we love to scare ourselves at Halloween. We dress in creepy costumes and go to horror movies. Most of the scariness, of course, is just pretend.
But at ChildFund, we’re all too aware of the threats that are much more real and much more frightening to children living in developing countries.
Few things are scarier than unsafe drinking water, hunger, diseases and even a lack of education. Here are the frightening statistics:
If you would like to make the world a little less scary this year, then consider a Halloween gift to ChildFund’s Children’s Greatest Needs fund.
By Zitu Fernandes, ChildFund Timor-Leste
For most of us, drinking a glass of water is a simple undertaking. Yet for women like Estela in Timor-Leste, it can take the better part of a day to fetch and prepare water to drink.
Estela lives in Maliana, a remote town near Timor-Leste’s border with Indonesia. Every morning, Estela walks about a kilometer [0.62 miles] from her house to the river to collect water. “In the rainy season, the water in the river is very dirty.… Then in the dry season we sometimes can’t find water in the river,” she says. “We must dig a little bit into the bank of the river in the early morning to get water.”
Once Estela collects the water, she filters it for four to five hours. She then collects wood to build a fire on which to boil the filtered water. Finally, sometime in the afternoon, the water Estela collected in the morning will be ready to use for drinking and cooking. Even then, she admits, “sometimes, we can’t filter it enough.”
When her children get sick, Estela worries that it’s because of the water. “For many years we have lived in Maliana…and the water we use is dirty. We never get clean water,” she says.
On the whole, water quality is steadily improving in Timor-Leste. In 2009, 66 percent of the population had access to an improved water source, compared with 48 percent in 2001. However, there are still many people, usually women and children, who spend hours each day trying to source clean drinking water.
ChildFund Timor-Leste has been working with communities in Maliana and surrounding villages to build long-lasting water and sanitation systems. In the last eight months alone, 42 toilets have been built in the district with the active participation of community members. In addition, ChildFund has rehabilitated and upgraded one school water supply system, benefiting more than 400 schoolchildren. ChildFund Timor-Leste has also held hygiene promotion sessions attended by around 400 schoolchildren and community members.
Now, ChildFund is planning the next phase of its water and sanitation program, which will include establishing water access in Estela’s village. Each new water system will save many women and children hours of work each day, while also improving their health. “We hope someday that we will have clean water in our village, the same as people in other villages… [that] we are not alone,” says Estela.
Reporting by Patricia Toquica, Communications Manager, ChildFund Americas
In the Americas region, children, youth and adults in ChildFund-supported communities are joining hands to help break the cycle of poverty while working toward protecting and preserving a sustainable environment. Check out some of the exciting green projects that are under way from the U.S.A. to Brazil.
Sustainable Ag in the U.S.
The Wyan Toka Win community garden in South Dakota is a ChildFund U.S. program that involves children and youth in promoting sustainable agriculture and the consumption of fresh, natural products. Families in the community are taking surplus vegetables and fruits they raise in the garden and selling them at the local farmer’s market to generate additional income.
Innovative Farming, Water Use and Soil Conservation in Mexico
In Mexico’s Totonaca region, 450 families have learned innovative agricultural techniques and are putting the knowledge to work on their own farms. This program is supported by ChildFund México in partnership with the local bank, Compartamos Banco.
Nearly 9,000 people, especially women, in indigenous communities of Hidalgo, Mexico, are benefitting from ChildFund’s training programs to improve water usage, including proper collection and recycling techniques.
In many areas of Mexico’s Mixteca region, gradual erosion is negatively impacting the land. ChildFund works with children and youth to promote sustainable agriculture that will allow the production of healthy products without deteriorating soil fertility.
Family Gardens and Fruit Trees in Honduras
In Honduras, families in the Santa Barbara region work with ChildFund’s local partners to promote community-based agricultural production based on principles of sustainable development.
In the mountains of Honduras, children in ChildFund’s programs are receiving a hands-on education in environmental awareness by planting fruit trees that will benefit their communities. And as part of ChildFund’s Friendly Schools program, children in some areas of Honduras receive comprehensive environmental education and participate in practical projects such as maintaining school gardens.
Eco-volunteers and ‘Harvesting My Future’ in Guatemala
About 180 teenagers from urban areas of Guatemala are involved in ChildFund environmental protection projects. They participate in training workshops and propose practical solutions for environmental issues affecting their communities.
About 450 young people from 10 communities in Guatemala are benefitting from ChildFund’s “Harvesting my Future” project. Teenagers receive training in ecological production of sesame and maize crops that will provide income and a better future to their families.
Environmental Education and Youth Involvement in Bolivia
From early childhood, children in ChildFund Bolivia communities learn about the importance of water, soil and trees, thanks to ecological education programs and activities implemented by ChildFund-trained youth leaders.
About 200 families at the Lucerito Center in the city of Santa Cruz will benefit from ChildFund’s environmental training program focused on reducing and reusing waste to preserve the environment.
In LaPaz, children participating in ChildFund’s early childhood development programs engage with their mothers in activities to improve their motor skills using natural elements easily found in their communities such as seeds, fruits, grains, clay and water. These activities help kids connect and care for their natural resources from an early age.
Natural Resource Protection in Ecuador
In the Ecuadorian province of Tungurahua, children enrolled in ChildFund programs are participating in the “Futurahua” (Water Future) project. They are learning about the importance of water sustainability and its role in the production of crops that feed their families.
With the donation of more than 50,000 native plant species, ChildFund Ecuador is supporting reforestation plans developed by children and their parents in various communities living in poverty in Ecuador.
More than 300 families in various rural areas of Ecuador benefit from ChildFund training programs in sustainable agriculture. Community members are now working jointly to maintain water reservoirs and grow organic products in community gardens and orchards.
Water Conservation in Brazil
In Brazil’s Jequitinhonha Valley, ChildFund’s Water Watchers Program engages children and youth leaders in environmental education, contributing to the preservation and proper usage of water resources that are so scarce in this area.
ChildFund’s Water for Life Program in the rural semi-arid areas of Brazil has involved thousands of children and their families in adopting techniques for water conservation and socio-environmental sustainability. Through this program, ChildFund Brazil helps thousands of families in semi-arid areas learn about water collection and conservation to ensure adequate resources for household consumption and crop growth.
Reporting by ChildFund The Gambia and ChildFund Indonesia
As ChildFund works around the globe to provide for the basic needs of children, a fundamental component of our efforts to reduce poverty and save lives is the provision of clean water and sanitation. To mark World Water Day, we spotlight two projects that are improving water access for children and families.
Safe Drinking Water in The Gambia
In 2011, ChildFund The Gambia, with support from ChildFund Deutschland and the German government, began working with the Ding Ding Bantaba Federation and Eastern Foni Federation to provide fresh water to 12 communities. The ongoing project is providing clean and safe drinking water from protected wells for about 22,400 people, the majority of whom are women and children.
Before this project began, women and young children would walk for more than 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) to fetch water from open wells that were often polluted. With the construction of new wells, that walk for water is reduced to 1 kilometer, or even a few meters in some cases. By the time the project concludes, more than 30,000 families will have access to clean water.
As a result of having reliable sources of fresh water, health and hygiene are improving within the communities. Another outcome is reduced occurrences of diarrhea diseases and malaria infections that hit hard for children under the age of five.
Working with the two community federations, ChildFund is conducting management and finance trainings for the communities’ Water and Village Development Committees. “The idea is to equip local residents with the project management and financial skills necessary to effectively maintain and sustain the water facilities and other development projects,” says Eustace Casselle, ChildFund national director in The Gambia.
Opening Access to Clean Water in Indonesia
Prior to 2007, Cikaret village in West Java, Indonesia, did not have access to clean water. The 1,500 residents collected water from wells, irrigation gutters and rivers. During the rainy season, dengue fever, diarrheal diseases and skin infections were common. To have clean water, families had to buy it.
Five years ago, ChildFund Indonesia, working with the local government, teamed with a local partner and community members to build a half-mile pipeline to a nearby mountain source, providing 400 people with access to clean water. The local government then constructed a water tower near the village, growing the number of people served to 1,200.
“The clean water means a lot for the community. Now, there are no more skin infections happening around the community. Besides that, it also lowers our monthly expense,” said Yusuf, 36, a father of three children. “After the water pipes were built and we started to see the benefits, the community started to be closer. We now are aware that by working together, we can put an end to any problems in our community.”
Americans take their bathrooms for granted, but for 2.6 billion people worldwide, a toilet is a luxury. To raise awareness of global sanitation needs, Nov. 19 is designated World Toilet Day.
“Children often suffer the most because of limited access to clean water and poor sanitation,” said Sarah Bouchie, ChildFund’s vice president for program development. “Poor sanitary conditions lead to more disease and less food, and precious family income must be spent on purchasing water or dealing with the effects of illness.”
Responding to water and sanitation issues is a primary component of ChildFund’s work to help children around the world.
Beginning in 2008, ChildFund helped Nam Phong, a village of 3,600 in Vietnam, construct latrines and water supply systems. Community members were also taught to adopt hygienic practices, which helped clean up streams and roads in the community.
In Timor-Leste, where 70 percent of people have no access to sanitary bathrooms, ChildFund built latrines, a community bathroom and provided hygiene training to children and families. In Afghanistan, we are partnering with UNICEF to teach children about sanitation and hand washing. ChildFund Afghanistan has assisted some 6,000 former IDPs (internally displaced people), refugees and vulnerable families lacking quality housing and bathrooms. We’ve provided building materials and a small economic incentive to help families construct a two-room house and latrine.
An initiative to install latrines in elementary schools in Mexico provides students privacy and protection, increasing their likelihood of staying in school. Girls in particular are less likely to attend school if there are no bathrooms.
“Improved sanitation in schools, better access to clean water and knowledge about how to prevent waterborne disease helps ensure the health and development of the world’s children,” Bouchie said.
Celebrate World Toilet Day and help flush out poverty.
While her husband seeks work, Lopeyok, 32, struggles to care for their seven young children in northern Kenya, where drought conditions have become severe. She relies on ChildFund’s Early Child Care and Development Center (ECCD) for her children’s only meal of the day.
The mother and her children also expend precious energy collecting water at a borehole in neighboring Lokitaung district. The four-hour walk each day is hot and exhausting.
ChildFund is delivering 112 metric tons of cooking oil and a nutritional porridge mix for Kenya’s hard-hit regions, targeting children 5 and younger.
The need is great and predicted to grow as drought severity increases across the Horn of Africa.
To learn more about the drought and ChildFund’s response, join Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO, for a Facebook wall chat at noon (EDT) on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Anne recently returned from Kenya where she visited with children and families who are struggling to survive the worst drought the region has experienced in 60 years.
Guest post by Alan Parker
Alan Parker, based in New York City, writes about alternative energy, green business, sustainability and climate change. Follow on Twitter @AGreenParker.
With the focus this week on World Water Day, it’s good to step back and recognize that approximately 1 of every 6 people on the planet has difficulty accessing sanitary water. The problem exists primarily in developing countries, where water is a day’s walk from home, is polluted or is buried deep underground. There are a number of charities that teach people of the importance of clean water and have helped countless villages and towns attain water, yet many people still fail to comprehend how immense this problem really is.
Enter the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), a worldwide event sponsored by some of the leading international chemistry institutions. The centerpiece event of the IYC is a worldwide chemistry experiment called Water: A Chemical Solution. It’s geared toward elementary and high school students and has two main goals. The first is to get students excited about science, especially chemistry. The second is to teach the importance of clean water for all. As Andrew Liveris (head of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), one principal sponsor of the event) claims, the experiment “encourages young people to respect water as a vital resource and how science can help make it cleaner and more available to everyone.”
Through the experiments, students will help to complete the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal of greatly improving access to safe drinking water before 2015.
The global experiment contains different projects where students will complete water-themed chemistry tests to distill water so it can be consumed. The first tests teach students to measure the acidity and salinity of their local body of water. They can then upload their conclusions to the IYC’s website, and compare their results to those from all over the world. Students will also have the chance to develop filtration systems and solar stills from readily available materials to learn about alternative approaches of sanitizing water.
Experiments are tailored for students of all age groups, so elementary school students perform simpler tests, while those in high school can run more complex and challenging tasks. Further, to ensure as many students participate as possible, the experiments will cost very little, if anything at all. The IYC’s experiment runs through December 2011, so if you think that your child or local school would have fun contributing to the experiment, visit the website.
The IYC’s Global Experiment on water could not have come at a more important time in the resource’s history. According to Global Issues, roughly 1.1 billion people in the developing world lack adequate access to water, more than 660 million people lack access to sanitation and survive on less than $2 a day, and children are absent from school around 443 million days due to water related sickness and disease. Water is unquestionably a human issue, and the global experiment is using chemistry to stimulate young students to find solutions.
Liveris, with ICCA, notes that water scarcity means “the world is searching for sustainable, innovative solutions that can only be realized through the advances of chemistry.” Through the awareness that the IYC is raising, it may well be students who will help develop these solutions and aid in getting clean water to those who need it most.