World Water Day

Fresh Water Arrives for Children in The Gambia

By Ya Sainey Gaye, ChildFund The Gambia

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

man carrying water filter on his back

A staff member delivers the new water filtering system to the ECD center.

The Sintet Early Childhood Development Center in The Gambia recently received a water filter from ChildFund Germany, a device that provides clean, drinkable water. Before the delivery of the filter on March 18, the center’s staff had to manually filter water from an open well. The center serves 153 children in the western part of The Gambia, near the Senegal border.

large group of children line up for fresh water

Children in the ECD program are excited to have fresh water to drink.

The manager of the Eastern Foni Federation, ChildFund’s local partner, and the head of the ECD center expressed delight in the donation, which will make water filtration easier, faster and more reliable. The Gambia has a severe shortage of clean water, and ChildFund has provided filtration systems to several regions in this small country.

Since 1984, ChildFund has supplied safe drinking water to more than 79 percent of the families served in our program areas in The Gambia, as well as helped many build basic sanitary facilities.

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.

Without Fresh Water, It’s Not Easy to Have Clean Hands

By Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

All over the world, children’s hands get dirty while they’re playing. But not everyone has access to soap and running water.  In Indonesia, one of the Early Childhood Development centers supported by ChildFund has tackled the problem of cleanliness without easy access to fresh water.

“Children always enjoy playing here,” says Sriyatun, a tutor who works at the Early Childhood Development center in Kulonprogo, Central Java. “They play with the blocks, crayons, water and other local materials such as corn seed and bamboo.

“Their hands, however, soon become dirty,” she adds. “Children need to wash their hands before they eat. Unfortunately, we don’t have the facility. We usually brought the children to the mosque next to our ECD center to wash their hands.”

3 women installing a clay pot

Sriyatun (in green), a tutor at an Indonesian ECD center, helps install a handwashing system.

Not wanting to prolong this situation, Sriyatun and the other tutors recently hand-built a “water facility” for the children in the front yard of the center. The system consists of clay water pots with spigots that were contributed by a parent. Teachers and parents still must bring the water from elsewhere, but the clay pots keep the water fresh and allow easy, controlled dispensing.

“It isn’t healthy to wash your hands using water from a bucket, as the water gets dirtier the more people use it,” Sriyatun says. “Also, as we should always use running water and soap when we wash our hands to prevent illnesseses such as diarrhea, we thought this idea would work.”

A growing awareness of the importance of handwashing is one result of ChildFund’s efforts to build integrated community-based health services.

“We want parents and children to be more aware of the importance of handwashing at the critical times of day, for example, before eating and after using the restroom,” Sriyatun notes. “It’s also important to wash your hands before feeding a child and after cleaning a child’s bottom and, of course, before preparing food and after touching animals.”

Today, people in the community are more aware of the importance of hygiene than they were in earlier generations, Sriyatun says. “They even practice handwashing at their home now, which they didn’t use to do.”

3-year-old boy washing his hands

Ngatini and her 3-year-old son practice handwashing at the ECD center.

According to one mother, Ngatini, whose 3-year-old son is enrolled in the ECD program, “If we ask them to wash their hands, they will do it, but it can sometimes be a challenge. If, on the other hand, the teacher asks them to wash their hands, children comply more easily and even do it at home without being asked to.”

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.

Starting Over Again: An Afghan Returnee’s Story

Reporting by Ahmadullah Zahid, ChildFund Afghanistan

Afghanistan man

Malik Nader, a father of eight, says that a lack of water was a major difficulty in Sheikh Mesri New Township. ChildFund’s RESTART project has helped provide access to water.

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.

girl playing with a toy

Malik’s youngest daughter plays at an Early Childhood Development center in their village.

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.

man carries water

Malik carries water from a new water source in Sheikh Mesri New Township.

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.

‘Tweet Out’ for World Water Day

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.

Children like Rachel, 8, collect water for drinking and cooking from unsafe sources like sandy wells and muddy streams.

Children like Rachel, 8, collect water for drinking and cooking from unsafe sources like sandy wells and muddy streams.

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:

  1. Follow ChildFund on Twitter. (All tweeters must follow ChildFund so that we can communicate with winners and finalists through Twitter direct messages.)
  2. Compose a tweet bringing awareness to the issue of water insecurity for children and/or World Water Day. Each tweet must include the hashtag #Water4Children.
  3. Tweet as often as you like between March 18 and March 22. Each tweet must be original and posted by 11:59 p.m. on March 22.
Each day, Rachel and her mother walk six hours to get  to and from their water source in Kenya.

Each day, Rachel and her mother walk six hours to get to and from their water source in Kenya.

Get Inspired
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

  •  #Water4Children is fuel for life.
  • A child’s access to clean water is a necessity. It should not be a luxury. #Water4Children
  • 780 mil people lack access to clean water. Together we can help. #Water4Children

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.

Rachel and her mother, Patricia, return home after collecting water.

Rachel and her mother, Patricia, return home after collecting water.

The Rules in One Easy List

  • Follow ChildFund on Twitter. Send a compelling, informative tweet with the hashtag  #Water4Children. Multiple original tweets are encouraged.
  • The “tweet-out” starts March 18 and will conclude on March 22 at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Time).
  • An internal panel of judges at ChildFund International will select the top five tweets.
  • On March 25, ChildFund will announce the 5 winners on ChildFund’s Twitter, Facebook and Blog.
  • ChildFund will notify winners through Twitter direct messages.

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.

Clean Water and Sanitation: A Must for the World’s Children

Reporting by ChildFund The Gambia and ChildFund Indonesia

World Water Day logoAs 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.

girl at water faucetAs 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.

water pipeline

Water is now piped into the village.

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.”

Children and Youth Seek Solutions for Clean Water

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.

Photo by Jake Lyell

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.

Innovation Brings Water to a Community in The Gambia

by Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund Africa Regional Communications Manager

Water is a big challenge in our region; so I find myself thinking a lot about World Water Day, commemorated each year on March 22. In Africa, people travel long distances and stand in long queues to get water. Sometimes the water runs out before those in line can fill their containers. They return home empty handed. A lot of time is wasted waiting to get water — time that could have been spent doing other things.

In some areas even if there is water, it’s unsafe for drinking or cooking. So I thought of sharing with you my visit to The Gambia, where I had the opportunity to see the water pyramid, operated by the Ding Ding Bantaba Child and Family Support Association, a ChildFund affiliate.

Water pyramid in The Gambia

Water is stored below ground before the pyramid is expanded.

Sibanor village is the capital of the Foni Bintang Karanai District in the Western Division. As the capital, it is also the commerce center for several satellite villages as well as many in the Cassamance region. Sibanor is rapidly increasing in size and now has a population of 4,000.

For years, Sibanor lacked clean and accessible water for human consumption. Most of the community’s wells produce brackish water not fit for drinking or preparing food. Nor is the water ideal for laundry, as it does not readily form lather with soap.

As the population has increased, so has the water problem. Because only three hand pumps were producing good-tasting water, residents of the newest settlements started traveling some distances to nearby villages to obtain water.

Water pyramid blown erect

The water pyramid is fully expanded.

Those living around the ChildFund-supported Early Childhood Development center fetched water from the covered hand pump well in the village. The rest shared the remaining two pumps resulting in long queues. Women lined up around these pumps as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m., waiting for the overused wells to refill.

Water storage tanks

Water storage tanks

For years, community leaders tried different options to get clean water but without success. Some families resorted to using unsafe drinking water from locally dug and uncovered wells that had better taste. The main borehole was re-dug in 2001, but, unfortunately, it produced the same poor-quality water. The community endured 20 years with no improvement in the water supply. A radical shift in approach was needed.

In a bid to address the situation, Ding Ding Bantaba Child and Family Support Association, working with ChildFund and the Dutch organisation Aqua Aero Water System BV, succeeded in getting a water project proposal funded by the World Bank.

This grant has built a water pyramid, which consists of a borehole and a rainwater collection system that provides clean and sufficient water (up to 5,000 liters per day) to serve the entire population of Sibanor and surrounding villages.

This innovative water system also provides distilled water for hospital use and for battery refilling. Testing has proven the water to be the cleanest and safest drinking source in the country based on national and international standards.

Water packaging process

Community workers package water into packets.

ChildFund played a role in negotiating the grant project and provided on-site supervision as the water pyramid was constructed. We worked closely with community members to engage them in the project and involve them in carrying out the nontechnical aspects of construction.

Today, ChildFund continues to monitor the viability of the community-operated enterprise and ensure water-quality controls remain in place.

Numerous sponsored children and their families in Sibanor are now benefitting from clean water. It’s a victory to celebrate on World Water Day.

Water for the World’s Children

Today, as we mark World Water Day, established by the United Nations in 1992, ChildFund is implementing water solutions with long-term positive impact.

In the Andean community of Pastocalle, located in Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Province, a new irrigation water tank is helping families improve their children’s nutrition and health.

In the past, Pastocalle families have typically produced only corn, barley and chocho, a type of gourd. Harvested just once a year, these crops required little water.

Yet, they did not provide adequate nutrition for growing children. Due to the lack of vegetables in their diet, the children of Pastocalle were deficient in vitamins and at high risk for illnesses.

With the support of ChildFund and a local indigenous organization, the community decided to expand its food crops by building a water-collection tank.

Fresh vegetables improve children's diets.

The tank provides irrigation water to small parcels of land farmed by 97 families, allowing them to produce vegetables in every season. A local committee manages the irrigation tank, and families contribute to its maintenance. Irrigation was especially critical last year, due to the dry season.

Families sell surplus vegetables at a local fair.

Already, Pastocalle children are benefitting from a well-balanced diet, rich with home-grown vegetables. Child illnesses are on the decline. The families have embraced organic production methods and a forestation program to help protect water sources and ensure soil recovery through crop rotation.

Although most of the vegetables are grown for the families’ consumption, a reliable water source has led to some bumper crops. The families sell the surplus vegetables at a parish fair for additional income.

Water has made a precious difference to the children of Pastocalle.

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