Water aid is an efficient way to help sustainable development, human rights, and the gender inequality gap. Where do we stand on our goals of providing it as a human right, and what still needs to be done?
Every year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Knowledge Platform releases a summary of our progress towards the achievement of the 16 goals. In 2019, reports showed that to achieve the 6th goal – “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030, we would need to double the annual rate of progress.
As difficult as it is to fathom, an estimated 785 million people globally lack basic drinking water services, and 3 billion people have no access to basic hygiene at home, meaning that billions are deprived of one of their basic rights. The human right to water by definition means that everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use (WHO, 2019). The right to sanitation, on the other hand, entitles everyone to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life. The sanitation should be safe, hygienic, secure, and socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity (UNWater, 2017).
The fact that many are unable to claim their rights for water and sanitation is a manifestation of deep-rooted inequalities geographically, socioculturally, and economically, especially in developing countries or in low-income, informal, or illegal settlements (WHO, 2019). Considering that the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation in 2010, these numbers pose a humanitarian challenge, even when excluding the deadline set by the SDGs.
Water is doubtlessly a driver of sustainable development, and its scarcity is a humanitarian crisis influencing all sides of life in affected regions. There has been some light shed on subjects related to food insecurity, agricultural issues, and public health. Limited or no access to safe water or sanitation poses a major risk, contributing to the transmission of diseases and infections. According to current statistics, this leads to an average of one infant death per minute globally, and around 829 thousand diarrhea-related deaths, though they are considered largely preventable (WHO, 2019). Less discussed but equally as important are the impacts of water stress on gender equality. Lack of clean water has disproportionate effects on women, considering that water supply and management often falls on their shoulders in developing countries. This task keeps their families from going ill or hungry, but prevents girls from receiving education and limits opportunities open to women, further hindering sustainable development (UNWater, 2017).
As humans, we are prone to underestimate the importance of our contribution to global issues. However, among the three sources of funds listed by UNWaters for water and sanitation is “transfers such as overseas aid.” While our aid as individuals may not be able to directly bridge the policy and governance gaps, and the financing required to provide the infrastructure, operation, and maintenance costs of water provision, it may play a role in building a well or constructing a water-purification station. In vulnerable communities, these projects hold a pivotal role and have the potential to improve many lives.
Over the past few years, initiatives and organizations have made it much easier to give, and water is no exception. One such initiative is Suqia – UAE Water Aid, which delivers donations and encourages innovative solutions to the water scarcity crisis, often posting updates and evidence on the progress of their projects. Eventually, it all comes down to finding an organization you feel confident donating to, and not much more than a text message or a quick online transaction to make a significant difference in vulnerable communities.
- Sustainable Development Goal 6: Progress of Goal 6 in 2019. (2020). Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform. Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6
- Suqia – UAE Water aid (n.d.). https://www.suqia.ae/en/about-us
- UNWater. (2017). Water Facts. Retrieved January 11, 2020 from https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/
- World Health Organization (WHO) (2019). Drinking-water. World Health Organization. Retrieved January 10th, 2020 from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water
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