More than a half billion people in the world don’t have access to safe water.
Have you ever had a temporary water outage? It occasionally happens with water mains freeze or breaks. Occasionally, a water supplier must shut off the water to perform repairs or maintenance. That happened to me once in the last apartment I lived in. I really needed to shower and do a load of laundry but when I turned the tap, no water. It was off for hours.
My parents get their water from a rural cooperative, and there have been a couple of times when problems made the water temporarily unsafe to drink. They still had water flowing into the house but had to boil it before drinking or cooking with it, so it was still a big inconvenience.
The point I’m getting to is this. While all of us have probably suffered through an interruption of the water supply a few times, in developed countries like ours, we pretty much can take for granted access to safe water and sanitation. This wasn’t always the case.
As the nonprofit charity, Water.org, notes on the organization’s website, “a little more than 100 years ago, New York, London, and Paris were centers of infectious disease. Child death rates were as high then as they are now in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was sweeping reforms in water and sanitation that enabled progress. In fact, in a 2007 poll by the British Medical Journal, clean water, and sanitation access was designated the most important medical advancement since 1840.”
People living in places like Africa, many parts of Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, can’t take access to safe water and sanitation for granted. And you know who suffers the most due to the lack of those things we take for granted? Women and children.
Water-related diseases affect more than 1.5 billion people every year
The lack of safe water and sanitation spreads disease. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease. Water, sanitation, and hygiene-related disease kill nearly 1 million people each year. In countries where access to safe water is difficult and unreliable at best, women and children bear the primary responsibility for water collection.
Women and girls often spend up to 6 hours each day collecting water
Women and girls in developing countries often spend up to 6 hours each day collecting and carrying water. That makes education elusive and economic opportunity farther out of reach. There are only so many hours in a day. Spending a quarter of your day just collecting water doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like school and making a living. How would your schedule have to change if you spent 6 hours each day collecting water?
The lack of access to safe water is deadly, dangerous, and a major obstacle to the people of developing nations living healthy lives and becoming economically empowered. It is what is standing between billions of people and their health, safety, and the opportunity to realize their true potential.
Besides being an author, like it or not, I’m also running a business. I’m someone who makes a profit from selling his work to others. That makes me feel that I have an obligation to give something back. For a while now I have been thinking about ways to do that. It occurred to me that contributing a set percentage of my royalty earnings to a worthy charity that helped disadvantaged people would be a great way to do that. Not only would that be a way for me to give back personally, indirectly but in a very real way, it would also involve those who buy my books. Those wonderful people would be helping too. They would be giving to someone in real need every time they chose to buy one of my books.
Once I decided on what to do, I started looking for a charity that was doing important work, an organization that I could have confidence in to do what they claimed they were doing. What I found was that there are a lot of wonderful charities doing amazing work in so many different areas that it is almost mind boggling. But rather quickly, I honed in on an area where the need is beyond critical, access to safe water and sanitation.
“About 66 percent (4 billion people) of the world’s population live without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year,” according to a recent study published in the journal Science Advances. Nearly half of those people live in India and China. More than half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round. The World Economic Forum considers the growing world water crisis a systemic risk to the Global economy, one of the top three global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.
Some believe that increased water shortages around the world will mean that future wars will not be fought over things like territory and access to natural resources like oil, but will be fought over access to water. In an Op-Ed published last year in the Los Angeles Times, Peter Engelke wrote, “Water is central to all human activities, including food production, no state can allow its water resources to be compromised. Therefore, in a world of squeezed water supply, states should be willing to go to war to protect their access to water.”
There are a lot of fantastic charities working to help provide access to safe water to people living in developing countries. It was by no means an easy decision, but I finally settled on Water.org, an international nonprofit developmental aid organization resulting from a merger between H2O Africa and Water Partners International, co-founded by Gary White and actor Matt Damon. The goal of the organization is to provide aid to regions of developing countries that do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Water.org has a great track record, having been involved in helping to develop access to safe water and sanitation for more than five million people around the world. It has received a four-star rating (the highest available) from charity watchdog Charity Navigator. This high overall rating reflects the compilation of excellent ratings in three important areas; financial practices, accountability, and transparency. Less than 16 cents of every contributed dollar go to administrative expenses like salaries and operating expenses like fundraising. More than 74 cents of every dollar go toward providing access to safe water and sanitation to the people who need it.
Beginning April 1, 2017, I am partnering with Water.org by contributing 10 percent of every dollar earned in March 2017 from royalties to the organization. I will continue that by contributing the same percentage on the first of every month after that. Candidly, that won’t amount to a huge sum of money now, but hopefully, as the months go by I’ll earn more and can contribute more. But even a little goes a long way when supporting Water.org. According to the organization, on average it costs only about $23.23 to provide safe water and sanitation to one person.
So why advertise my decision here with this blog post? A cynical person might think I’m looking for a pat on the back, but believe me, that isn’t it at all. I’m sharing this today because it is such an important issue, a problem that needs more people getting involved. So, if you’re reading this, I hope that you too will consider partnering with Water.org and will help them provide reliable access to safe water and sanitation to the 663 million people worldwide who lack it year-round.
Not everyone has extra money to donate to charities on a regular, consistent basis, even when the need is great. But if you enjoy my work and purchase one of my books from time to time, please know that you will still be helping even if you can’t donate to Water.org directly. You can be confident that a portion of the cover price of any book purchases will go towards helping those who need access to safe water.
Learn more about Water.org from one of the co-founders by watching the following video.