By: Joy Marini, Director of Corporate Contributions for Johnson & Johnson, Maternal and Child Health
This weekend, l was hiking with my daughter in Thompson Park in New Jersey when we came upon a spigot from a natural spring. The water was fresh and ice cold. It was a perfect break from our brisk walk on a warm, early Spring day.
The signs at the spigot read, “Consume at your own risk” (although people have been drinking from this spring for decades) and “Families please take no more than eight gallons if people are waiting in line.” If you’re a hiker or a camper, bottling eight gallons does not seem all that extraordinary. But – for families living in a country where water is scarce or polluted by human waste, this is an unimaginable luxury.
Consider for a moment that the water we use in a five-minute shower is more than one person living in a slum in a developing country uses in an entire day – and you realize how precious this resource is.
I have walked the dusty paths in Kenya where, many local women and girls travel up to six hours each day just to get water for their families, wait in line and return home. The trip is arduous through rural and desolate land… and the paths are fraught with danger, including the risk of being raped. To avoid this and other threats in some locations, families opt to pay inflated rates to a “Water Mafia” who might charge as much as a quarter of a day’s wages to fill a single gallon jug with what could be a contaminated product.
A lack of clean water has a ripple effect – compromising the health, safety, prosperity of women, children, and families each day. The facts speak for themselves:
- Roughly one in eight people worldwide does not have access to safe water.
- Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
During this World Water Day, I would like to celebrate the innovative and integrated approach that Water.org is using to expand access to safe drinking water, basic sanitation, and hygiene education. Through WaterCredit microloans, families can tap into the credit needed to buy household water connections, toilets, sinks, tubewells, and rainwater harvesting equipment.
Over the last three years, Johnson & Johnson has worked with Water.org to provide safe water and improve sanitation in the urban slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Before this work began, approximately 85 percent of the residents did not have access to water and nearly 40 percent did not have a toilet. As of February, Water.org has reached more than 1,100 households – approximately 6,400 people. WaterCredits have been empowered thousands of people – most often women – to immediately address their families’ needs – and protect their children’s health.
Water.org is working in hundreds of communities across Africa, Asia, and Central America. Every project is community operated and self-sustaining. As WaterCredits continue to expand, we could be witnessing a watershed moment in global health and development. Our partnership is but a drop of bucket of what is needed but through collaboration we are fostering a model that others might follow.