Meeting the unmet needs for drinking water, and maintaining water access for growing future populations is the quintessential challenge for sustainable development. … Again, children – and future generations – have the most at stake from the priority given to guaranteeing safe and secure access to water – UNICEF, May 2013
When it comes to water and international development, children and young people are integral. Access to clean water is a key tool in lifting children and families out of poverty, and giving them access to an education.
Childhood and international development
This May, UNICEF released a report entitled Sustainable development starts and ends with safe, healthy and well-educated children, highlighting the importance of focusing on children and young people in the post-2015 development agenda.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in April that, ‘Investment in children is a fundamental means to eradicate poverty, boost shared prosperity, and enhance inter-generational equity’.
Water and international development
Lack of basic provisions like clean water during early childhood can lock individuals into a cycle of poverty which could last generations. As David Winder of WaterAid writes in his recent Huffington Post article, safe water enables children to survive the most vulnerable period of childhood (from 0-5) without ‘stunting’, which can cause permanent damage to childhood development.
Water, education, and development
The UNICEF report recommends investment in education, particularly for girls. Children need access to clean water and sanitation if they are to receive a good education. Lack of clean water can lead to diarrhoeal disease which causes children to miss school, and lack of facilities like toilets at schools can also present issues for girls or disabled students.
Access to clean water results in more educated young people. And educated young people are not only able to pull their communities out of poverty, but are also integral in moving towards better water management. A high proportion of the populations of developing nations is made up of young people. In Africa, 1 in 3 people are between 10 and 24 years old. This gives them a lot of power to influence the future of the continent.
Just a Drop’s efforts
Just a Drop have been involved in many projects involving children and schools, which have not only provided safe drinking water and sanitation, but have also enabled local children to gain an education.
Here are just a few examples:
The Immanuel Afrika Centre in Kenya was founded as a centre to rehabilitate street boys whom it feeds and houses while they are enrolled in some form of education. In 2012, Just a Drop installed a water tower and tank, as well as an irrigation project which has boosted the centre’s supply of food. This means that the boys can focus on their education without having to worry about walking for miles to look for water.
Seethpuram village in India has a school in it with 200 pupils and 7 members of staff – but used to only have 2 toilets. These were used by disabled pupils, teachers, and adolescent girls, but the remaining boys and younger girls had to practice open defecation outside the school. Since 2012, the school has been benefiting from the community facilities built by Just a Drop in the village.
In Namakonkone Parish in Uganda, an area with 6 schools, Just a Drop began construction on a community-managed water and sanitation project at the end of 2012. The headmaster of Namakonkone Community School, Herman Musika, said, “The school administration used to send home 25 pupils every week because of diarrhoea, stomach ache and skin diseases all of which were caused by the dirty unsafe water at the school which all the pupils were using. […] The number of children being sent home because of the previous diseases like diarrhoea and stomach ache has tremendously reduced too. Only five children per week are sick which is very good progress and children have now settled to their studies, unlike before. A lot of time that was being used to collect water from far away sources has now been devoted to studies”.
Clean water is not only important for thirst – it enables young people, at a critical point in their lives, to gain the education needed to begin breaking the cycle of poverty. If you would work with children and would like to educate them about the water crisis or help them raise money for Just a Drop, please visit our Schools page.
Happy International Youth Day!
Written by: Margaret Welsh. August 2013