• Annette Johnson

Water Access Expands a Person's Possibilities

Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right.

In recognition of this year’s Earth Day, April 22, 2021, EarthDay.org convened world leaders for a three-day celebration beginning on the 20th and ending on the 22nd. Here at Monjae Collective we paid homage to Mother Earth throughout the entire month, spotlighting climate innovators across Africa including in such areas as water access, deforestation, and fashion. Water access is crucial to our human existence and climate health. Water consists of hydrogen and oxygen, which is essential to each breath we take, and which supports regeneration of cells. Up to 60% of the human body is made of water: think the heart, brain, lungs, kidney and liver; even our bones contain water. As the internal world mirrors the outer physical and spiritual ones, it is unsurprising that about 71% of the world is made of water. Water is life. A life force. Literally.

While 71% of the earth is made of water, 97% of this water is found in the oceans - salt water. Salt water in its original state is not drinkable. This means that only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater. So, access to water, let alone access to clean drinking water, is an entirely different story. My friend, Hannah, used to say, “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.” This year’s World Water Day, April 22nd, calls upon us to: Value Water. The benefits of access to clean drinking water goes hand in hand with good health and adequate disease prevention.

What if each of us reflects on the value we place on water? If I’m being honest, it’s sometimes easy to take access to clean water for granted. Drinking water or tea throughout the day, using water in the bathroom or kitchen, for laundering, and even in the yard with just a turn or a click makes it so easy to take access to clean water for granted. As long as the considerably small bill is paid on time each month, there’s generally nothing to worry about. Depending on where we are, tap water might be safe to drink, or a water filter may be easily accessible. All of these are my current reality. Yet, I can also recall when I drew water from the well, or when we went to fetch water from a creek during the war in Liberia (another story for another day), or of how I could never get used to carrying a bucket or large pan of water on my head. These were not necessarily dire situations, or something I had to do all the time to where it became unbearable, but I was blessed with parents who did not shield us from basic life skills. For others, this is lifetime reality and necessity, and in some cases, the situation is even more bleak. At least there was water to fetch. According to UNICEF, 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Half of those people are in Africa.

Even with access to water, there’s the question of sanitation and safety. The creek or river may also be the clothes and dishwashing station. Desalination and water filtration and purifying systems are crucial necessities for every single person on the planet. If access isn’t 100%, there’s a real problem (one of several or many) at hand. Access to water supply saves time in a real sense. Besides the time and opportunity cost in missed school or study time (borrowing from the future), or time that could otherwise be spent on gainful employment (robbing the future), Face Africa notes the very real gender equity costs: in some places, women and girls spend around 60% of each day collecting water. Face Africa and Africa Gives Back International are a couple of social ventures ensuring clean water access.

Water is a fundamental human right, and access to safe and clean (drinking) water makes so much more possible. Is it safe to say that water is the mother of all human rights, or at least an entry point? Arguably, yes. For example, Loo Works’ sanitation innovation produces locally made in-home toilets using waste to create their toilet housings and digesters. The need remains great, despite the efforts of such social entrepreneurial organisations. Access to electricity is closely connected to water access, given the ease of cooking, and heating up food and water, and also ensuring that a girl child can complete her homework before or after dark. If you have never lit a coal pot or other fire to heat water for a comfortable bath, count yourself privileged. Besides “the joy of learning” another diaspora connection as people in the Caribbean also use this product, shout out to Toyola Coalpot for their innovative ceramic design of this age-old product that also helps combats deforestation. And we love SPOUTS’s innovative ceramic and easily accessible Purifaaya Filter.

Share with us other social innovators ensuring access to clean and safe water on the continent via Instagram and Facebook.

*Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash.*

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