Rotary taps into clean water
A child bathes in the streets of La Grúa, Dominican Republic. Rotarians are educating people in the community about the effects of contaminated water. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
M ore than two million people die each year because they lack access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation.
To draw attention to the need for action, Rotarians join the world on 22 March to observe World Water Day.
Established by the United Nations in 1992, World Water Day highlights the increasing demands being placed on the world's freshwater supplies. This year's theme "Clean Water for a Healthy World" focuses on the importance of water quality.
Water and sanitation issues are a top concern for Rotary clubs, says RI President John Kenny. In 2007, he was presented with the President's Award for Outstanding Voluntary Service to WaterAid.
"I ask you particularly to focus on water and sanitation, as the scarcity of clean water is an increasingly serious issue in many parts of the world," says Kenny.
From 1978 through 2009, The Rotary Foundation awarded more than 4,900 grants totaling US$52.7 million for water projects worldwide. Such club and district efforts are aimed at helping to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, which include halving by 2015 the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
"This is an enormous challenge for humanity, and Rotary clubs are logical leaders in the challenge because they are embedded in their local communities, allowing for the clubs to help define realistic solutions to local problems," says F. Ronald Denham, chair of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group.
Denham will join U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other speakers on 22 March in Washington, D.C., for a World Water Day conference.
Cohosted by the nonprofit group Water Advocates and the National Geographic Society, the event will showcase new commitments in water and sanitation by the U.S. government, philanthropic foundations, corporations, universities, and other organizations.
On World Water Day in 2009, Rotary International launched an alliance with USAID to implement long-term water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and the Philippines.
Here's a sampling of Rotary club and district water projects worldwide:
- Thirty-six clubs in District 9210 (Malawi; parts of Mozambique; Zambia; Zimbabwe) have 86 ongoing or recently completed projects to provide wells, water storage and purification, irrigation, and toilets for improved sanitation. These projects are mostly at schools, clinics, or homes for children or the elderly.
- Rotarians in District 3160 (India) handed out water filters to schools in seven villages after flash floods in October polluted wells, causing high alkaline levels.
- In the Dominican Republic, members of 120 Canadian, Caribbean, and U.S. Rotary clubs have helped bring 19,000 bio-sand filters to homes, schools, and clinics in 300 communities, providing clean water to 100,000 people. The filters, which cost about US$60, can reduce the incidence of pediatric diarrhea by up to 45 percent.
- Since 2006, Rotary clubs in Canada, Ghana, Switzerland, and the United States have worked with the Ghana Health Service and the U.S.-based Carter Center to drill boreholes and install wells in more than 75 towns and villages in Ghana, greatly reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases nationwide. The cases of Guinea worm have dropped from 4,136 in 2006 to 242 in 2009. Read more.
- Rotarians from districts 1620 and 2170 (Belgium) have collaborated with Rotary clubs in District 9100 (West Africa) since 2005 to support a water project that is benefiting 20,000 residents in Niger’s Tchin-Tabaraden area. Eighty clubs from the Belgian districts contributed more than €370,000 (US$503,000), with additional support from two Rotary Foundation Matching Grants. Eighteen wells were renovated and two new ones drilled for health centers and schools. Toilets were built for seven schools and three health clinics.
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