World Water Summit in Montreal shows Rotary clubs are pumped to address global water and sanitation crisis
MONTREAL (June 19, 2010) — Aggressive efforts by Rotary clubs to help solve the global water and sanitation crisis -- which claims more than two million lives each year, including 4,000 children every day -- will be front-and-center during the World Water Summit III, set for June 19 at the Delta Centre-Ville Hotel.
Keynote speakers at this one-day event, organized by the Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group, include Guy Laliberté, founder of Montréal’s famous Cirque du Soleil and the ONE DROP Foundation (8:45 a.m.); Charissa Brocklehurst, chief of UNICEF’s Water, Environment and Sanitation Programs Division (11:35 a.m.); and John Lane, executive director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and former head of WaterAid.
“One billion people lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion to adequate sanitation, and Rotary clubs are perfectly positioned to do something about it,” says F. Ronald Denham, of Toronto, who chairs the action group, an international organization of Rotary members interested in water and sanitation issues.
He says Rotary is committed to helping achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal that calls for a 50 percent reduction by 2015 in the number of people with insufficient access to safe water and sanitation. From 1978 through 2009, The Rotary Foundation awarded 4,923 grants totaling US$52.7 million for water and sanitation projects worldwide.
“Rotary club members worldwide are helping communities develop rainwater harvesting systems, install filters, drill wells and construct pipelines, dams and ponds,” Denham adds. “On the sanitation side, many others are helping build latrines and toilet blocks in slums throughout Africa and Asia, and are taking the lead in educating the public about the benefits of personal hygiene in preventing waterborne diseases.”
Laliberté, founder of the Montréal-based ONE DROP Foundation, sees water as the common thread connecting many social and economic problems. “Water is the source of life, and every single humanitarian crisis can be linked back to a water issue,” he says.
Rotary also recently launched an alliance with the U.S. Agency for International Development to implement sustainable, long-term water, sanitation and hygiene projects in the Dominican Republic, Ghana and the Philippines.
Rotary’s strength at the grassroots level -- 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and areas with a total membership over 1.2 million men and women -- makes the humanitarian service organization adept at tailoring projects to fit community needs. Says Denham: “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 the clubs to help define realistic solutions to local problems.”
Rotary International President John Kenny made water and sanitation a top issue for Rotary clubs, challenging them “to focus on water and sanitation, as the scarcity of clean water is an increasingly serious issue in many parts of the world.” In 2007, Prince Charles, president of WaterAid, a UK-based nonprofit, presented Kenny, a native Scot, with the President’s Award for Outstanding Voluntary Service to WaterAid. In fact, Kenny often uses an old Scottish saying that is particularly appropriate for the World Water Summit: “We must look beyond our own parish pump.”