Rotary clubs always pumped for World Water Day
EVANSTON, Ill., USA (March 16, 2010) — Although the United Nations designates March 22 as World Water Day, Rotary members around the globe are focused on the issue 24/7, volunteering their time and resources to provide safe water and sanitation to communities wherever there is need.
F. Ronald Denham, who chairs the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (WASRAG), 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, a crisis that now claims more than two million lives each year, a majority of them children. From 1978 through 2009, The Rotary Foundation awarded 4,923 grants totaling US$52.7 million for water and sanitation projects worldwide.
On March 22, Denham will join U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other speakers in Washington, D.C. for a World Water Day conference, co-hosted by the nonprofit Water Advocates and the National Geographic Society. Last year on World Water Day, Rotary 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.
WASRAG also encourages Rotary clubs to participate in Live Earth’s Run for Water on April 18, a global effort to raise money and awareness for water and sanitation initiatives.
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.”
More examples of Rotary’s involvement with water and sanitation issues:
- Three Rotary clubs in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska teamed up with a Rotary club in Guatemala to implement a water system for two rural villages in the mountains of southeastern Guatemala. The clubs completed an unfinished water tank and distribution system and devised a gravity-driven method to supply the operation by tapping into two mountain springs. Completed in late 2009, the project now supplies water to 85 percent of the area’s residents.
- In the Dominican Republic, Rotary members from 120 clubs in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean have helped bring 19,000 bio-sand filters to homes, schools and clinics in 300 communities, providing clean water to 100,000 people. Use of the simple and economical (approximately $60) filters can reduce the incidence of pediatric diarrhea by up to 45 percent.
- Rotary members in Bangkok have installed more than 200 water purification systems in rural schools in over 20 provinces in Thailand. The systems use an efficient, low maintenance “reverse osmosis” technology.
- Since 2006 Rotary clubs in Ghana, the United States, Canada, and Switzerland have worked with the Ghana Health Services 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 number of guinea worm disease cases, for example, dropped from 4,000 in 2006 to 240 in 2009.
WASRAG and the Rotary Water Resource Group will sponsor a World Water Summit in Montreal on June 19, the day before Rotary President John Kenny calls to order the 2010 Rotary International Convention. Water summit speakers include Jon Lane, of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council; Clarissa Brocklehurst, of UNICEF’s Water, Environment, and Sanitation Program Division; and Kamar Kar, of Community Led Total Sanitation.
Kenny has made water and sanitation a top issue for Rotary clubs since taking office July 1, 2009. “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,” said Kenny. 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 Rotary on World Water Day: “We must look beyond our own parish pump.”