Friday, November 10, 2006

Water, water everywhere . . .

A United Nations Development Program report on the lack of clean water in many area of the world led to these two news stories. The first, from the Los Angeles Times, notes:
While people in wealthy suburbs of Africa use water to maintain lush lawns and fill swimming pools, many slum dwellers struggle to obtain the crucial resource and pay much more per gallon for what little of it they can get, according to a United Nations Development Program report calling for an end to "water apartheid."

At the same time, dirty water is the second-leading cause of death among children globally, after respiratory infections. It kills 1.8 million children younger than 5 each year, more than do HIV/AIDS, malaria, war or traffic accidents, says the U.N. report released Thursday in Cape Town.

The second article, from the New York Times, begins:
The toilet and the latrine, which helped revolutionize public health in New York, London and Paris more than a century ago, are among the most underused tools to combat poverty and disease in the developing world, says a United Nations report released yesterday.

“Issues dealing with human excrement tend not to figure prominently in the programs of political parties contesting elections or the agendas of governments,” said Kevin Watkins, the main author of the report. “They’re the unwanted guests at the table.”

The human cost of that taboo, however, is more unspeakable than the topic itself, he said. Every year, more than two million children die of diarrhea and other sicknesses caused by dirty water and a lack of “access to sanitation.”

That is the common euphemism for the reality that more than a third of the world’s people — 2.6 billion — have no decent place to go to the bathroom, while more than a billion get water for drinking, washing and cooking from sources polluted by human and animal feces.

Albany Catholic believes the situation requires all of us to learn more about this important issue. Toward that end, look for future postings here about issues involving access to clean water.