Friday, October 15, 2010

More people have access to cell phones than toilets

                                                        Pierre Holtz/UNICEF photo

By JONATHAN WOLFMAN
Contributor
Among my earliest memories are those I have from two Jewish/socialist day camps that thrived in the 1950s, music, swimming, art, and sports, and some gently woven-in political consciousness, to which my parents were wise enough to send me.

Both were just outside Philadelphia and neither camp survived into the late-'60s. Among the music that as yet reverberates in me from time to time is the joyous old Israeli pioneer dance- number, in Hebrew, Mayim.
                                     Water.
The early socialist Zionists were hot to turn desert into arable land and so irrigation, Water/Mayim, clean, usable, potable water, at first so very scarce, was so very critical to them.
                                     Mayim.
A friend of mine, a woman in the Florida Baha'i community, an activist, shared this with me and I thought to share it here, with you. People of the Baha'i faith try, as a group, to stay attuned to environmentally-based efforts to help children worldwide and they encourage members of their faith to participate in blogging to raise awareness and spur action. Here's an excerpt from a piece my pal showed me about what happens to the world's poor and particularly to children when clean water is scarce. It isn't a problem we in the West tend to think on every day and yet I do think it's an issue that should have our attention at least from time to time.
Here's what my friend shared with me.
"Our BLOG ACTION is about importance of clean water. You may already be familiar with many of the outrageous statistics related yet another crisis of a world that seems to have lost its mind. If not, here are a few:

884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world's population. (WHO/UNICEF)

2.6 billion people
 in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation; this is almost two-fiths of the world's population. (WHO/UNICEF)


1.4 million children
 die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation - 4,000 child deaths a day or one child every 20 seconds. This equates to 160 infant school classrooms lost every single day to an entirely preventable public health crisis. (WHO/WaterAid)
Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli. salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that boquet of bacteria, it's no rusprise that water, or rather the lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.


  1. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.
  2. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water.They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.
  3. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that's just one meal! It would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.
  4. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using that same amount to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst."
 I don't feel guilty about what I have and I am not suggesting that you should regret any luck you have had nor what hard work has brought you. I am saying that it is good and right for us to be aware and to think about, individually and collctively, in our churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and in our non-religious social and political action groups, how we might support clean water efforts. Without clean water, hospitals, classrooms, farms, safe housing...aren't even a consideration. It's just so basic.


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Jonathan Wolfman blogs at http://open.salon.com/blog/jlw where this article first appeared.

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