Guest Blog Post by ARCC Student Morgan Young
I peered across the river at a little boy, who couldn’t have been older than four. In his hands, he held a little yellow jug as he proceeded to submerge it in the clay-colored water. Mama Grace had warned us of the river’s polluted conditions but I wasn’t expecting them to be this extensive.
In 2019, I traveled to Kenya under a scholarship with 9 other students from across Minnesota. We were all passionate about one topic or another but we were commonly united by our concern for access to clean water.
So many of us are accustomed to the crystal clear water that comes from our faucet or a bottle. For some, this is a thing only of their dreams. In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that over 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. This is roughly ⅓ of the world and 7 times the U.S. population of 329.5 million. The United States is no stranger to this issue, with people in Flint Michigan still suffering the effects of consuming unsafe water. Without vital access to water, we run into problems that impede human rights to education, as well as produce food insecurity and illness.
Children, typically girls, in developing countries are often tasked with collecting water for daily needs. For some, the trip can take all day. School attendance rates are often very low because of the repercussions that come with consuming unsafe water. Children will skip school to collect water, take care of sick parents and/or siblings, or get a job to support their family after a premature death.
As I spoke with Phillip, our Massai guide, and Nicole, our trip facilitator, they discussed that most girls throughout Kenya rely on education to create a better life for themselves. Those who are fortunate enough to stay in school have the opportunity to attend secondary school and even college. The lucky few go on to become doctors and teachers to return and help the kids in their communities. The girls who did not have a chance to stay in school are often forced into arranged marriages.
Water is required for the nourishment and growth of all types of food. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, the animals we harvest meat from, and many more. In 2017 alone, Minnesota used 95 billion gallons of clean water for farming irrigation. Without clean water, food sources can carry illnesses such as E. Coli and Giardia that can be contracted when consumed. These illnesses can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Without proper treatment, these symptoms could result in death. Those who have to resort to collecting polluted water often contract these diseases and have little or no access to treatment when sickness occurs.
Steps that we can take to reduce and clarify water include using wells or groundwater, implementing water treatment facilities, and teaching safer practices. Wells or the extraction of groundwater can provide a safe alternative to streams and rivers. Water treatment plants can ensure the water is tested, treated, and safe for consumption. Lastly, safer practices such as separation of gray water, better sanitization, and water/food handling procedures can help reduce contamination.
Everyone deserves a fair chance at life but these people are set up for failure the minute they are forced to consume the unsafe water. This issue may not be affecting you directly but people all over the world are suffering the consequences. It is important to take care of the people around you which is why it is vital that we advocate for safe practices, water treatment facilities and wells. We may, someday, be able to provide people with a fair chance at life and fully sustain our future generations, but it won’t be easy.
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