Clean water: a basic for survival and safety
For World Water Day 2020 (22 March) – a reflection on the need for safe water in our region.
Public health warnings for frequent handwashing to help prevent the spread of coronavirus highlight the importance of water – and that its availability is taken for granted in most parts of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is not so in many parts of the world – including large parts of the Pacific.
Almost one third of the world does not have access to safe drinking water and unsafe water sources are responsible for 1.2 million deaths each year, according to Oxford University’s “Our World in Data." Unsafe water is one of the world’s largest health problems – particularly for the world’s poorest people. In low-income countries unsafe water accounts for six percent of deaths.
In Oceania, people living in some western Pacific countries are particularly at risk. In Papua New Guinea only 40 percent of the population can access safely managed drinking water services, according to the Pacific Data Hub for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Climate change is putting additional pressure on existing water resources. Through its State of the Environment Report series since 2014 Caritas has documented more severe droughts in places such as Papua New Guinea and Tonga affecting water supplies and underground water lenses in Kiribati becoming salinated. But it is also documented villagers finding that ancient wells and natural sources could still provide life-giving water; and the rehabilitation of 1920s rainwater collection tanks by Caritas Tonga to provide viable emergency water storage.
in Papua New Guinea, Caritas is addressing the need for safe water for the people of the Bitokara area on the island of West New Britain. This project is providing a water supply system to serve five villages (approximately 3000 people), a health clinic, two schools and community facilities. Such a reliable water supply will address water accessibility, and support the medical needs of its people through safe and adequate water for its health clinic. You can read more detail about the Bitokara project through a recent One World Partnership Newsletter.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has also assisted with water rehabilitation in Solomon Islands and supported emergency water supply work in emergencies in Oceania and across the world.