Clean drinking water – while it might be something that people in the developed world take for granted, it is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest needs. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), access to potable water is a crucial challenge for a whopping 844 million people across the world.
For one group of individuals, the lack of access to water affects their lives in such an adverse way.
In rural Cambodia, collecting water is a task that falls largely to women and girls. For 2 million villagers, the closest source of water that is safe for cooking, drinking and hygiene is at least 30 minutes away by foot. When added up, the time spent collecting water translates to missing school and missing out on the opportunity to earn a living for their family.
As the primary caregivers at home, women understand fully how water affects their lives and their families’ lives.
For mother of four, Mdm Sinah, 53, a critical water crisis had affected her community for more than a decade in Thmey village, Cambodia.
One hand pump in Mdm Sinah’s area had been their only water source.
“As a homemaker, I cannot fully explain the profound grief this situation caused me. Since the breakdown of the only hand pump the village had, we faced a terrible drinking water crisis.”
Previously, Mdm Sinah walked more than two to five kilometres daily to get her family’s water supply for the day. For the entire day, she collected 10 cans of 20 litres – an amount that does not cover the family’s needs for the day.
“The women crowd around the only water point during the day and a good part of the night. I have chronic back pains from carrying large amounts of water all day. My husband lost many of his livestock because of the lack of clean water and some of my children dropped out of school to support me with housework.”
“Now with the water well installed thanks to Global Ehsan Relief, I do not need to travel more than five kilometres to get water for my family. In the coming days, my children will be able to continue going to school. My family’s finances are also stabilising now that my husband can water his herd. The health of my children has improved a lot, thanks to the clean drinking water, which greatly reduces diarrheal diseases.
In another village in Cambodia, Mdm Afiyat, 49, faces similar challenges.
Previously, she had to fetch water up to six times a day, sometimes going out in the middle of the night, forcing her to leave her two children with her relative.
At times, her husband berates her for not preparing meals at the right time because she had to go out to collect water.
“Sometimes I don’t eat anything all day, as fetching water was the most important task at hand,” Mdm Afiyat expresses solemly.
According to the UN’s estimates, in less than a decade 1.8 billion people will live in water-stressed areas as a result of changes in climate and population.
It might not seem like much but to women like Mdm Afiyat and Mdm Sinah, it is a big deal to have easy access to clean water. From their stories, it is clear that access to clean water changes their lives. With clean water readily available and easily accessible, more time is spent on bigger and more important activities. Children and young girls are now drinking clean water, growing up well and going to school consistently.
Here at Global Ehsan Relief, we have built more than 3,000 water wells in villages across Cambodia. Since then, families like Mdm Sinah and many others have not had to worry about getting sick from contaminated water. Clean water changed their lives, and by contributing to our Care for Clean Water campaign, you will play a part in changing and empowering their lives.