According to UNICEF, 2.5 billion people lack decent sanitation facilities and 780 people still use unsafe drinking water sources in the developing countries. Due to poor hygiene practices and use of unsafe water, thousands of children are exposed to dangerous water-borne illnesses like cholera, hepatitis A and Salmonellas. Many Gastrointestinal diseases are caused by poor sanitation and diseases like thyroid, dengue and malaria are common in places where there are poor or no adequate drainage systems. Children especially girls cannot attend schools because there are no private sanitation facilities. Women lose on fruitful activities as they have to walk long distances for hours to fetch water. Farmers are less productive due to poor irrigation system and disruption to water supplies. Deficiency of safe water and sanitation services affects individual lives and as a result hinders the over all economic progress of a nation.
Implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene programmes can improve and transform lives of many people. In many countries people are not aware of the benefits of using clean water and good hygiene practices. For example people living in the villages of Aceh region in Indonesia used river and irrigation water for bathing, cooking and washing until Muslim Aid constructed a public well as an alternative water source and trained them on hygiene practices. Another example of how access to safe water can improve children education is the Muslim Aid’s well construction project in the village of Thammanakulam in Sri Lanka. Before a well was dug near a school, the students and teachers had no access to water. They had to bring water bottles from home which was inconvenient since they often had to walk long distances before reaching the school. In addition, kids often did not bring enough water to last an entire day. The school now has a water pump and electricity. Furthermore, the availability of water allowed banana trees and small crops to be cultivated .The income generated by this project is used towards the welfare of the students.
Along with well construction, Muslim Aid assisted communities to learn water management and good hygiene practices in Somalia in 2012 which improved sanitation and reduced risks of waterborne diseases like cholera. To raise awareness of personal and water hygiene, Muslim Aid also organised an event for students in the Mianwali district of Pakistan in 2012 in collaboration with the World Health Organisation. The students were informed about the importance of hand washing, polio vaccine and water treatment methods. Absence of sewage system is another problem which can be hazardous to communities’ health. Children in Gaza walked on streets flooded with sewage on their way to school and exposed themselves to various sewage related diseases. Muslim Aid in 2012 funded a project through which houses were linked to sewage network benefitting around 5000 people.
Lack of latrines or toilets also raise huge concerns for public health as their wastes are not disposed appropriately. People living in deprived rural areas do not have toilets at home and they have to travel long distances to find secluded areas. In order to respond to this sanitation difficulty, Muslim Aid constructed low cost toilets in 2012 for many villagers in the state of Bihar in India. In many cases frequent flash floods make clean water a precious resource. Construction of water bore holes with solar powered water pumps by Muslim Aid in three villages located in the coastal town of Gunjur in Gambia benefited around 3000 people. The village can now maintain its local eco system and plant new trees.
Clean water and sanitation services are underpinning to human development. Muslim Aid is committed to providing access to clean drinking water and raising awareness campaigns on hygiene promotion.
*The copyright of this article is held by the Information and Public Affairs Department of Muslim Aid, UK. Use of its contents is allowed subject to acknowledgement. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent the point of view of Muslim Aid.
Information & Public Affairs Assistant