Did you know that seven per cent of the planet's renewable water is found in Canada? It's a reassuring fact that Canadians won't go thirsty, at least in this lifetime. But unfortunately the water crisis in other parts of the world still needs desperate attention.
The United Nations', World Water Day marked on March 22 every year since 1993, draws attention to the scary fact that water is a "fragile, finite resource" — and a basic human necessity.
To mark this country's own Canada Water Week, TVO screened the short film “No Woman, No Water" in Toronto.
The documentary follows Ontario filmmakers Alex and Tyler Mifflin as they travelled to Kenya and Tanzania. They teamed up with WaterCan, a Canadian charity, to learn first-hand about the challenges Africa faces, and climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise funds for wells for sustainable clean drinking water.
“The Water Brothers,” hosts of TVO’s eco-adventure series of the same name, were joined by WaterCan's national ambassador and CTV host Ben Mulroney and about 20 volunteers as they visited several sub-saharan and urban communities.
The film mostly features women because the role of securing water often falls to them. But one poignant scene shows the brothers walking through cramped lanes in a large community, navigating through piles of rotting waste and garbage bags. What appears to be sewage runs freely next to playing children. The guide shows the brothers a small area outside a shack that has been covered to provide privacy for a wash area.
"So this would be like someone's bathroom?" asks Alex, as he looks at the approximately five-square-feet area.
“Not would be,” the guide said. “This is a bathroom.”
There is limited running water. Without toilets or sewerage systems, the informal community has become infamous for "flying toilets " — plastic bags that are used for defecating into and then tied and thrown in the air as far away from the thrower's living quarters as possible.
This is the reality of the one million residents who live in Kibera, the largest slum community in Nairobi.
According to the World Health Organization, millions of people, most of them children under the age of five, die worldwide from illnesses such as cholera and typhoid that are contracted from contaminated, disease-ridden water sources; others from lack of basic sanitation and proper hygiene techniques. In Africa, the availability varies from place to place, month by month and even year by year.
In Canada, it’s difficult to imagine life without access to clean running water. Water is essential for life and many Canadian charities are dedicated to providing clean water solutions for communities outside of our borders, raising money and building wells or filtration solutions in other countries.
Giving people in rural communities such as Kenya's access to water not only frees them from having to search for it for two to three hours a day; it enables them to concentrate on education and other economic productivity.
World Water Day is an opportunity to let us reach out to donate to organizations that are dedicated to providing sustainable clean water solutions in developing countries, not just to conserve our own use of abundant water resources for one day.
While this list is not exhaustive, here are six Canadian charities that are dedicated to improving people's lives with water.