A young woman carries water in Jamkhed, India.
By Julia Kayser*
March 21, 2013—In Jamkhed, India, temperatures are in the nineties this week. Thunderclouds may crack overhead, but there will likely be no rain. It’s much drier than usual. When the monsoons fail to produce their usual 15 inches of precipitation in this area, the local taps dry up. Anyone who can’t afford imported water is in grave danger.
Tomorrow is World Water Day, and the United Nations has designated 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation. Why cooperation? Because clean water is a resource without borders. There are 276 international river basins, and without negotiation, whoever is downstream will get only the dregs. Around the world, 783 million people still do not have access to clean water. To bring this number down, we have to work together.
UMCOR has remarkable partners who are helping to increase access to clean water. The Comprehensive Rural Health Project, or CRHP, has been working with the rural poor and marginalized in Jamkhed for more than 40 years. Their model has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF as exemplary.
When CRHP is invited to a new partnership with a village, it spends the first year working with the local community to train village health workers, survey households, assess needs, and begin to form active community groups.
As time goes on, CRHP works with the community to implement strategies to meet their defined needs, expand the development of community groups to adolescent girls and boys, develop programs to improve access to clean water, and construct toilets and bathrooms in each household.
After about five years, when villagers have built up the capacity and experience to keep their own programs running, CRHP slowly reduces its involvement and makes way for community members to take on stronger leadership roles in the management of their own water and sanitation resources and their own development.
Right across the street from CRHP’s offices in Jamkhed, some 350 families live in a very poor neighborhood. Earning less than US $2 per day, most of them cannot afford to buy imported water.
Last spring, when the taps began to run dry, CRHP responded to this emergency with help from UMCOR. With a grant from UMCOR’s Water and Sanitation program, CRHP bought a four-month supply of clean water for the neighborhood: 240 tankers in all. It helped the community survive as it waited for the next monsoon.
But CRHP didn’t stop with that temporary solution. It also built three new water taps at a location where the villagers would have better access to underground water. This year, as the dry season wears on, things are looking much less desperate for the community.
Celebrate World Water Day with a gift to UMCOR’s Water and Sanitation program, Advance #3020600. Help respond to droughts and create long-term solutions so that everyone will have access to clean water.
*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org