On World Water Day and beyond, Water.org is on a mission to achieve water equity for people worldwide.
We all love water—we drink it throughout the day, we shower in it to clean up, and we even use it to water the grass and plants in our yards. In short: we can’t live without it.
Even so, we often don’t give water or the value it adds to our lives a second thought. If we’re thirsty, we just turn on a faucet or the dispenser from our refrigerators to fill up a glass. If we need to wash our hands, we simply turn on the sink, grab some soap, and we lather up. We could do it once a day or a hundred times a day. The point is that the water is always there—abundant as ever.
So, when globally recognized holidays, like World Water Day, roll around, we feel even more compelled to express our appreciation for this crucial resource that keeps us all alive, while also working to raise awareness to the fact that millions of people throughout the world don’t necessarily have the same luxury or freedom to enjoy clean water as often as we do.
This issue of water quality and potability is one that many countries face around the globe. Developed countries, as well as developing countries alike, have battled with this complex issue as it holds a deeply personal and direct relationship with its citizens. People need water to not just simply live, but to thrive and enjoy life.
One country where water quality and potability is a particularly urgent issue of national concern is the Republic of the Philippines. “Over 9 million people in the country do not have access to clean water” according to the Philippines Department of Health, and therefore resort to unsafe sources to meet basic needs such as hydration, bodily sanitation, and sanitation in their homes. People in many countries throughout the world like the Philippines, struggle just to find clean water to live and to keep their families safe and healthy.
One organization that fights for water equity throughout the world is Water.org. This organization, co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, works to provide people with access to clean water who would otherwise suffer without assistance.
In countries like the Philippines, many people spend significant portions of their household income just to have access to drinkable water. Not only does this put crippling financial strain on these families, it commonly affects women and children the most by taking them away from their jobs and out of school to spend more time fetching water for their families.
Water.org has effectively utilized the concept of microfinance to help families receive water credit loans. Since it is often too expensive to connect to water in developing countries, many families are unable to allocate enough money from their income to pay the up-front cost to connect to these local and regional water supply networks. But that’s where Water.org comes in.
By being offered a water loan, a family is then able to connect to a water supply, and in many cases, have a faucet installed in their home. This relieves the financial burden of constantly paying a high proportion of their income for water, and it enables women and children to be able to attend work and school, rather than having to walk for hours each day bringing water back to their homes.
Dick Pajarillo, senior programs manager in the Philippines for Water.org, holds an extensive background in micro-finance. Pajarillo was able to explain how effective these water credit loans are, and how vital they have been to provide Filipinos with access to clean water.
For reference, the Philippines is a tropical country comprising over 7,000 islands in South East Asia. According to the World Population Review, “it is home to 110 million people.” The country is further divided into 82 provinces. When asked about how widespread the issue of water quality is in the Philippines, Pajarillo described it as “a nationwide concern.”
“Of the 1,488 municipalities throughout the Philippines, 332 of them are ‘waterless,’ meaning that households do not have water taps present in their homes,” said Pajarillo.
Waterless municipalities are defined as those areas where more than 50% of the population doesn’t have access to water.
That’s over half the population of the Philippines. Thankfully, Water.org has made a large impact in the country by acting as a liaison between these affected families and water companies who they are able to connect to. By working with microfinance institutions, they have been able to reach 4.4 million people in the country, providing 1 million loans for both water and sanitation, in the process.
At about $200 per loan on average (in the Philippines), Water.org has had “great success with borrowers’ payback rates, being over 99%+ in the country,” said Pajarillo. The organization has had similar success with loan payback throughout the world too.
With an issue as vast and complex as water equity, instead of relying solely on charity, Water.org empowers the people they reach by providing them with a loan, helping them access clean water, and then enabling them to become self-sufficient and to not only survive, but to thrive and enjoy life more fully. Although it doesn’t fix every problem, offering solutions to clean water access tremendously helps individuals and families live more sustainably.
As we celebrate World Water Day, it’s just as important to celebrate organizations like Water.org who fight for water equity and access throughout the world. Despite its complexity, the issue of water quality and equity is prevalent and actionable. As the World Health Organization states: “Everyone, everywhere has the right to water…water is an extremely important resource that we cannot live without. But there are Filipinos who are still being left behind in terms of access to improved water sources, especially in rural communities.”
Like those in the Philippines, there are millions of people throughout the world who do not have access to clean water. By donating a small amount, even $5 could change someone’s life. As they are a non-profit organization, Water.org puts generous donations to work by helping people in need throughout the world.
For more information on World Water Day and Water.org, visit www.water.org.