24 Aug 20
World Water Week
Water is one of our basic human necessities. The human body is unable to last without water for any more than three to four days at a time. Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to turn on a tap at home and for clean, safe drinking water to flow out, but this is not the case everywhere. An estimated one billion people worldwide have limited access to safe water. The situation is particularly worse in countries experiencing high levels of poverty and challenges relating to pollution and water scarcity.
Nepal is one such country; of its population of over 27 million people, 42% (11.3 million people) live below the poverty line and only 27% (7.3 million people) have improved access to sanitation. Access to safe water is significantly lower in remote communities. Nepal is a landlocked country obtaining most of its freshwater from mountain streams supplied by snowmelt and glacial discharge. For this reason, access to freshwater is extremely climate and weather dependent, resulting in periodic reductions in water availability. Limited water availability disproportionately affects women and girls in rural areas as women are often responsible for household chores, including the fetching of drinking water.
WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene)
Part of our response to the increase of Covid-19 cases in Nepal has been to promote good personal hygiene and proper handwashing. In general, hygiene, sanitation and handwashing are vital to reducing the spread of certain diseases. Maintaining good personal hygiene becomes almost impossible in the absence of clean, safe water. For this reason, part of our Covid-19 rapid response will be invested in the establishment and maintenance of WASH points in various locations within the Far West of Nepal. This is one of many interventions which, whilst helping to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, is likely to have significant long-term benefits.
Growing vegetables and rearing animals requires access to water. In all the communities we support, farming constitutes not only the primary source of food for families but also the primary source of income. Limited access to water can have a significant on the nutritional health and livelihoods for families living in remote areas of Nepal. A significant step forward was made recently in our three-year DFID-funded project addressing malnutrition in Mugu. Before entering its final year, the project oversaw the construction of two large water-harvest ponds (~30,000 and ~40,000 litres) as well as the installation of ten 500-litre water storage tanks (~75,000-litre increase in water storage capacity). Increased water storage means less reliance on climate-dependent water sources, as water can be stored during periods of increased snowmelt and high rainfall, then utilised during dry seasons. This, in combination with the use of polytunnels, will make farming significantly more resistant to the effects of climate change and water scarcity. World Water Week is a time for innovation and sharing knowledge. Whilst issues surrounding water security continue to persist, projects like ours continue to mark progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.