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Global Health Thought Leader Uncategorized

Not too Late to Focus on Water


Michael Nyenhuis is the President and CEO of MAP International

Did you send a greeting card to someone over the weekend to mark World Water Day? Probably not. This is not really that kind of holiday. Rather, it would have been a great day to send a donation to your favorite water-focused charity.

World Water Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 to focus attention on the critical need for the sustainable management of freshwater to improve health and development globally. This past Friday, March 22, marked World Water Day this year.

For many in Atlanta focused on global health, every day is World Water Day. We all understand that most preventable diseases afflicting impoverished communities around the world have their roots in lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation.

Most of the larger Atlanta-based global health and development agencies and several global corporations have water-focused programs, but there are many other efforts focused on bringing clean water to people who need it. Companies, nonprofits, churches and universities in Atlanta all have a hand in this effort. Here are some examples:

  • First Water Inc. (firstwaterinc.com) is a company that manufactures water purification systems for emergency management here in the U.S. and also in global humanitarian efforts.
  • World Water Relief (worldwaterrelief.org) creates sustainable water stations to bring clean water to people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
  • The Water Project (thewaterproject.org) is a Christian agency advocating for clean water and raising money through church communities and others to fund projects with local agencies, churches and missionaries in five countries.
  • Improve International (improveinternational.wordpress.com) is a nonprofit founded in 2011 to support independent evaluations of water project to promote best practices and learning.
  • Emory University has a Center for Global Safe Water. It helps agencies and communities involved in water and sanitation projects to improve their practice through evidence-based research, evaluation and training.

What these organizations and countless others have in common is a belief that access to clean water is not just a health issue, but an issue of justice. Everyone deserves the right to drink safe, clean water. I have traveled to many communities where effective water projects have provided clean water to people for the first time. Of all the joys of seeing improved health services or development outcomes, there is nothing like the sight of clean, clear water flowing up from a new well, down through a bio-sand filter, out through a hand-held filter or into interesting new technologies like the sand dam.

In Atlanta, the bigger agencies along with the smaller ones will gather at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health on April 9 for a conference called “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: Transforming Lives.” If you are interested in simple solutions to one of the world’s biggest problems, you might consider attending. And, by the way, it is not too late to send a belated World Water Day donation to your favorite charity!

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