This Year’s World Water Day Theme: Water for Cities

Every year on World Water Day, there is a theme and this year it is: Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge. The United Nations reports that by 2030, nearly 60% of the world will reside in cities, resulting in critical problems regarding how we manage water as well as wastewater.

Wells Bring Hope does not work in urban areas. The population we serve is rural, in fact, one of the most rural places on earth, Niger, West Africa. However, as we share this planet with those residing in cities, it behooves us to support efforts to strengthen water management programs wherever they are. As more and more villages get wells, people become more economically stable and sometimes migrate to urban areas to experience a better quality of life. Thus, rural moves to urban areas a compound the problem. However, the overriding need is to save lives with safe water and improve quality of life

Our former fiscal sponsor, prior to becoming our own non-profit, was the highly esteemed Pacific Institute. Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute Water Program said this: “Today, roughly 141 million urban dwellers don’t have access to safe drinking water, and close to 800 million live without access to improved sanitation.” “We’re working to identify new policies and approaches that insure urban centers have access to adequate, safe, and affordable water supplies, while promoting healthy ecosystems.”

One new approach the Institute is working on is improving water and sanitation services through crowd-sourced map data using mobile phones. The pilot project is in Indonesia, which ranks sixth in the world for number of mobile phone subscribers. This project provides an exciting new tool for enabling information to flow between communities, governmental entities, and service providers, in support of rapid and informed decision-making.

“This tool will give people a way to report conditions such as poor water quality or quantity, well failures, and failure of private water supplies,” said Meena Palaniappan, director of the International Water and Communities Initiative. “It can be a key way to allow poor urban customers to hold utilities and other water providers accountable, as well as give these utilities important information to better plan in the face of climate variability.”

About World Water Day

Do you know how the international observance of World Water Day started? It began in 1992 as an initiative at the United Nations on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. Although the theme changes every year, it is still a time to get people to focus on the need to provide everyone on the planet with safe water.

World Water Day, March 2005 marked the start of a new UN International Decade for Action on water. This Water for Life Decade 2005-2015 was designed to give a high profile to implementing clean water-related programs and the participation of women.

The first water decade – from 1981 to 1990 – brought clean water to over a billion people and sanitation to almost 77 million. But the job was only half done. There are still almost 1.1 billion people without adequate access to water and 2.4 billion without adequate sanitation. Wells Bring Hope exists to make a dent in those statistics. Deaths from bad water, typically children under the age of 5, are horrific. We need to give them access to safe drinking water. Ours is a clean water project worthy of your support.

Wells Bring Hope is supporting World Water Day, 2011, with three events designed to make people aware of how easy it is to drill a well and bring safe water to people in the developing world. At our first event on Sunday, March 20th, “A Walk in the Santa Monica Mountains,” we will give people the opportunity to experience what it is like to carry huge plastic containers of water as the women and girls of West Africa and other parts of the world do. On March 22nd we will do the same thing with students at Santa Monica College. Then on March 26th, at an elegant soiree at the Sofitel in Los Angeles, we will celebrate our accomplishment of funding 55 wells since we started in 2008 and, with a dedicated group of supporters, continue to drill more wells. To find out more about our events go to: https://www.wellsbringhope.org/news-events/calender-of-upcoming-events

We are also supporting UNICEF’s Tap Project which is being done by restaurants around the country, asking people to donate $1 or more for the tap water that they are served. You can find out what your community is doing and participate at their website. To find out what’s going on in Los Angeles, please click here. We encourage our readers to support the Larchmont Grill; their owner has donated a gift certificate valued at $150 for our raffle at the Sofitel.

Wells Bring Help Support Unicef’s Tap Project

by Pat Landowska

For the fifth year in a row, UNICEF is raising money for clean water for children around the world through the organization’s Tap Project during World Water Week, March 20-26, 2011. The award-winning program that started in 300 New York restaurants, has since expanded to become a nationwide movement. During World Water Week, restaurants across the U.S. will encourage their patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free, according to the campaign’s slogan “When You Take Water, Give Water.” Since its inception in 2007, the UNICEF Tap Project has raised almost $2.5 million in the U.S. and has helped to provide clean water for millions of children globally.

Sean Bates, the co-owner of Larchmont Grill, one of the restaurants participating in the project in Los Angeles, calls UNICEF’s initiative “the most phenomenal charitable idea ever.” This year, Larchmont Grill will be participating in the program for the third time.

“Kids around the world suffer without clean water. UNICEF makes it possible to change that. Every dollar donated goes directly to those in need, no money is wasted for administrative costs,” says Bates. He learned about the project from his Brazilian employee, who helped to raise company’s awareness about scarce water supplies in developing countries. Since then all employees have been educated on the topic. Last year, Larchmont Grill raised over $1,000 for UNICEF.

“This year will be even better because we’re using our social marketing tools to promote the project. We’re also raising money through our website. Patrons are very receptive and often donate more than one dollar they’re being asked for.”

For Magnolia Hollywood it will be the second fundraiser for the Tap Project. “Statistics are amazing. People have no idea what a dollar can do. One dollar can secure safe water for one child for forty days. It is a great way for people to make a real difference with a very little effort” says Laurie Mulstay, the co-owner of Magnolia.

According to UNICEF, in 2010 alone, nearly 1,000 restaurants participated in the national campaign, making it the largest volunteer mobilization effort for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. If UNICEF gives us a poster, something we could show to clients, it would be a whole different story,” says Allen, the manager of Chi Dynasty in Studio City. Otherwise, it is hard to explain to customers why we want to charge them for the tap water during this one week of the year. “It’s very easy,” replies Laurie Mulstay. “UNICEF provides us with donation cards to be attached to patrons’ checks, so they can decide whether and how much they would like to donate.”

As we at Wells Bring Hope know from experience, successful charitable actions always require some kind of effort and nothing ever gets done based on good intentions alone. In this case, however, UNICEF makes the whole process simple for the restaurants to register with the Tap Project at http://www.tapproject.org/restaurants/, and to get help and guidance from the organization. We were shocked to learn that there are only 9 restaurants participating in Los Angeles!

Our founder, Barbara Goldberg called UNICEF to verify that, and it’s true. Their volunteers are trying to get more to come on board. Let’s give them a hand and become the “unofficial” volunteers for UNICEF. (Note: you can become an “official” volunteer by calling them toll free at:877-776-5827.) How to convince the restaurants you frequent to join the TAP Project? Just send them to: www.tapproject.org

If the idea of providing children of the world with safe water is dear to your heart, we encourage you to book a table in one of the restaurants listed below during the World Water Week. Here is a list of the participating restaurants to date:

Magnolia Downtown 825 W. James M. Wood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90015 213.362.0880

Larchmont Grill American 5750 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038 323.464.4277

Magnolia Hollywood 6266 1/2 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 323.467.0660

Taste On Melrose 8454 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069 323.852.6888

Breadbar Third Street 8718 W. Third Street Los Angeles, CA 90048 310.205.0124

Panini Pizzeria 8849 W. Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069 310.652.4726

Breadbar Century City 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. Century City, CA 90067 310.277.3770

Enzo & Angela 11701 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025 310.477.3880

Cafe Bolivar 1741 Ocean Park Boulevard Santa Monica, CA 90405 310.581.2344

Transforming the Lives of Women in West Africa

What is the easiest way to transform the lives of women and girls in West Africa? Drill a well and give them safe water. Giving a rural village safe water as our non-profit, Wells Bring Hope does in West Africa, accomplishes more than saving lives from contaminated water. Drilling a well transforms the lives of women and girls for generations to come. When women no longer have to walk many miles every day to get water, their time is freed up to work more productively.

Most people don’t make the connection between providing safe water in a rural village to dramatically improving the lives of women. We’ve found that women in the rural villages of West Africa need little or no training to earn small amounts of money that positively impact their quality of life. They know what to do and that is simply providing what their community needs, what they can sell in the local market. They make peanut oil, millet cakes and raise chickens and goats. What they need is a little bit of money to help them get started and then they take it from there. In this remote part of the world, women make jewelry to wear, not to sell, because there is no local market for it.

Most significantly, women want to earn money, they want to contribute to the economic well-being of their families. They are also instinctively aware that having their own money means a degree of freedom and independence from their husbands. They have a greater say in how the family money is spent. And it gets spent on things that will improve quality of life, instead of alcohol, tobacco and women. Best of all, these female entrepreneurs provide a positive role model for their children, especially their girls.

Our project includes giving women micro-loans, so that women can start small businesses. Girls, whose help is no longer needed to get water, go to school and get an education. Girls with an education marry later, have children later, and are less likely to suffer from obstetric fistula. Why is it that we only make loans to the women? Because the women pay them back! Women get together and form cooperative ventures, working as a team to support one another even if they are earning money in different ways. They instinctively know that the advice and problem-solving skills of other women are invaluable.

Our goal is to continue drilling wells because that is how we can help women the most. Along with drilling wells comes the responsibility of educating people about good sanitation and proper hygiene. Again, it is the women who are responsible for disseminating information and teaching their community how to keep their children safe.

Most of all, women readily understand that sound health practices can help protect their children from harm. They are flexible and resilient, able to accept new ideas and bring about profound change for their community.

The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Financial Flows to the Water Sector In Sub-Saharan Africa

Here are highlights of a report published in late 2010 on the impact of the global financial crisis on financial flows to the water sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of the study was to analyze how the water sector is presently financed and then trace the impact of the crisis on these financing sources. The lead author was John Joyce of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). Jakob Granit (SIWI), Emmanuel Frot (Stockholm University), David Hall, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) and David Haarmeyer (Independent Consultant) were co-authors.

The report concluded that the general low level of investment finance to the water sector will continue hamper growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes the countries where we are drilling borehole wells, Niger and Mali, West Africa. The water sector in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) is characterized by low levels of investment, cost ineffective service delivery and weak governance. On the positive side, recent economic data indicate that the economic impact of the crisis appears to have been temporary on SSA economies, due to positive and high macro-growth forecasts and improved commodity revenues.

However the report stated that: “We do not know in real time how the financial crisis will impact on donor decisions. There may be a lagged impact where disbursements in the near future will turn out to be much less than commitments given before the crisis. This outcome could be even more likely to be negative should the crisis continue to linger or turn into a double-dip recession. Based on past crises, donor responses, and historical disbursements data and a number of strong caveats, we estimate a scenario where water aid in 2018 will be $103 million lower than without the crisis.

Drilling Wells Helps Reduce Number of Early Marriages

by Pat Landowska

Somewhere in a village in Niger, Amina is giving birth to a boy whose father already abandoned the family. The girl got married at the age of 12, now she suffers chest pains that prevent her from eating and sleeping. If it was not for World Vision’s workers coming to her village, there would have been no one to take care of her baby.
Abandonment and depression are only two of many negative aspects likely to develop when girls get married too young, in fact when they are still children. This phenomenon, however strange to Westerners, is common in many developing countries. Fifty-one million girls in the developing world have been married before legal adulthood. Over one-third girls in Niger marry before the age of 15, according to World Vision’s report “Before She’s Ready.” Three out of four brides in Niger are younger than 18. Only Bangladesh notes more under age marriages; in over half of them, brides are under 15.

Why is this happening?
For many reasons, among which poverty seems to be the most important one. Parents give a young daughter away so they have fewer mouths to feed and to ensure that she is supported. Sometimes, a bride’s family receives a piece of cattle as a thank-you gift from groom’s family, something that is very desirable in places often swept by droughts and famine. At other times, parents feel that marrying young will shield their daughter from strangers, possible attacks, rape. In places like Niger where life expectancy doesn’t exceed the early fifties, parents marry off children early, hoping to provide them with stability before their own deaths.

What really happens?
When a girl enters a marriage, she will most likely drop out from school. In Niger, only 15% of women are literate. Less than one-third of girls are enrolled in primary schools. Studies have shown that women with seven or more years of education marry later and have fewer children. There is no coincidence between a high illiteracy rate among females and the fertility rate, which in Niger is the highest in the world (7.2 births per woman.) However, school is seen as irrelevant in societies where a girl’s role is restricted to home. Many girls are kept out of classes to do chores such as cooking, tending to animals and fetching water.
Without educated females to serve as role models in a community, benefits of educating girls aren’t readily apparent. As a result, uneducated girls often lack life skills and self-confidence to be economically independent. They become prone to early marriages and exploitation.

What is the health risk?
Early marriage and childbearing pose severe risks for girls who are not yet physically, mentally and emotionally developed. So it does for their children. Niger has the world’s highest infant mortality rate; one in four children doesn’t reach the age of 5. Children have fewer chances to survive when born to mothers who are too young and unprepared for parenthood.
In girls whose pelvis and birth canal are not fully developed, delivery of the baby can be obstructed. Pressure from the infant’s skull during prolonged labor can damage the birth canal, tearing the internal tissue that separates the bladder or bowel from the vagina. This tear, or fistula, causes uncontrollable leakage of urine or feces, sometimes both, unless the injury is surgically corrected. These girls live in shame. The condition keeps them perpetually soiled and they smell. They are usually ostracized by their families and many are abandoned or divorced by their husbands. In Niger, where marriage before the age of 15 is common, fistula counts for nearly two-thirds of divorces.

What does drilling a well have to do with this?
A lot. The necessity of walking long distances to fetch water is one of the reasons why girls drop out of school or don’t attend it at all. If a village receives a well, girls go to school. They are less likely to marry and give birth at a very young age and become prone to medical conditions, like fistula. Moreover, drilling a well is a major step towards breaking a perpetuation of poverty that grows on the grounds of a lack of education and restricted ability to produce an income. When a well is drilled, women no longer have to walk miles every day to get water. Their time is freed up to work productively for their families. In every village where Wells Bring Hope drills a well, micro-loans are given to the women to start small businesses, like raising chickens, goats, making peanut oil and millet cakes. Women become successful entrepreneurs and their earning ability shifts the balance of power within the family and the entire village. They have a greater say in how money is allocated with the focus on providing a better life for their children.

World Hand Washing Day in Chadakori, Niger

World Hand Washing Day was observed on October 15, 2010 in a region known for its high population density and high population growth, one of the highest in the world at more than 6% annually. The Chadakori Area Development Program, which hosted the World Hand Washing Day ceremony, covers a population of 44,881. The departments represented at this ceremony were: Primary Education, District Health, Water Services along with the schoolteachers, students, parents, and various youth groups and women’s associations of Chadakori and vicinity.

The ceremony began with a welcome from the District Supervisor who expressed his appreciation for the work of World Vision. This was followed by an educational skit performed by the Community Mobilization Team on the topic of hand washing: 1) before and after meals, 2) after using the toilet, and 3) after changing a baby. The skit depicted a family who practices good hygiene, beginning with the woman of the house bringing soap for the family to wash their hands before touching food.

Just as the head of the house prepares to eat, along comes his friend and travel companion who goes straight to the kettle and uses soap to wash his hands, a gesture appreciated by the head of the family.

The two friends, having both washed up, sit down to eat. Just then another friend arrives from the field who starts to rush directly to the food, but the other two manage to restrain him and request that he first wash his hands. The audience was delighted with the skit’s message and the professional skill of the actors.

The skit gave way to the manager of the Niger Rural Water Project, who represented World Vision at this ceremony. He reinforced the importance that World Vision gives to the water, sanitation and hygiene sectors in order to achieve the Millenium Development Goals, as well as World Vision’s desire to work with Niger to combat poverty. He said that over the next five years, World Vision planned to drill approximately 650 new wells equipped with hand pumps, install 10 piped water systems, build 150 school latrines, and 3,000 family latrines.

Finally, the Prefect of the town of Guidan Roumdji acknowledged the efforts of World Vision in Niger, emphasizing that these were in full alignment with the development priorities of the Niger government. He noted that water, sanitation and hygiene interventions played a primary role in disease reduction and prevention. It was for this reason, he said, that the entire international community had mobilized around this sector, to improve the potable water supply, basic sanitation infrastructure and good hygiene practices.

He added that the World Hand Washing Day, established in 2008 by the UN General Assembly, was a useful tool for promoting this simple and low-cost way to reduce the number of child deaths due to diarrhea by half, and the number of deaths associated with acute respiratory infections by one quarter.

The ceremony ended with a demonstration of proper hand washing with soap, and the gift of 30 hand washing kits to the schools in Chadakori, the first of their kind to be introduced in the region. They will allow for the training of several thousand children on proper hand washing methods.

Walking to Find Water

by Sussanah Ngwuta

I was born in the United States but left with my family for Nigeria, the country of my parents, at the age of four. I lived in Nigeria for 13 ½ years, in a place that one would call a remote primitive village turning into a city. Its residents were comprised of people who lived from hand-to-mouth and suffered greatly from a lack of any significant infrastructural development. Everyday, I had to wake up extremely early to look for water and walk miles upon miles to find it.

Our situation got worse during the dry season as the wells dry up and out of desparation people would dig holes in the ground and sometimes, miraculously water did come out. The stark reality was that finding water to drink or even bathe in was never a guarantee.

Each time I set out on foot to look for water, saying a prayer was a must. And even upon arriving to a place where there was water, I still had to wait in a long queues before it was my turn to get it. Sometimes after waiting for hours and hours, by the time it was my turn the water would be either finished or the level too low to get any water at all. As a girl, I felt vulnerable to falling prey to desperate and exploitative men. Sometimes there were “bullies” who were very disrespectful and hostile. The unfortunate part is that the government receives money every year to drill bore-hole wells, but it is embezzled before it gets to the people.

Sussanah Ngwuta, a volunteer for Wells Bring Hope, returned to the U.S. in 2006 and started at El Camino College. Six months later she obtained her Bachelors Degree in Political Science at California State University, Long Beach. Currently she is pursuing her Masters in International Relations. Her passion to make a difference and positively impact the lives of others in developing countries and that is what attracted her to Wells Bring Hope.

Mildred Rivera Interview

Pat Landowska’s interview with artist, Mildred Rivera: “I cannot ignore what’s in front of me”

Mildred Rivera, an artist, who specializes in air brushing and watercolor, and a student at Santa Monica City College, decided to donate 25% of profits from the show featuring her art and the art of her colleagues to Wells Bring Hope. The show opened on November 6 and will be held until November 20 at The Market Gallery, S San Pedro & E 11th Street in Los Angeles.

Why did you decide to donate 25% profits from your show to Wells Bring Hope?

Because I like the concept of it. Everything…the same goes on and on around the world through generations, like homelessness, poverty, racism, nothing really changes. Since I am an awareness artist, I think it is important to make a point that everybody is affected by what’s going on, that’s my job – to make people aware. For an artist it can be that simple as using the color pink to raise awareness about a breast cancer.

Yes, but one may say that there is plenty of poverty and suffering right here where we are, in the States. A person doesn’t have to go to Africa to find the needy ones.

I don’t discriminate among people in need based on their location. We all live in the same world, in which ignorance is overwhelming. Therefore, we all have to do our part. If only one person breaks the ignorance and does something about it, others will follow. Barbara Goldberg, the founder of Wells Bring Hope, is the best example. I cannot ignore what is in front of me. And by that I mean what’s going on in Africa as well as in here.

You are a student. Don’t you need money for yourself?

Yes, I do. But you know what, as long as I’ve eaten today, which I did, I can help others. I am not selfish. God has given me a talent to share, to pass on somebody else.

Is this your first charitable fundraiser?
No, I’ve done it before for causes like fighting breast cancer and AIDS. But I didn’t raise a lot of money.

Well, every little bit counts. Thank you for the conversation, and good luck with your studies.

Water: The Most Precious Resource of All

by Golda Gonzales

We might not think of it often, one tends to take for granted what has always been here, but it also doesn’t take long to come to realize the preciousness of water. Wherever you turn, and from every angle, life is possible thanks to water. There is no replacement for it.

From the tiniest cell of any living being to the most complex of organisms, like the human body, which is 60% water, survival is simply not possible without water. Most of us could survive on less energy consumption per day—a lower or higher thermostat, depending on the season, a bit less TV or a more fuel-efficient vehicle. However, it is unlikely that any of us could survive without water for more than a week.

It has been estimated that our bodies need approximately two quarts of water each day. From household consumption to agriculture and manufacturing, the extent to which water runs through our lives is precisely why we have to confront the challenge of using it wisely, distribute it evenly and preserve it for future generations.

Clean, safe drinking water is a scarce commodity in many parts of the world because 97% of the world’s total water supply is salty ocean water. Two per cent of the fresh drinking water is ice-trapped in the north and south poles and less than 1% comes from rivers, lakes and underground soil.

With this said, a dilemma is born…how do we ensure enough water for drinking, growing our food, cooling our power plants, etc. given limited resources and a fast growing global population? With more than 83 million new people on the planet each year, (National Geographic, April 2010) in 15 years 1.8 billion people will be living in geographical regions where water will be severely scarce.

A study conducted by Goldman Sachs (Newsweek, October 31, 2010) estimated that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years and that the UN expects water demand to outstrip supply by more than 30% by 2040.

Statistics already show that of the 6 billion people inhabiting our planet, 2 billion lack access to safe drinking water, with more than 1 billion of them living in the developing world. Countries in West and North Africa as well as the Middle East and Asia are the most affected. Groundwater supplies in these areas are critically important for survival since many in these regions get very little rainfall throughout the year. According to studies, many of these aquifers are being drained faster than Mother Nature can replenish them. Tensions among countries lucky enough to be on the shores of the Nile, the Danube, the Tigris, who have been sharing water supplies with neighbors, have increased due to water shortages and drought.

This grim landscape can’t help but bring up a couple of questions: how successful can water management be, at any level, international, federal, local? Is conservation of our fresh water resources enough to offset the growing in population, and therefore the increasing demand on our water supply?

One thing is clear: today we’re using more than half of the fresh water supply in the world and unless something is done soon, we are going to run out of our most precious resource, not in generations from now but in this century. What can YOU do?