What's on my mind.

30 August 2007

Safe Drinking Water is a Human Right.

There are a number of important things that need to be said about about Project M's latest project. Sarah and Honu-Girl have written about two of them; I'm going to talk a little about safe drinking water.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

As you can see above, the United Nations realized in 1948 that clean water was a basic human right. It falls under "standard of living adequate for the health." It's right up there with being equal in dignity and under the law (OK, 24 and 17 articles later). Not only is everyone entitled to clean water but children are entitled to special care.

In 2005, some celebrities got together and had Live8 and amongst the concerts there were short speeches and PSAs. The ones I remember involved the statistic that every 8 seconds someone dies due to poverty. I went to a talk a few years ago about the mission Living Waters for the World and the speaker said every 22 minutes someone dies due to lack of clean water. Every 22 minutes - while on your lunch-hour, 3 preventable deaths will occur due to lack of safe drinking water. I've read about the UN and WHO pushing breast feeding because in areas without clean water or where aid is sparse babies die because of their formula is tainted or diluted. These are scary and depressing things. They should also be a rallying cry.

The average American has the one of the highest standard of living in the world and yet there are people without drinking water. Here, a few miles from where I sit now. There are programs to make sure a person's power (and, in some areas, gas) isn't cut off in mid-winter, but I've never heard of one for water. The manager of the water system I'm on has been known to go out and fix a leaky faucet after hours so a family will have a manageable water bill but he's one person at a small water rural water system. Does anyone do this for residents in the City? I don't know.

So many people pay through the nose for bottled water to avoid the "chemicals" in city water. They are avoiding primarily the chlorine-taste and fluoride for their teeth; there are a handful of other chemicals add in extremely small amounts, which are to the best of our knowledge safe. Many more have filters on their taps (a much more cost effective option). The lead, if it is there at all, that the filters remove is almost always from the pipes in the house. (Still a problem but not with the city's water.) Yes, some places have very funky tasting water (Houston), and I can understand wanting to filter it but it is safe to drink. Millions of Americans would love to have funky tasting water, as long as it was always there when they turned on the tap and wouldn't make them sick.

I live about 3 miles north of Hale County, Alabama. I have known children who live in abject poverty in Tuscaloosa, Hale, and Greene counties (Hale and Greene are among the poorest in the nation). I have seen communities like Mason's Bend and felt helpless to effect change and embarrassed by my wealth. I have done some to help raise children from these depths of poverty, but not enough. To be honest, I've never thought about ways to help people in Hale Co. get on city water.

It is easy to get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses. Easy to measure one's own wealth and standard of living against others like oneself. It is hard to remember we pass people everyday who would love to have much of what we take for granted.
I once heard an educated, generally well-meaning Tuscaloosan ask "Am I'm rich because I had steak this month?" and I didn't respond. Allow me to respond, now.

If you are reading this on your own computer, then you are rich. If you had steak this month and didn't have to butcher your own cow to get it, you are rich. If you didn't worry about the water you rinsed your mouth out with after brushing your teeth this morning, you are rich.

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