Americans on average use 400 liters of water per day and Europeans use 200 liters of water per day. Yet, in the developing world the average person uses only 10 liters of water per day, and this water may not even be safe for drinking.
World Water Day, held every March 22, brings attention to the fact that much of the world still struggles daily to get enough water for drinking, sanitation and hygiene. We can all have a role in improving this situation. The theme for World Water Day this year is Water and Food Security. Do you know how much water you consume every day and how much water it took to produce the food you eat? How can you change your diet and your habits to reduce your water footprint? To learn how much water you use and get a full list of events worldwide, visit the U.N.’s World Water Day site. In Washington, D.C., the World Water Day DC Coalition has two full days of events planned for March 21-22. For more information about these events, visit www.waterday.org.
FHI 360 and its partners have adapted innovative ways to help families living in water-scarce locations engage in good hygiene practices and ensure there is enough clean, safe water to drink and a way to wash hands, even if there is no running water. A simple, easy-to-make devise known as a tippy tap can be made using local materials. One kind of tippy tap can be made by hanging a water-filled plastic bottle with holes in the cap to act as a faucet. When set up around a home or schoolyard, children can be taught the importance of washing their hands at appropriate times — especially before eating and after using the toilet. (Learn how to make a tippy tap here). In addition, rain water harvesting can collect water from the roof of a house to use for hand washing, bathing, watering gardens and other household uses.
The WASHplus project, led by FHI 360 and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, supports healthy households and communities by creating and delivering interventions that lead to improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). WASHplus recently initiated a project in Zambia to work with schools in two provinces to increase their ability to provide adequate water and hygiene and sanitation facilities for students. Reliable supplies of safe drinking water, as well as water for hand washing and latrines, can contribute to improved attendance and better learning through fewer days lost to diarrheal diseases and other illnesses. And fewer girls will need to miss school or drop out because of a lack of water or a separate latrine, which is especially important for menstrual hygiene as girls grow older.
FHI 360 is also the coordinator for the Public–Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), an international coalition to promote hand washing and child health globally. The PPPHW supports organizations that want to increase hand washing in their communities. For example, a nongovernmental organization called Share Our Lunch, which provides healthy meals and health education to vulnerable communities in Ghana, reached out to the PPPHW for help. Share Our Lunch wanted advice on how to incorporate hand-washing training into their community lunches. The PPPHW introduced them to tippy taps and directed them to the necessary resources. Share Our Lunch now reports that the tippy taps are a great success, with kids clamoring to use this “fun” new technology to wash their hands before they eat.