World Water Day: The Answer Is In Prevention

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Water holds significant symbolism that stretches across all cultures, all religions and all people. It’s the great unifier. It’s mentioned 722 times in the Bible and is often associated with life, wisdom, freedom and knowledge of God. Water is fluid and ever changing. Water is essential to life.

Phoenix has become one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. The warm weather brings sporting events, festivals and tons of jobs. However, I often think of what it takes to make Phoenix the comfortable metropolis it is most of the year. The answer is water. The access and management of water and water systems is what makes it possible to live and thrive in the desert landscape.

Water just flat changes everything.

It’s regular practice for doctors to wash their hands before coming in contact with a patient, because they understand that prevention is the best way to fight illness. The water it takes to wash hands and prevent infections is far less costly and more effective than using medicine to treat illnesses after they’ve occurred.

The same is true in the developing world. The answer once again is found in water.

1.4 Billion people suffer from Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) and nearly 500 Million are children. These diseases target the global poor and can be expensive to treat.

When looking at health development, people have long looked at treating the disease over preventing it.

Water is the ultimate tool in preventing diseases and dramatically improving the health of vulnerable populations.

Foundational preventatives are tied to water in many ways including: avoiding the complications and effects of dehydration; reduced contraction of diseases passed along from dirty hands; decreasing malnutrition from failing crops; reduced livestock sickness and death.

From a development perspective, water is a very cost effective solution. Rather than pay for high cost medical interventions, vulnerable families can simply implement life changes around WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). The cost to maintain good health and wellbeing dramatically drops with water as a central force behind health and livelihoods.

Clean water is transformational.

While visiting in Guatemala recently, I was able to see the effects of a water system that FH staff helped to build for this community. Water was being ushered down the mountain and pumped into water purification plants. Instead of walking three to four hours every day to collect water, families were walking three to four minutes. There were now water matrons to maintain the faucets and keep things clean. The community now had clean water for drinking, washing, cooking, crop production and caring for their livestock. The health of the community rose and income levels became four times what they were. These vulnerable families now had time to thrive, rather than just survive, something I fully believe that God wants for us.

When people no longer experience the pain of disease, they’re able to focus their energy, time and talents to things besides survival. When people no longer have to spend the majority of their day fetching water, they can use that time to generate income for their households, children are free to attend school, and hope is restored.