Why Water Makes the Difference: A Tale of Two Towns

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What does clean water mean to you? World Vision's Lauren Fisher compares two communities in Niger -- one that has a safe source of water, and one that does not.

What does clean water mean to you? How often do you think about it? World Vision's Lauren Fisher compares two communities in Niger -- one that has a safe source of water, and one that does not.

Lately, you could say water has become a major obsession of mine. In the past, I’ve taken it for granted. It’s the back-up beverage when I can’t find iced tea or soda; it's the bath I can count on at the end of a long day.

But as one colleague told me, in Zinder, water is precious. For me, that means there is no water at all, without warning, at any given time. At any given time, the shower stops working mid-shampoo, along with any other bathroom fixture. It’s made for some comical mornings, as you can well imagine.

Add that to the fact that I must always bring water with me to the field if I want to drink and not get sick, and it’s something that’s on my mind constantly. Each time the gush flows from the shower head, I silently rejoice. I keep a constant count of the water bottles and hoard them in my room.

But I’m not the only one in Zinder with water on my mind. For me, it’s a convenience. For many of the women and children we’ve spoken with, it’s a matter of life and death. Problems with water and sanitation access, combined with hygiene issues, cause diarrheal diseases. These kill 1.5 million children under the age of 5 every year -- more than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. For many children, having water nearby is the difference between education and a better future or hours of labor.

In one town, I spoke with women and children who must walk six miles each way for water -- something they do twice a day, all while carrying the heavy containers full of liquid, while worrying whether it’s even clean enough to drink.

“We have difficulty in getting water. We have to travel long distances to fetch water,” said Sakina Aminou, president of a women’s group in the village. “When we are back, you feel all your body paining you, and the children used to help.”

Compare that to Raffa, another area we visited, and you begin to see the difference. There, they have mechanized boreholes, thanks to World Vision donors. This means that women and children just need to go to one of the many areas around town and turn on the tap for clean, safe water. This is considered such a luxury that we saw a group of women from neighboring villages traveling for miles just to get to the water in Raffa.

“Before, it was difficult to fetch water, but now it is easy,” said 13-year-old Ayouba Oumara, “because before, I’d have to pump water by myself. Now, if we bring the bucket, we just put it under the tap and it is filled. So we are grateful and say thank you.”

"Thank you" is what we heard again and again throughout the village -- reminding me to say a little prayer when I turn on my tap.

Written by Lauren Fisher

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