Editor’s Note: Kelvin Beachum Jr. is a husband, father and offensive lineman with the New York Jets. He and his wife, Jessica, live in Arizona with their two children. He is a World Vision Celebrity Ambassador. World Vision is a global Christian humanitarian organization that works with impoverished communities around the world. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
On the 25th anniversary of World Water Day, we celebrate that more than two billion people enjoy the benefits of having clean water around the world.
But we must also set new goals reinforced by sustainable action to completely solve the clean water crisis.
Water connects every aspect of life. Access to clean water provides proper hydration, work and entrepreneurial opportunities, improved health, and safe sanitation and living conditions. While billions have gained access to clean and safe drinking water, huge inequities remain. Globally, 844 million people lack access to clean water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) an estimated 361,000 children under 5 years old die every year (nearly 1,000 a day) due to conditions surrounding dirty water, poor sanitation and hygiene.
This is an injustice. This must change. We must act.
On my expedition to Honduras with World Vision in the Summer of 2016, I visited the site of an economic empowerment project that provided savings plans, education for kids including an intensive technology training lab where students learn computer and internet skills, even graphic design, clean drinking water for an entire community, and water for agricultural irrigation. It is time to replicate these efforts globally to execute the bold vision of bringing clean water access to everyone.
Organizations like this begin with the basic needs of a community and expand them to help provide sustainable solutions for community members to build out businesses and have access to basic needs. The water tank system that I saw in Honduras provided clean drinking water for an entire community, but also water for an irrigation system that helped feed the community and build a sustainable agricultural business. The people in this community are hard-working and intelligent. Their limitations are not a reflection of their efforts or capabilities, but rather a direct result of their lack of access to resources. That same water project is now projected to provide clean water access to more than 200,000 people.
Growing up in rural Texas, I was exposed to food insecurity and a lack of resources. I can relate to a community of hard-working people who had to suffer due to circumstance. Whether you’re a student in Mexia, Texas where I grew up, or in the highlands of Honduras, it’s hard for a child to focus when his stomach is rumbling. It’s hard for people to prosper without proper hydration or hygiene.
World Vision has announced its mission to bring clean water to everyone in every country where the group is active by 2030, starting with Rwanda. Currently, about half of rural Rwandans are without access to clean water. In developing countries, women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours daily collecting water. Often, children must face dangerous walking conditions and are forced to miss school to secure water, most of which is unhealthy.
Without projects to educate and provide access to clean water, more children from the most impoverished parts of the world would spend time collecting water instead of learning in classrooms, more women and girls would be at risk of sexual assault as they walked many miles to fetch water, and more diseases would spread.
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Access to clean water should be a basic human right. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this goal. Due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world.
The need for clean water access is urgent. The global water and sanitation crisis can be solved within our lifetimes.
This World Water Day, I am proud to support the mission to provide clean water access to everyone, everywhere.