In the mid-18th century, Benjamin Franklin wrote: “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
Right now, in the 21st century, many of us take water for granted because we have been fortunate to live in places where clean water is plentiful. But that’s not the case for millions of others around the world. The United Nations estimates that 2 billion people — about 1 in 4 people on the planet — lack safely managed drinking water. Just under half of the world’s population lives without access to safely managed toilets and sanitation systems, and nearly a third lacks basic handwashing stations with soap and clean water.
Isn’t it astounding that, in an age of instant information and space tourism, we still haven’t managed to guarantee the necessities of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to so many?
Rotary is doing something about it; WASH projects are among the most funded within our areas of focus: Since 2014, Rotary clubs have carried out more than 2,100 global grants related to WASH by using $154 million in Foundation funding, impacting countless people.
In addition, Rotary’s WASH alliance with USAID, more than a decade strong, is considered Rotary’s largest partnership outside of PolioPlus. Rotary and USAID have committed a combined $18 million in WASH funding to large-scale strategic efforts at the national level in countries such as Ghana and Uganda. The partnership unites the technical expertise of USAID’s development professionals with the local leadership and advocacy of Rotary members to find workable, sustainable WASH solutions in hundreds of communities. You can learn more at riusaidwash.rotary.org.
The theme of World Water Day, March 22, is Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible. This is an opportune time for clubs to learn more about WASH issues and take action collectively to create and sustain momentum for expanding access to universal WASH services. Rotary members can bring attention to the WASH challenges that impact us locally by sharing the stories, experiences, and WASH needs of those we serve globally.
We can be proud of the work that Rotary clubs and our Foundation continue to do to provide communities with clean water and working sanitation and hygiene systems. But let’s not stop there.
This month, let’s look out for our neighbours around the world whose wells are running dry or who lack toilets or soap. Rotary has the resources, partnerships, and passion to improve WASH services for millions in need worldwide. And most important, we have the people who can make it work — you and me.
John F Germ
Foundation Trustee Chair