Green Cross International Water for Life and Peace Ambassador, Famke Janssen, spoke about Smart Water for Green Schools, a programme started by Green Cross, at the World Water Forum 6 in Marseille, France.
Thank you for this chance to speak with you about access to water and the use of water as a vehicle to peace, and issue that is central to Green Cross’ work on water.
As you know, eight hundred million people have no access to safe drinking water – over 40% of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa – and at least 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation.
This is not only a great travesty it is totally unacceptable. Moreover, it is in direct conflict with the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, which requires all people to have access to water and sanitation, the essential building block to human life and development.
In 2010, the same year that the Right to Water and Sanitation was recognized, Green Cross launched the first pilot of its Smart Water for Green Schools project, choosing the small Ghanaian village of Al Iman.
Today, some 40,000 people in Ghana and also Bolivia now have access to sustainable supplies of safe drinking water through the Smart Water for Green Schools project. Additionally, we are helping to install new latrines and hygiene education. All of these efforts help ensure appropriate sanitation and hygiene is available in schools and communities.
For many young children, especially girls, this means they no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water from water sources which are often contaminated. So instead of spending time searching for water they are studying in school. With sustainable water systems being installed in town schools, children can both access water more easily and be able to attend their lessons. This helps achieve another fundamental right; the Right to Education.
So providing water and sanitation services to schools engages children, their parents and other members of their community in improving water security and maintaining their role as guardians and agents of transformational change. A simple solution often times can have a profound result, especially when it involves children.
The health and development benefits of safe water and hygiene are enormous. Diarrhoea is one of the world’s leading causes of illness and death, and nearly all diarrhoeal deaths are due to a lack of access to sanitation facilities, low availability of water for hygiene and unsafe drinking water.
There are great inequalities when it comes to who can access water. Only 61% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to improved water supply sources compared with 90 per cent or more in Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Africa, and large parts of Asia. Over 40 per cent of all people globally who lack access to drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa.
SWGS encourages cross-cultural exchanges between beneficiary schools in the same river basins. Once systems are in place, students learn and practice techniques for rainwater measurement and monitoring of the system and local rivers. This data is then shared with local authorities.
With better water management tools people can grow healthily, develop their communities, and provide hope for the future. If water is not made available, and if it is not shared, the threat of conflict increases dramatically.
Empowering communities to take charge of their own water supplies, and promoting the sharing of water between communities – and even countries – is central to Green Cross International’s work.
I am committed to doing what I can to help Green Cross ensure that all people have access to their basic human right: water and sanitation.