To mark Global Handwashing Day, which falls on 15 October, Green Cross is proud to announce the completion of new rainwater harvesting and sanitation systems in remote Bolivian communities.
Global Handwashing Day, launched in 2007, stresses the importance of this life-saving practice, and hygiene in general. Washing hands with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, which claim the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year.
The official theme of this 5th Global Handwashing Day is Help More Children Reach Their 5th Birthday. Green Cross’s projects, which prioritize children and their school environment, are in line with this goal.
Green Cross has just equipped 16 schools with rainwater harvesting systems, ecological latrines and showers through its on-the-ground Smart Water for Green Schools project. Safe, secure water supplies are now being provided to more than 1200 people living in nine scattered hamlets of the Municipality of Vallegrande, and 1300 inhabitants of Gutierrez.
“These schools are second homes for children from 17 communities of two very deprived Bolivian areas,” said Marie-Laure Vercambre, Director of Green Cross’s Water for Life and Peace Programme. “People there live in water poverty, and suffer from water scarcity and contaminated supplies, because of their socio-economic background, climate and remoteness.”
Faride Tirado, Vice President of the Green Cross Bolivian chapter, said: “Water-borne diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid, tuberculosis, hepatitis, polio and amoebiasis, pose real dangers to children living in these communities. Now thanks to the Smart Water for Green Schools project, parents can feel confident their children will have a much greater chance of not falling ill to such conditions.”
There are other benefits. Additional water plus compost made with collected waste are helping communities grow fruits and vegetables in the school gardens. Six more projects providing water supplies are being completed in Bolivia’s Chaco de Santa Cruz semi-arid area.
Green Cross International (GCI), founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty and environmental degradation through a combination of advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a network of national organizations present in almost 30 countries located around the world.
About Smart Water for Green Schools:
The Smart Water for Green Schools project is Green Cross’s flagship on-the-ground activity for providing sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation to tens of thousands of people in Ghana, Bolivia, China and more countries in the future. Launched in 2010, the project also works to promote the sharing of water between countries that have access to the same source, in that way reducing tensions over this increasingly scarce resource. SWGS is currently providing safe drinking water to 48,000 people in Ghana, Bolivia and China.
About Bolivia and water-borne diseases:
Ranked 113 out of 182 in terms of human development, Bolivia is South America’s poorest country. Some 30% of Bolivians live on under US$2/day, while 33% of Bolivia’s rural population had no access to a secured source of drinking water in 2010, according to the United Nations. Bolivian national statistics are higher.
Bolivia’s infant mortality rate is 7.5%, twice the Latin American average, and it ranks second to last in the region in terms of health indicators. Environmental conditions, including polluted water and air, are at the root of these problems. Child diarrhoea is the main cause of death, especially in rural areas. Up to 80% of Bolivia’s diseases are believed to be water-borne.