The Burden of Thirst: Lynn Johnson

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The Burden of Thirst: Lynn Johnson

In wealthy parts of the world, people turn on a faucet and abundant, clean water pours out. In developing parts of the world, the task of fetching water can define life for women and children, human beasts of burden who may spend eight hours a day at this grueling task.

And the water they carry home is often dirty-nearly 900 million people lack access to clean water. Moreover, 2.5 billion have no safe way to dispose of human waste. Together these woes kill 3.3 million people a year-a vicious circle of misery, inequality, and death.

Bringing clean water close to homes is one key to reversing this cycle—and transforming societies. If those millions of women and children had faucets by their doors, the time they spend hauling water could be used to grow more food, raise more animals, even start businesses. Fewer people would be stricken with waterborne diseases. And freedom from water slavery would mean girls could go to school and choose a better life.

To this end, NGOs are working to bring clean water to forgotten places, using technology-like a sand dam to capture rainwater in Ethiopia, where some women must wrest drops from muddy seeps-while ensuring that locals are involved in designing, building, and maintaining water projects. In this way the circle may yet be broken.

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