Aaron Kaah Yancho
September 06, 2013
Water is central to human existence: The former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said that access to water and sanitation is fundamental to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
But where is water?
Without improved access to clean water and sanitation the important task of defeating poverty and hunger can never be achieved anywhere in the world. Often than not the economic consequences resulting from lack of potable or clean water and better sanitation are always underrated in the developing world.
More focus is often on politics and sports. Yet Hygiene related illnesses have a direct impact on the economic growth of any nation. The cholera outbreak in Cameroon in 2011 costed the state not only billions of money to combat but also resulted into loss of many lives, time spent by women to collect water through long distances prevent them from doing other beneficial activities for their livelihood and girls from attending school.
In the Far north Regions of Cameroon the issue is even worse as only 5% of households have access to water according to Heifer International Cameroon report in 2010.
Nonetheless improving access to clean or safe water and sanitation is significant not only to reducing poverty and misery in the rural communities of north Cameroon but also in achieving the millennium development goals for good health including maternal and child mortality, fight against HIV and AIDS, water related diseases and malaria.
In Sub Sahara Africa, more than 2 million of children die annually from water related diseases, poor sanitation and hygienic conditions. But the word water appears nowhere in the Millennium Development Goals of UN.
Today, a Millennium Declaration includes a commitment to empowering women and achieving the gender equalities in our societies. Improving water and sanitation is a vital task on empowering women anywhere in the continent.
Water and Sanitation Go Together
Experience shows that women and girls suffer a lot due to lack of access to good drinking or portable water and private sanitation at homes. Women and girls must fetch water for domestic use and other needs at home.
In the far north regions of Cameroon on average, girls and women must walk 4miles carrying 5 gallons of water or tend 20 to 30 litters on a Carmel back. If homes lack water these young girls will not attend school, this explains why majority of the affected when water related diseases breaks out are girls and women. In this region, poor water management has often led to the spread of dangerous diseases like dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis, polio and even tape worm.
This is also an underlying factor for the death of many children in these rural communities each year. Repeated episodes of these diseases have left children and their mothers only at a brink of survival “malnourished and too weak to engage in any farm activity”, an Oxfam report on the area remarks.
Water scarcity also leaves families at the mercy of contaminated water. In high times of need people drink from the same sources where animals drink and bathe under the soaring heat? The growing number of HIV and AIDS patients in these areas is very susceptible to diseases due to these bad water sources.
This social concern has left most families orphaned and in abject poverty. Limited water sources is also a breeding conflict among grazers, farmers and with unsustainable land management many needy families are becoming “environmental refugees” as they move to find farming land every year.
Agricultural production depends on water so people, who depend on land, depend on water as well. The loss of water sources as a result of climate change affect women too severely as they depend on land property to survive in these rural communities of Cameroon.
The Lake Chad River basin with 42 million people is one of the poorest regions in the world today. The shrinking of Lake Chad river basin that was once a mighty source of water has put the region into chaos.
Women make over 80% of those in want. Looking at the importance of fresh water and its increasing demand in the Agricultural industry in this region and beyond, the need by governments around this River basin to protect and manage this water source is very crucial. Through according to the UN millennium development goals, many states around Africa and the world are committed to ensuring environmental sustainability and to fight the vanishing of environmental resources to climate change.
One way in doing this adequately is by addressing unsustainable water consumption patterns or uses’, this can be very vital in halting environmental degradation patterns for development and peace. According to a UN water report, 3.4 million people are will be living in places defined as water scarce by 2015 with lake Chad River Basin topping the list. This is a call for urgent action.