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Blog Action Day: Gaining Perspective on Water

Haiti Earthquake 2010

Today is Blog Action Day 2010, and the theme this year is water.

The basic need for clean water is patently obvious, but many of us who live in highly developed parts of the world take our access to clean water for granted. According to water.org, “Nearly one billion people lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion do not have improved sanitation.”

I’ve personally struggled many times with maintaining perspective – having water readily available to me at home makes it so easy to adopt a sense of entitlement. Today, I am pledging to observe my own consumption of water and consider the facts. You can read about the water situation worldwide here.

Working at the American Red Cross has gone a long way towards providing that perspective I need. 9 months ago, when the Haiti earthquake hit, I couldn’t even begin to fathom how much immediate need there would be for food, water, and shelter. As our response unfolded, I watched with pride as the entire network of Red Cross societies hustled to bring millions of liters of purified water to people in over a hundred sites all around Haiti. We are in the business of disaster relief, and our response to Haiti was a great example of how the Red Cross network is meant to respond quickly to provide for the most essential human needs.

Even today, the network continues to provide water and sanitation services to hundreds of thousands of Haitians every day. The sheer amount of coordination and effort that takes is astonishing, but even more astonishing is the realization that the earthquake had devastated a country that was already suffering extreme water poverty. Immediate relief efforts pale in comparison to the amount of work that still needs to be done to improve water conditions in Haiti. In 2002, researchers in the UK developed the Water Poverty Index. Out of 140 countries ranked by the index, Haiti came in dead last.

The hard truth is that the water services provided by the Red Cross as an interim measure to address needs post-earthquake actually amounted to more than what Haitians had access to before the earthquake struck.

Haiti is not alone in water needs – the American Red Cross works with Red Cross societies across the world to improve water and sanitation systems. I encourage you to read more about our work below, and then take action: help champion the need to conserve water and help bring access to clean water to the places that need it most. You can read other Blog Action Day posts to find out how.

American Red Cross international water-related services: