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September 23, 2008

Water, water everywhere … nor any drop to drink

by quaesitor

We had our annual World Needs Sunday last Sunday (21st Sept) – one of our 2 annual gift days at All Souls when we ask for lots of money so that we can give it ALL away! And each year the organizing team take a theme – this year it was WATER. I was oblivious to so many of the global realities (despite having lived in E. Africa) until I had to do some research in preparation for my sermon on Sunday night. It is truly terrifying. Here are a few (taken from UNDP, WaterAid, UN Water etc):

  • 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation = almost 40% of world population.
  • 1.8 million children die annually from diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation = 5,000 per day.
  • African & Asian Women and girls walk an average of 6 km per day to collect water weighing up to 20 kg.
  • 40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in sub-Saharan Africa = a year’s labour for the entire French workforce.
  • £15 per head is all it costs for WaterAid to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.
  • For every £1 invested in sanitation, £9 is returned in increased productivity and
    a reduced burden of healthcare.

The UNDP Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is just one route to making a difference.

  • 1.2 billion people gained access to sanitation between 1990 and 2004.
  • 1.8 billion people will still need sanitation even if the 2015 MDGs sanitation goal to halve the proportion of people without sanitation is reached.
  • Cost of meeting both the water and sanitation MDGs targets every year until 2015 is US$11.3 billion.
  • Cost of meeting the sanitation MDGs target every year until 2015: US$9.5 billion. If the same investment was sustained, it could achieve basic sanitation for the ENTIRE WORLD within 20 years.

Now you think that’s a lot of money – until you read this. It’s inexcusable, don’t you think?

  • US$9.5 billion a year is only 1% of annual world military expenditure
  • US$9.5 billion a year is roughly 33% of annual world bottled water expenditure
  • For more check out these Water Aid and Tearfund stats pages.

One illustration of the seriousness of the current crisis couldn’t have been more graphic. In the morning, Gordon Molyneux from SIM was speaking. And he showed this terrifying map of how 95% of Lake Chad has simply disappeared in the last few 40 years.

In the evening sermon, I tried to give a bit of a biblical overview of the importance of water – both physical and spiritual. I confess I indulged myself and play a U2 song – except this was actually no indulgence, because Bono’s astounding WAVE of SORROW fitted precisely to the theme. I’ve posted about it before – and click there for a link to see Bono talking about why he wrote it.

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Incidentally, Bono & Jeffrey Sachs are blogging here from the Millennium Development Goals summit for the Financial Times (HT: U2 Sermons).

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