Water is life. The availability of safe water and the lack thereof has an impact on all facets of human life including health, education, economic prosperity, and gender disparities. We know that every dollar invested in improved water and sanitation services in rural areas yields an average return of $7 in reduced health care costs and economic productivity. Women, who are primarily responsible for water collection, shoulder most of this burden, but also stand the most to benefit from sustainable access to safe water.
This is why we believe a truly sustainable solution that leaves no one behind, is the answer to the rural water crisis. We have aligned our work with the UN sustainable development framework that remains at the heart of what we do, guiding us in our interaction with the people, the planet and water solutions. In addition, the Sustainable Development Goals provide for the leading framework against which we measure our impact.
Below you find an overview of the Sustainable Development Goals, we contribute to, directly by providing sustainable access to safe water for rural communities:
Education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty, yet nearly half of schools in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have a drinking water service. - UNICEF, WHO. The number of hours children spend in school is inversely proportionate to the number of hours spent collecting water for essential daily needs. It is for this reason that Project Maji works with community stakeholders to bring safe water access closer to schools, minimizing sick days for students and contributing to their ability to participate in the classroom; simply put, less sick days + less time walking for water = more time for school.
Little Matilda shares what it was like when she had to miss school to fetch water for her family. Thanks to a Maji Kiosk in her community, she can now be in school every day:
Women and girls are responsible for water collection in 8 out of 10 households with water off premises. - UNICEF, WHO. The United Nations estimates that people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone lose 40 billion hours per year collecting water; the equivalent to an entire year’s labor in all of France! The average 6-kilometre journey requires them to carry heavy buckets of water (often weighing over 20 KG) on their heads. Doing this over a prolonged period and over long distances, this can lead to skeletal deformation, stunted growth, arthritic disease, and miscarriage. As women and girls shoulder the majority of the world’s water burden, they also stand the most to gain from nearby access to safe water. With this life changing benefit, women and girls can start to take charge of their own futures; attending school, starting businesses, and taking care of their families.
Access to safe water not only transforms health and sanitation, it also transforms the long hours spent collecting water to improved and productive livelihoods. Safe water gives families back those precious hours to pursue work opportunities, tend to their land, and positively impact their household income; while less risk of water-borne diseases mean that family health care expenses are significantly reduced. At a macro level, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of $7 from lower health costs, increased productivity, and decreased mortality rates.
Communities living in water-deprived regions are forced to live off stagnant, unsafe water sources for drinking, cooking, and bathing. These water sources, often contaminated with industrial and livestock waste, carry parasites and diseases leading to life-threatening conditions. From cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, and polio; contaminated drinking water alone is estimated to cause more than 480,000 diarrhoeal related deaths each year, with children under five years old accounting for more than 40% of these deaths. – UNICEF. An entirely preventable statistic, if only we could achieve universal, equitable and sustainable access to safe water.
Sadichi, the in-charge nurse at a local health facility in rural Ghana, shares the long list of water-borne illnesses the local community suffers from due to unclean drinking water: