World Water Day 2017: Spotlight on Democratic Republic of Congo

Clean water is a key tool in the fight against hunger
Photo: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo

Every year on March 22, people around the globe celebrate World Water Day: an opportunity to spotlight and take meaningful action to tackle the solvable water problems that millions of people around the world experience each day.

Between 1990 and 2015, 2.3 billion people gained access to a better, safer source of water. As we celebrate this tremendous progress, we must also recognize the urgent need that remains: today, 663 million people around the world still do not have access to a source of safe, clean water, and nearly 1,000 children die each day of preventable waterborne diseases. It’s not an issue of quantity—the world has enough safe water for all—but one of infrastructure and resources to guarantee access for everyone.

Ensuring access to clean water, along with safe sanitation and good hygiene, goes hand-in-hand with efforts to improve nutrition and fight hunger. Unsafe water causes the spread of deadly diseases, such as cholera and diarrhea, which are a major driver for undernutrition, especially in children.

When access to clean water is guaranteed, entire communities are healthier and more resilient. That’s why, whenever it’s possible, Action Against Hunger integrates programs to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene into our strategy to fight hunger. In fact, we’re sharing our learning and knowledge with health workers and humanitarian organizations around the world. Our recently published guide for practitioners details best practices for designing water, sanitation, and hygiene programs that help improve nutrition for communities in both emergency and long-term development contexts.

In addition to improving health and nutrition, as mother and small-scale farmer Asefiwe Kalolo attests in the video below, clean water access saves hours of walking in her day, allowing her to dedicate more time to caring for her two young children. Where Asefiwe lives in Kiniezire, a village in the South Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Action Against Hunger has helped to install water systems—including one water point right next to her home (pictured below).

Before, during, and after the construction of the water systems, Asefiwe and her neighbors were involved every step of the way: helping to select the locations for the water points, advising on local customs to ensure that the water points were suitable and sustainable, and becoming members of the building crew. Today, the community-led water management committee in Kiniezire is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their new water sources. As the Water Committee Treasurer, Asefiwe oversees the committee’s finances—deciding how the money is best spent and finding ways to save funds so they can be invested for future improvements to the water system.

“Now we are no longer afraid of getting sick,” says Asefiwe. Thanks to new water projects throughout South Kivu Province, fear of getting deadly cholera from contaminated water is a distant memory for many. Through these projects, Action Against Hunger helped 70,713 people gain access to clean water, building 59 water points in seven villages and training water committees in each of them.

Watch the video below to meet Asefiwe and the Action Against Hunger team working in South Kivu to improve access to clean water. Then, click here to learn how you can get involved and take action on World Water Day. 

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Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger. We save the lives of malnourished children. We ensure families can access clean water, food, training, and health care. We enable entire communities to be free from hunger.