Posts Tagged ‘clean water’


I am often to be heard murmuring, and more than usual round about this time of year, that wonderful phrase “first world problem”.

“The oven doesn’t cook fast enough.” Well, no it doesn’t, but it does just come on at the turn of a switch, and you don’t have to gather wood before you can eat every day.

“The supermarket is out of my favourite bread.” Yes, but there are 47 other types of loaves within an arm’s reach.

“God, there’s nothing on the TV.” True, but you also have your laptop, the internet, your playstation, musical instruments, hobbies, or you can even go for a walk without someone sniping at you from a nearby rooftop. As you stroll down the street, if you’re lucky, people will actually smile at you. They may even say “Good evening.”

And most of all. “I can’t think of anything to give so-and-so this year.” Well, turn on the tap then, and give them a glass of water. Clean, pure, uninfected water. Then give a gift of clean water tor someone who needs it, on behalf of your friend or family member.

I don’t consider myself an especially holy or even particularly good human being. Like most people, I have my good bits and bad bits. I can be as thoughtless and as selfish as the next person. And while I always try to find a few bob for those less well off than myself, I know I can and should always do more. And every year, round about this time, I hear my old Mum saying “Count your blessings, Son”.

She came from another era, to be sure. An era when there wasn’t enough medicine or doctors, when children died of vitamin deficiencies in “advanced” countries, countries that were periodically locked in titanic death struggles with the forces of evil, when food was hard to come by, when fuel was in short supply, when tens of millions of workers were unemployed and it seemed like no-one cared. As she turned out Depression-era meals onto the dining table long after the need to be so careful with our pennies had passed, she quietly inculcated in me a profound respect for what we have, instead of an envy for what we don’t. What that woman could do with a chicken that was years past the moment it should have been popped in an oven was a small miracle.

So as you struggle with your first world problems this Christmas, please, give what you can to those with nothing. This is how I do it. It’s even fun, too. Who said doing good has to be boring? Not the ‘Beests.

(This is why you cant get any sense out of me after noon on the first Friday of every month. Well, you can try … new ‘Beests always welcome. Spread the conspiracy.)

We know a bit about weird places to put toilets in Australia. Like this one at the junction of Windorah/Bedourie Rd, on the Birdsville Track – at least an hour from the nearest settlement. Why was it there? Who would go all this way just to visit the conveniences? We may never know. Toilets in general though are a more serious, er, issue.

Well, today is World Toilet Day and when you’ve finished sniggering it is important to remember that 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation.

Why? Try a few of these stats.

One in three women across the world risks shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they do not have a safe place to go to the toilet. This is unthinkable in the West, but a horrible reality in the developing world and the impact is devastating.

Diarrheal diseases (such as cholera) kill more children than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined, making it the second leading cause of death among children under five.

Plus, absence of clean toilets and inadequate sanitation facilities are key causes of diarrhoeal disease, the second largest killer of children worldwide, causing around 760,000 child deaths every year.

Diarrhoeal disease is also a contributing factor to malnutrition, which in turn can lead to stunted growth and impede cognitive development.

This is a desperate situation. Diarrhoeal disease and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) need to be at the heart of a developed country’s foreign policy and aid efforts.

The UK Liberal Democrat’s party policy on preventing disease and improving health would be a good start for any developed country, aiming to:

  • Ensure 15 million more people have access to safe, clean water
  • Ensure 25 million people have access to proper sanitation facilities

Great progress is being made on this most basic of needs. Diarrhoea-related deaths around the world having declined from 12 million to 7 million in the past two decades. But more needs to be done to ensure that we meet the world’s commitments to Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.

Glass of water, anyone?

Leading NGOs such as PATH, Tearfund and WaterAid are working hard to support the development of safe, healthy and productive communities and providing clean drinking water is a key step in freeing people from the misery of diarrhoeal (and many other) diseases.

OK, now this organisation (see below) is one of my favourites. Why not click and find out more? Right now, while you think about it?

Give clean water as a gift. It makes a great Christmas present for anyone you know who (a) will appreciate the gesture because they care about the little people, or (b) needs to appreciate the gesture because they should care more about the little people.

And you can tell all your friends you did something meaningful – splashed out a little? – to celebrate World Toilet Day.

(*OK, only one little sniggery joke. Maybe one and a half. That was pretty good, really.)