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The young woman wiped the sweat rolling down her brow, took a deep breath, and began the second leg of her journey. As she hoisted the makeshift bucket onto her shoulder, she silently wondered if this daily water-fetching exercise was to any avail. The dirty water would eventually kill all of her friends and the families they retrieved the brownish water for.
This is Christmas day in Tanzania, Peru, Ghana or countless other places across the globe. While the industrialized first world enjoy apple cider and egg nog, the “bottom billion” — the more than one billion people who don’t have access to clean water — walk miles to fetch buckets of malaria-and-hepatitis-filled liquid that bears little resemblance to the clear water we enjoy on tap.
Renowned actor and activist Robert Redford said, “Water is the sleeping giant issue of the 21st century and we all need to wake up about it.” And it’s true. Take these statistics for example:
- Over 2 million people, 90 percent of which are children, die from unsafe drinking water each year.
- Dirty water kills more people than war, malaria, HIV/AIDS and traffic accidents combined.
- In Africa alone, approximately 40 billion hours are spent each year on fetching water. Because of this, women and children have no time for work or school.
- Half of the world’s occupied hospital beds are filled by a patient suffering from a water-related disease.
(statistics taken from CauseLife and Living Water International)
The statistics are sad, but even more heart wrenching is the preventability of the issue. Unlike incurable diseases like AIDS or cancer, water-related illnesses are entirely preventable and curable. Providing clean water for everyone in the world would only cost between $9 billion and $30 billion – virtually nothing considering what is at stake, according to the World Bank. In comparison, the United States spent approximately $12 billion a month for the Iraqi War in 2008, according to MSNBC.com.
The money wasted around holiday time is even more alarming. Americans alone spent a staggering $450 billion on Christmas last year. Advent Conspiracy, a project by Living Water International, aims to focus the four weeks of Advent on the less fortunate of the world, specifically those without access to clean water.
Project donors give money that would have been spent on Christmas presents and donate it to provide clean water across the globe. Just this year, they introduced an innovative new way to give the gift of water: gift cards that allow the recipient to choose where and how the money will be used.
Maybe this year is the year to forego those new shoes or iPod and provide liquid life for someone. The gift cards are available at www.adventconspiracy.org