Last May, we completed a well construction project at the Ngubo school in the Lupane district, one of the poorest in Zimbabwe. The benefits for students and their families show how improved access to water changes lives: it provides health and dignity, boosts the educational process, and generates knowledge to adapt to the climate crisis and fight against poverty.
Violence and the climate crisis have already displaced 100 million people worldwide. The meeting "Sanitation in Conflict," which we organized with World Vision, UNICEF, and UNHCR on World Toilet Day, revealed little-known aspects of a humanitarian crisis that is spreading and that, in many cases, we tend to forget.
In a new project in Malawi, we address menstrual hygiene and education in schools as a comprehensive and irreplaceable element of any approach to access to water and sanitation. Beyond clean water and safe latrines, school children need dedicated facilities, access to supplies, teacher training, and cultural changes among the children, their parents, and the rest of the community. Only then can we talk about complete sanitation.
International cooperation must not remain just a goal. Achieving effective global alliances is essential to confront the climate and humanitarian crises we are experiencing. We must move from declarations of good intentions to tangible and binding commitments. Civil society is responsible for mobilizing and pushing political and institutional power in this direction. This is especially evident in the problems of access to water and sanitation.
In recent years, severe droughts and heat waves have triggered a water crisis in the basin of the Euphrates, Syria's main river and the cradle of the first civilization in history. Its deterioration threatens the survival of a population exhausted by more than a decade of war in which lack of water has been used as a ruthless weapon.
Water must be at the top of the world's agenda. It is key to all human activities and forces us to reconsider a new approach to nature. The recent World Water Week concludes by advocating profound social transformations as the basis for solving problems on a global scale. The experts pointed out that there are many more solutions than are usually talked about.
Millions of households around the world need water from tanker trucks to live. Droughts, overexploitation, pollution, and lack of investment in infrastructure make this population grow by the day. It is an essential type of supply when all else fails, but it is often informal, unregulated, and without health guarantees. We must consider this so that this solution is fair for everyone and does not jeopardize the future of access to water.
Achieving universal access to sanitation requires us to develop decentralized alternatives that, disconnected from sewerage networks and centralized treatment, allow the most disadvantaged communities to obtain the minimum conditions of health and dignity. They are a valuable option in slums and remote rural areas where neither a sewerage network nor centralized treatment plants are feasible. They are an option for communities to reap the benefits of the circular economy and self-management.
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