Water crisis on our doorstep


17 Mar 2015 | AU

International development organisation WaterAid is using World Water Day, March 22, to highlight the water crisis on Australia’s doorstep, where in some parts of the Pacific more than one-in-two people do not have access to clean water.

Paul Nichols, Chief Executive of WaterAid Australia, said while most Australians turn on taps without sparing a thought, countries in the Pacific suffer from some of the worst water and sanitation coverage rates across the world.

“Many remote communities within Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea don’t have taps that provide drinking water, showers or flushing toilets.

“Accessing safe water is an everyday battle; one that involves mostly women and young girls walking up to eight kilometres a day to collect enough water to drink, cook and bathe in,” Mr Nichols said.

Mr Nichols said at a time when the Australian Government is reducing foreign aid, sixty per cent of Papua New Guinea’s seven million people still live without easy access to safe water.

“Delivering lasting water supplies to remote communities in the Pacific is a daunting task that requires investment and political will, but it is achievable.

“If we don’t pitch in and help our neighbours we run the real risk of people who can’t reach their full potential because they’re being denied a basic human right,” Mr Nichols said.

Since 2004 WaterAid has helped over 51,000 Papua New Guinean’s access safe water and in the next three years, they hope to reach a further 30,000 men, women, girls and boys with clean water supplies.

“Addressing the global water crisis requires the collective energy and expenditure of governments, the private sector and individuals. We all have a role to play.

“Without access to safe water for drinking, cooking and cleaning, people are more likely to suffer from water-related diseases. These can be fatal, killing over 1,400 children a day in the developing world.

“The time and energy required to fetch water, together with the negative health impacts of using dirty water, also has a huge impact on people’s ability to work or get an education. In particular lack of access to water has a disproportionate impact on women and girls who do most of this work. Around the world women and children spend 200 million hours every day collecting water,” Mr Nichols said.

In the forthcoming budget WaterAid asks the government to maintain its strong commitment to a robust water, sanitation and hygiene program that reflects the critical needs of the region and beyond.