WaterAid supporters make a stink about World Water Day

Rebecca Owen, Campaigns, reports back on a special World Water Day event at the House of Lords, where supporters called for action on the global water and sanitation crisis.


28 Mar 2014

156 years after the overwhelming stench from the untreated sewage in the Thames forced MPs to vacate the Houses of Parliament, a group of 50 WaterAid campaigners gathered with 30 parliamentarians in the River Room of the House of Lords to celebrate World Water Day.

The ‘Great Stink’ of 1858 led to a House of Commons select committee being appointed to recommend how to end this unsavoury and unhealthy problem. A new sewerage system was introduced and helped to eliminate water-related diseases such as cholera that had plagued London for centuries. It’s incredible what can happen with the right political will.

Monday’s event, hosted by WaterAid’s Vice President Baroness Chalker, was a chance to reflect on how different our lives would have been without these improvements – and to highlight that the same political energy is now needed to end the water and sanitation crisis in the world’s poorest countries.

Baroness Chalker drew attention to the findings of WaterAid’s report which shows:

There’s a shocking imbalance in international aid for water and sanitation. Jordan receives US$855 per person, despite the fact that coverage is already at 90%, whereas Madagascar receives just $0.42 per person, with more than half the population without access.

Since World Toilet Day in November, WaterAid’s campaigners had been lobbying for the UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening to play a leading role by attending the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting in Washington DC on 11 April. With less than 3 weeks to go, it was fantastic that so many of them were at the event to share the moment when the Government announced that Justine Greening has agreed to attend the meeting, which will focus on how smart investments and effective aid can build the systems needed to get taps and toilets to everyone, everywhere – and keep them working.

Linda Shurlock spoke on behalf of WaterAid supporters about the response she gets from the public in her work as a volunteer speaker and local group coordinator when she talks about the water and sanitation crisis – “It’s just not right,” being the resounding theme. She closed by asking everyone to imagine World Water Day 2030 – when around the world, everyone, everywhere will be able to wake up with a morning drink of clean water – and then reminded us all to work together to “make it happen”.

Justine Greening attending High Level Meeting – your reaction

It has been great to be able to share this good news not only with the WaterAid supporters at our World Water Day event, but with everyone who has taken action to urge Justine Greening to attend this vital meeting. We’ve received over 200 messages of support for the International Development Secretary, some of which you can read below:

I am delighted to learn that you will be attending the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting on April 11th. I am convinced that these two vital concerns are at the very base of all development and that without clean water and decent sanitation other efforts to lift people out of poverty will be in vain. These things are especially important for the empowering of women and children. Janet, Wylam.
Thank you so much for making this a priority and doing the right thing! I'm so pleased that you've listened to what we care about. Emily, Shrewsbury.
It is very encouraging to know that you are giving priority attention to this vital issue. With all the support which is being shown by the British people we know that spectacular results can be achieved when backed by the Government. Derek, Hayling Island.

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