World Water Day, which falls on 22nd March of every year, is about focusing attention on the importance of water. This year’s theme is ‘Nature of Water’- exploring nature based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.
Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people worldwide live without safe drinking water at home, and the situation is even worse in developing countries like Zambia. This affects people’s health, education and livelihoods, and very life-threatening especially for Persons with Disabilities.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.
As an organisation that advocates for inclusive access to safe and clean water and sanitation for Persons with Disabilities, ZAFOD believes that access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation is a human right. These essential services underpin human development and transform lives, enabling people to overcome poverty’. We advocate and promote Water and Sanitation through community empowerment for sustainable, equitable, affordable, and reasonable access to clean safe water, sanitation and good hygiene practices.
Persons with disabilities are usually discriminated against in terms of opportunities to accessing various developmental programmes such as the provision of sanitation services such as water, toilets and waste management facilities which promote independent living and improve their quality of life. Key barriers identified include those that exist in the natural environment, like walking long distances, rough terrain and uneven slopes to reach water sources and sanitation facilities. Other barriers identified related to physical infrastructure challenges including steps to reach water, sanitation and hygiene service points, slippery floor surfaces and narrow path or doorways among others. For example, majority of the sanitation facilities in schools in Zambia can hardly be reached by children and adults using wheelchairs. They either face challenges with opening the doors especially if it opens from outside. And also if the door opens from inside, closing it when the wheel chair is inside it is also not easy.
In some instances, door locks are often too high to reach or there is limited space inside the latrine which restricts movement of the wheel chair. Disabled people who crawl in most cases find the latrine floors too wet and dirty. Socially, there are a number of taboos and misinformation associated with disability. These range from prejudice, pity or stigma from other members of the community. Some people think sharing water sources with disabled people is not a good idea because they are assumed to be dirty. Where disability is associated with witchcraft or curses, disabled people may be prevented from sharing communal facilities for fear that they will “contaminate” the water, or make the facility “dirty” for other users.
Let’s all coordinate our efforts without leaving anyone behind.
TAKE ACTION. Wherever you are and whatever you do on this day of 22nd March, make it about nature and water.