Hope and hardship: the gift of clean water

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DSCN1653Two weeks ago I was in Papua New Guinea visiting a UnitingWorld water and sanitation project in a picturesque village at the eastern-most point of the mainland.

Whenever I travel, I always find it quite jarring to see such beauty and such struggle coexisting together.

The people of Papua New Guinea are strong and resilient, their country one of the most beautiful and resource-rich in the world. Yet we’ve heard much in the Australian media recently of their many challenges.

While the tension between hope and hardship may be an ongoing reality for humanity, the lives of many of our Papua New Guinean neighbours could easily be improved.

Most people are unaware that one of the most basic difficulties faced by communities in Papua New Guinea is lack of clean drinking water.  More than 60 people die every week in Papua New Guinea because of waterborne illness. They simply don’t have to.

On my recent trip, I met women and children whose lives have changed dramatically as a result of having access to clean, safe drinking water in their village. The change to their quality of life is like night and day and their gratitude is immense.

You see it most in the faces of the women who have typically borne the burden of collecting water. Access to a fresh water supply means they have more time for community life and are able to take part in decisions that would otherwise be left to the men. Children are able to attend school and waterborne diseases like cholera are far fewer.

People live when they might otherwise have died. And those living no longer just get through the day, they are thriving.
It’s impossible to underestimate the impact that clean water has upon families and communities here.

It’s surprising how simple it is to bring this transformation about. Capable, committed local people work with the United Church in Papua New Guinea and UnitingWorld to install low-cost technologies including tanks and a gravity fed water system in remote areas to ensure clean water supplies.

Although we work with the whole village, we focus on providing water supplies to schools and health clinics so that hygiene messages and practices can be taken home from school or after a health check. More children are likely to attend school when they can access clean water and disease is less likely to be spread when people attend the health clinic with wounds and infections.

This month UnitingWorld is launching its biggest appeal of 2014 to provide clean water and sanitation for communities in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

It’s a major opportunity to combine donations with an Australian Government Aid grant to make your gift go so much further.

That means more families drinking from a clean water source. It means more opportunities for children to survive and thrive past their fifth birthday. It means more chances for hope to win out over hardship.

Jane Kennedy is UnitingWorld’s Papua New Guinea Project Manager.

Donate to the clean water appeal before June 30 at www.unitingworld.org.au or call UnitingWorld on 1800 998 122.

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