Relative Poverty and Lack of Safe Water

Poverty has always been a relative word in a very slanted and gray world. A challenge, not often highlighted in the non-profit arena, is the difficulty of effectively communicating to Americans the true meaning of that opaque word. Especially in our current time of economic recession, many Americans have adopted the attitude of ‘’the world needs to take care of itself for a while, we can’t do it all.” It seems easy for people to rationalize and claim, “Why should I worry about Africa when we have people starving in our own country?” Even more basic than the need for nutrition is the necessity of clean drinking water. The fact that over one billion people still are being denied clean water, should not happen in a world where our poor sit and watch infomercials of children dying on color TVs.

In an enlightening New York Times article written by Catherine Rampell, she writes, “American’s bottom…is still richer than most of the world: That is, the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants…America’s poorest are, as a group, about as rich as India’s richest.” America, even in our darkest times, is still the Disney Land of the world and Americans have the responsibility to share their happiness-birthright with the rest. World Bank Economist, Branko Milanovicg’s in his book, The Have and the Have-Nots, writes, “It is easy to see that in such a world, most of one’s lifetime income will be determined at birth.”

Americans have a deeper seeded issue to overcome than poverty and it is the problem of compassion fatigue. We are so bombarded by requests, footage, and faces with no reality or realness, no touchability or experience that the information just bounces off our foreheads. It is true that America does donate and step-in to intervene often, there is an honor of humanity that resides in our borders, but there is so much disconnection when it comes to poverty; America has a hard time wrapping its collective mind around it and if we don’t understand it, we won’t try to stop it.

When celebrities travel to other countries, these sweethearts of society, these elite, our most privileged, they often go back. They become a voice, a face for a cause. No one has been more disconnected from poverty than Hollywood. Perhaps if you have just seen you can look away, but if you have touched you’ll never leave.

Mother Teresa said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” Maybe America’s problem isn’t poverty, or lack of goodness, it is simply disconnection, too much protection. How do you get a society to understand that thousands of poor people are dying because they don’t have clean water to drink when our poor are standing in a Circle K trying to decide between Voss and Fiji?

Clean and Safe Drinking Water and Typhoid Fever

Safe drinking water is an essential need. However, almost 1 billion people world wide don’t have access to this bare necessity of clean drinking water and are forced to live on contaminated water.

The people of Uganda have a relatively short life span as 48% do not live to see 40. Much of this is due to the fact that one half of the population does not have access to clean drinking water sources, and this leads to a high occurrence of water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera. Typhoid fever is a life threatening bacterial infection of the intestinal tract and sometimes the bloodstream. It is characterized by diarrhea and a rash. This disease is caused by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated, and it can also be spread from person to person.

Typhoid fever is commonly found in third world countries. People come down with the disease after drinking contaminated water. In the United States, less than 400 cases a year occur; but in the rest of the world, 21.5 million persons are affected by the disease and 600,000 deaths occur. If a person eats or drinks something that is unclean, the bacteria enter his/her body. It then travels into the intestines, followed by the bloodstream, and then it can go into the lymph nodes, gallbladder, liver, spleen, or other organs. A few people become carriers because they continue to release the bacteria in their stools, and this keeps the disease spreading for years.

The symptoms are a fever, general ill-feeling and abdominal pain. As the disease gets worse, a temperature over 103 occurs and is coupled with severe diarrhea. You can see why children are especially at risk as their bodies are so small, and they very quickly become dehydrated. To make matters worse, the water that again is available to them is usually dirty; and so the severity of the disease is magnified. Sometimes a rash is seen on the abdomen and chest; plus there can be chills, confusion, severe fatigue, and weakness.

Testing the blood and taking a culture can confirm the disease, and there is treatment. Fluids and electrolytes are given intravenously; and it is imperative that clean and safe drinking water can be used.

Antibiotics are also given to kill the bacteria. Symptoms can improve with the proper treatment and early detection. However in these extremely impoverished areas, there are few medical clinics and supplies. Therefore if the infection has not been cured, the symptoms will return. Remember that if 10% of the body’s fluid is lost, the sufferer will die.

So what can be done in these countries with the highest mortality rates due to water-borne diseases? The first step is to provide clean, safe drinking water sources. Next waste disposal systems need to be built; and finally, it is imperative to teach the villagers how to protect their food supply from contamination. These are all important health measures.

boreholesWhat is amazing is that you have the opportunity to actually be a part of a team for drilling wells (boreholes) and medical clinics where these deplorable conditions exist. Join with Water 4 Kids International as they work to help change the epidemic of typhoid fever by drilling well, as we believe that boreholes are long lasting solution for water problem in remote villages. You too can become part of the process to eliminate some of those 600,000 deaths a year, because it can happen with the support of individuals and corporations who decide to make a commitment to making a difference. The 21.5 million people in the world that are affected by typhoid fever thank you!