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Susan Day
Sweet water!

THIS is my third or fourth “After Iftar…” article and I appreciate the opportunity writing this column gives me. I can pick any subject and say what I choose. In previous articles, I’ve encouraged you to take advantage of this wonderful multi-generational family time and share the stories of the past; I’ve encouraged you to take advantage of the later hours and explore the Amricani Cultural Centre (visit www.darmuseum.org.kw for Ramadan hours) and other cultural institutions in Kuwait. I still think these are important and hope that you will do both this season. But this year I have a new challenge for you; a new direction that I encourage you to take.
 
I was in Portland, Oregon in the US in May and it is an amazing city, with incredible gardens, a children’s museum and the best bookstore I’ve ever seen. One day, while wandering the city with my mother, we stopped for iced coffees — which we couldn’t have because E. coli had been found in one of the reservoirs. Portland city managers announced that the water was contaminated and urged everyone not to use it. 
 
Restaurants had to throw out the vegetables they’d washed before the announcement. All the ice in ice makers had to be removed and no new ice could be made in systems that used city water. Soft drinks from the soda fountain couldn’t be served because they were made with city water. Hands couldn’t be washed … the list goes on and many of the restaurants simply closed down for the duration.
 
For us, it meant no showers and no hand washing — both circumstances addressed by the purchase of a large package of Dettol wipes. Teeth brushing, hair washing and general thirst issues were addressed through the purchase of lots of bottled water. The restrictions in Portland lasted a day and half, which were long enough to go beyond inconvenience and long enough to make me think. 
Ramadan in Kuwait in the summer also makes me think about water. It’s hot out folks and even a short walk from the parking lot to the grocery store is enough to make me want a cold bottle of water. But out of respect for those who are fasting, I go without … until I get home or Iftar.
 
I was inconvenienced in Portland. I had to stop at a nearby shop and spend less than $10 to resolve my water issues. I am inconvenienced in Kuwait during Ramadan, when I have to wait until an appropriate time or an appropriate place to drink water.  It’s an inconvenience I barely think about because, for me, the resolution is so easy.
 
It’s not so easy elsewhere; it’s not an inconvenience … it is literally a matter of life and death. According to Water Org (www.water.org), a child dies from water-related illness every 21 seconds. That means during Ramadan, while we’re inconvenienced, 123,428.5 children will die from water-related illness.
According to World Health Organization studies in 2002 and 2008, in 45 developing countries the burden of water collection falls on women and female children. Every day, more than 150 million hours of women and girls’ time is spent collecting water for domestic use. This is time not spent working at an income-generating job, caring for family members and, for the children, not attending school.
And often, the water they are collecting is not safe for human consumption. 780 million people — that’s one in nine — lack access to clean water, no matter how far they walk to fetch it.
 
So, here’s my challenge … look at your beautiful family and friends the next time you gather to break your fast and imagine one in nine living with no access to clean water, spending hours each day walking to a filthy water source and then carrying back incredibly heavy jerry cans of water we wouldn’t use to wash our cars. Look at the children celebrating Gergian and try to decide which child you’d lose to a water-related disease. Try to decide which daughter, granddaughter, niece, or sister would not get an education because it’s her job to go and collect water.
 
For most of us, the challenge above will never be more than a horrible mental exercise. So here’s a challenge to act on … the first time you go out for Iftar, enjoy yourself and then check your bill. 
According to Water.Org, “on average, it costs about $25 to provide clean water to one person for life.” That’s less than KD 8, which is probably less than you spent per person for your meal. One meal vs clean water for life: perhaps the next Iftar you enjoy takeaway falafel and send the difference to the water charity of your choice.
 
By Susan Day

By: Susan Day

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