UN-Water, through its “Water for Life” Decade program, is a division of the United Nations charged with developing solutions that will help ease the burden the global water crisis places on women of the world.
The “Water for Life” Decade mandate proposes to bring relief to people, particularly women, who suffer the most harm from water shortages, poor sanitation and danger from natural disasters like tsunamis, floods and hurricanes.
This program falls within the ambit of a broader plan agreed upon at the 2000 Millennium Summit by all UN Member States called the Millennium Development Goals. These goals are interdependent, and calls for intense work in these broad categories between 2005 and 2015:
Women’s Roles and Responsibilities
Cultural norms in the most water-starved areas place the burden solely on women to haul water for daily use; a task that essentially robs them of life. The goal is to relieve women of disproportionate responsibility for water transportation through education.
Health, Hygiene and Sanitation
Water-borne disease threatens millions of lives every day and is believed to be the underlying cause of 10 million child deaths each year. Investing in the infrastructure of, and education about, sanitation and long-term water delivery services can drastically reduce this threat, especially when women are given equal access to the information.
Food and Agriculture
The global population is projected to pass 7 billion people by the close of the year, and most of that growth is occurring in developing nations where the water crisis is worst. Increasing global food production and the understanding of agricultural practices by providing water to rural and arid areas can help curb malnutrition and starvation, which more severely impacts women and children.
Natural Disaster Relief
Natural disasters can have a devastating impact on a developing nation that is already suffering from a water shortage. A UN-Water study found that more than 665,000 deaths occurred in natural disasters between 1991 and 2000, and that 90% of those deaths were water-related. Further, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami alone was responsible for 300,000 deaths.
A staggering amount of these victims were women who were not aware of an impending disaster, or were not educated in actions they may have taken to increase their odds of survival. “Water for Life” advocates the need for this basic education and communication.
The “Water for Life” Decade, through the support of all 191 United Nations Member States, is striving to identify and actively address these issues by 2015 in all areas where they occur by encouraging increased investment, activism, volunteerism and study.