WATER: Clear Gold in the Desert | Sojourners

WATER: Clear Gold in the Desert

Image by Leigh Prather / Shutterstock.
Image by Leigh Prather /Shutterstock.

How much water have you used today?

You probably took a shower, used your toilet, brushed your teeth, maybe boiled some for a cup of tea of coffee, not to mention being well on the way to the 64 ounces of water that we’re told to drink every day.

Very quickly the amount of water you’ve used, without even thinking, adds up. Thankfully, water is not a luxury in America, or the developed world in general.

But a new video released by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today paints a stark picture of just how precious and luxurious resource water is in many parts of the world.


Many Malian refugees, fleeing the recent unrest in their native land, have arrived at refugee camps in the Sahel region of Mauritania, part of the Sahara desert, an area severely lacking in access to clean, and safe water.

Armed with Jeri Cans, the refugees spend hours searching for water, too often finding their efforts futile as supplies run desperately low with rising numbers of other refugees arriving at the camps – as the Malian unrest has developed, the population of the Sahel refugee camps has risen from 7,000 to over 45,000. One refugee tells the film makers that she has been unable to get any water for two days, despite getting up early each day to wait for the less-than-dependable water truck to arrive.

As the film shows refugees cheering the arrival of the truck, a UNHCR worker thankfully says that “every day our water capacity is being strengthened”, but the picture is still one of uncertainly and anxiety.

Those most at risk are the elderly, woman and children. UNHCR are doing what they can to provide eight to nine liters of water per person per day, but nerves are still strained as refugees wait to see if their thirst will be quenched, or whether they will go hungry and thirsty for yet another day.

UNHCR, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have declared that the region is at risk from a humanitarian emergency if aid is not increased to the region, if the water and food capacity is not strengthened, and if the international community does not recognize that once again, the poorest and most vulnerable in our world are at risk of suffering even more.

When there are still places in our world where water is called ‘clear gold’, we know that there is a long way to go before extreme poverty is truly overcome. Let us not be blind to these challenges, but let us also find resolve in the knowledge that these are challenges that can, with sustained will at every level, be overcome sooner, rather than later.

Jack Palmer is a communications assistant for Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

Image by Leigh Prather/Shutterstock. 


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