Islamic Relief Canada hopes to inspire conversations on water scarcity

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Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.

These lines from Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner seem truer today than they ever have. It seems as if every day there is a new story about water scarcity across the world.

Less than a month ago, the Indigenous community of Attawapiskat in Canada — home to 7% of the world’s renewable freshwater — declared a state of emergency after dangerous chemicals were found in the water supply. A few days later, it was reported that taps have run dry in Chennai, an Indian city that is home to over 9 million people.

Access to clean water is a basic need, yet a staggering 660 million people around the world are living without it.

Beyond dehydration and unhygienic living, the risks of using unclean water also include exposure to deadly diseases and insufficient food production. Millions of people are constantly at risk of waterborne diseases, like cholera and dengue fever, and those in rural areas are the most vulnerable.

To help mitigate this situation, every summer Islamic Relief Canada brings together families to participate in a 2 km walk in support of our international water projects. Participants across Canada pledge to fundraise for improved access to water and sanitation in places like Yemen, Sudan, Palestine, and Somalia. The walk is held in Calgary, Waterloo, London, Mississauga, Whitby, and Ottawa.

In addition to raising funds, this Walk4Water program, now in its second year, also gives Canadians across the country the chance to learn more about some steps they can take in their daily lives to use water in a more sustainable way.

Using reusable bottles, turning the tap off when it is not being used, and minimizing the length of showers, for example, can all go a long way toward ensuring that this valuable resource is protected for generations to come.

The demand for Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) assistance has increased significantly with rapid population growth, urbanisation, conflict, and frequent natural disasters caused by climate change (such as droughts, floods, and cyclones). In both emergency situations and as part of long-term development projects, WASH assistance comprises of efforts to provide safe drinking water, distribute hygiene kits, and raise awareness about hygienic practices.

It is estimated that by 2050, half of the world’s population will not have access to safe drinking water. Through engaging initiatives and campaigns like Walk4Water, in which over 400 Canadians are expected to participate in 2019, Islamic Relief Canada aims to centre the challenge of global water scarcity in our conversations, actions and lifestyles.

Aysha Syed is part of the Fund Development team at Islamic Relief Canada.

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