As readers in the UK will probably be aware, we’re having something of a heatwave at the moment (or at least, that was the case at the time of writing….we may well all be back in our cardigans by the end of the week).
The time-honoured British reaction to sunshine seems to be to use as much water as humanly possible. Sprinklers on the lawn, water fights, water pistols, even contemplating upgrading the old faithful paddling pool to a sturdy steel-framed model, complete with ladder.
We’re also well aware that we need to be drinking plenty of water in hot weather, not just playing with it. No matter what we intend to use it for, we take for granted that when we turn on the tap, water will be forthcoming. Crucially, we also know that drinking or bathing in it will not harm us.
There are so many parts of the world where this is not the case. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases a year, and according to The Lancet, poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined.
These shocking facts lead us to seek out a slightly different type of recipient for our Kiva loan for August. Generally, we make ‘loans that change lives’ which are directly connected with the recipient’s business or education, helping our first recipient, Ines Margarita from Columbia, to buy shelves for her produce for example.
However, the business of staying alive and well must be addressed before anything else - funding entrepreneurship becomes futile if the basic needs of borrowers, such as clean water, are not being met.
For this reason, we have chosen Bilal from Rafah in Gaza, the troubled strip of Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He is seeking a loan of $2,200 via Kiva’s field partner in Palestine, FATEN, in order to purchase a filter to purify and remove salt from his family’s water.
Only an estimated 3 percent of the water available to Gaza’s 1.5 million residents is drinkable, and availability is severely limited- coming out of taps only two days a week on average over the past month. The area’s water aquifer - upon which it is almost entirely reliant, is blighted by infiltration by untreated sewage.
Buying water from private vendors with small-scale desalination plants is expensive - unaffordable by rickshaw driver Bilal, whose work is irregular and poorly paid. It is also not necessarily any safer. According to Oxfam, over half of these facilities are unlicenced.
This loan will enable Bilal, his wife and two small children, to purify their own water. It is a small step in a positive direction for a family struggling to survive in this bleak, war-torn territory.