ChildFund's work in countries such as
Brazil has provided clean water to children.
clean drinking water to the world's poorest countries is a major challenge.
Securing adequate funding and ensuring that this money is used effectively to
overcome infrastructural and logistical challenges are difficult tasks in
Although some privately owned water companies have
been instrumental in providing the world's most poverty-stricken countries with
clean drinking water, Corporate Accountability International (CAI), an advocacy
and awareness nonprofit organization, has called into question the efforts of
other water firms, arguing that privatization of regional water supplies
has kept some families from accessing the water they need to survive.
Call to Action
In a recent report, "Shutting
the Spigot on Private Water: The Case for the World Bank to Divest," CAI
argues that privatized water investment by the World Bank does not extend access
to deprived communities, and it hurts development of local economies and
infrastructure in these regions. Women and other marginalized groups largely
bear this burden, the report continues.
For more than a year, CAI has
campaigned for International Finance Corp., the World Bank's financial
investment arm in the private sector, to divest funding to private water
companies for failing to improve access to water in poverty-stricken countries
around the world.
"The World Bank Group's reputation and assets are being
gambled," reads a Sept. 9 letter from CAI sent to Jim Yong Kim, president of the
World Bank. "Millions of people's lives are being imperiled."
Many of the
key facts highlighted in the report emphasize the need for greater action to be
taken to ensure that children in need and their families can access clean,
reliable sources of water. Worldwide, approximately one in eight people lack
access to safe drinking water, and deaths caused by unclean water outnumber
those by all forms of violence across the globe, including war. In addition,
waterborne diseases pose the greatest threat to the lives of children under the
age of 5, significantly outpacing deaths caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and
One of the greatest
challenges outlined in the report is that of infrastructure. In many countries
where access to clean drinking water is a problem, CAI suggests that private
water companies are doing little to invest in infrastructural projects that are
vital to expanding access to water. The report states that these operations are
not considered to be as profitable and that the World Bank has shifted its focus
to "operational efficiency," leaving the public sector largely responsible
for improving infrastructure.
Another factor highlighted in the report is
the overwhelming opposition to water privatization in many countries. Although
investment in private water companies represents only a small portion of the
IFC's portfolio, approximately 40 percent of complaints to the IFC ombudsman are
related to the practices and operations of these firms, according to CAI.
In many of the
countries in which ChildFund operates, access to water is an urgent problem.
In Brazil, for example, many families
living in rural communities lack access to clean drinking water, which
has serious consequences, particularly for children, who are vulnerable to
disease. To address this need, ChildFund implemented its award-winning
Water Watchers Program in 2001 to build dams and rainwater catchment systems
to provide families with a reliable source of safe water. In addition, community
members are trained in areas such as water conservation to ensure that water is
being used responsibly and effectively.
"We realize that the work is hard
and long, like planting little seeds that will still take time to bear fruit,"
says Cris, one of our child sponsors. "But therein lies the beauty of this work:
When ChildFund enables the communities to identify the quality of the water,
ChildFund is not doing welfare — it is helping, little by little, to
create conditions for citizens to stand on their own legs to achieve dignity and
a better quality of life."
To help ChildFund to provide water to children
in need and their families, please consider becoming a child
sponsor or making a donation to one of our special