OXFAMExchange Fall 2004
Troubled Waters: Focus on Oxfam's water and sanitation work
Today, more than one billion people worldwide lack access to a safe water supply—and that number is growing rapidly. This is an issue that concerns all of us, for we all rely on water to stay alive. But it is an issue of particular immediacy for those who live and work in rural areas, where water is used not just for drinking and sanitation, but also for irrigating fields, putting fish on the table, and generating income. When water supplies are threatened, rural communities are often the most affected—and have the most to lose.
From flooding in Haiti to drought in Ethiopia, water has long been central to Oxfam's work. Our emergency water systems are a hallmark of our agency. And our efforts to help communities access water for farming and fishing enable people to realize security.
But in recent decades, some extraordinary water pressures have emerged, as water resources are being swallowed up by dams, mining, and other commercial projects. The result is that, for the villages along the rivers, in the watersheds, and on the floodplains of East Asia being swamped or dried up by dams…for the indigenous people and farmers of South America whose rivers, lakes, and wells have been destroyed by mining…water is quickly becoming a major issue—and a major issue for Oxfam.