By Alon Banks.
While in the grocery store I found myself standing in an aisle with shelves filled with bottled water. There were hundreds of bottles - gallon jugs of a generic store brand, liter bottles adorned with messages about the origin of the water and cases of individual sized bottles shrink-wrapped for my bulk purchase. A whole aisle was devoted to water. I have to admit, I had never paid much attention to that aisle of water. I was both overwhelmed and numb.
Today thousands of families in Fiji will drink water from a plastic bottle too. Their bottle has no fancy label or marketing message about the water's source. The water was probably drawn from a well or gathered from a nearby river. Most likely, it is contaminated.
Contaminated drinking water. Although they are words I had rarely thought about, they have a significant impact on families in Fiji. Children are missing an average of 4 school days per month and adults are too sick to work approximately 1 day each month, all due to illness from the water they drink. Families are living with sickness and disease that is completely preventable. The most common symptom is diarrhea, which can lead to fatal dehydration in infants and the elderly.
The Tabua family is one family that was living with a daily battle of “runny tummy” and persistent cough. They live in Sigatoka in the Lawai Village, and I met them on my last trip to Fiji. They are a family of four that used to get their water from a well. Elenoa, the mom, shared with me the story of their journey from sickness to health.
Two months before my visit, Give Clean Water visited the Tabuas and provided them with a clean water system. Elenoa shared with excitement in her voice that there was no more “runny tummy” for the kids. They have been at school every day the last week! Elenoa said, “Water is like medicine. If we drink the filtered water, we are healthy.”
In Fiji there are more than 50,000 families like the Tabuas that do not have access to clean drinking water. Water is essential to life, and clean water has ripping effects to all aspects of life. Clean drinking water improves health and school attendance. It increases the family’s budget to pay for other necessities.
I am forever amazed with the beauty of Fiji and the warmth of its people. It is humbling to be welcomed with a loud “Bula!” greeting every time I visit a family. Their inviting personalities are infectious. Behind that welcome is the reality of dirty water and the deep needs that these people face on a daily basis.
Contaminated water may not be something you worry about because you have access to aisles of bottled water. However, the availability of clean water is life giving to families like the Tabuas. To learn more or help, please visit www.givecleanwater.org.