Water Warriors Imagine the following: the water supply to your house is going to be cut off temporarily whilst repairs are carried out. You have plenty of notice, thanks to the water company, so have time to go to the supermarket and stock up on fresh water, fill containers around the house and have a bath or shower beforehand. It causes some difficulty, though, as it’s a bit of a nuisance to have to pour water from bottles rather than straight from the tap. Now stop and think about what you’re complaining about. Around the world 1.2 billion people don’t have access to fresh, safe, drinking water. They don’t have any warning about when the next drought will come and they are forced to play Russian roulette with their lives as the unclean water leads to many health problems. In 15 seconds, the next child will die of a water related illness. That’s about the time it will take you to find a glass and fill it with water from your kitchen sink. So, what caused these problems? Why are there such massive inequalities? What can we do to solve the problem? What is already being done? These are the questions we should be asking.
Did you know that 85% of your body is made up of water? Fife council do. That’s why they spent £350,000 for every Fife pupil to be given access to chilled drinking water facilities in their school and their own water bottle to refill throughout the school day. We all know that good hydration is essential to everyone's wellbeing and that pupils are better able to concentrate as a result of being properly hydrated. But what about those 1.2 billion people without safe water? Unfortunately for those other 1.2 billion people, education is the last thing on their mind.
Picture a regular school day. You wake up, drag yourself out of bed, grab some breakfast, run for the bus and moan about being tired. Now imagine waking up early to walk a mile, collect three ten litre cans of water and then trudge home again in time for school. Sounds horrific? Well, that’s the case for Dorothy Nabatanzi of Kisaaka, Uganda. And Dorothy is one of the lucky ones. Recently, a new well has been built for her village, thanks to help from WaterAid. This clean water will mean the end of this daily struggle before school for the children and the end of the worry about the safety of the water faced by the parents.
WaterAid’s Bangladeshi partner, VERL, runs courses for local people where they learn how to care for and maintain the wells. This enables them to become hand pump caretakers. Shona Van (25) is a hand pump caretaker and enjoys the responsibility and power that comes with her job. She says people often ask her for help and they respect her knowledge. This simple course, which doesn’t cost much to run, has given this woman status in her community and made her feel proud.
The pumps will bring great relief and peace of mind for the parents of the village. Imagine the daily agony of knowing your child needs water to survive but that giving it to them may in fact lead to a disease which could prove fatal. Probably one of the most horrific diseases is the Guinea worm. This is common in areas where there isn’t enough water to wash regularly. The Guinea worm enters the body through contaminated water and lives inside the human body. It can grow up to one metre in length which, as you can imagine, will cause horrific pain. It will eventually emerge through the skin, thus causing fever and ulcers. Another common disease is Cholera. This is caused by a bacteria spread through contaminated food and water. It attaches itself to the inside of the intestinal wall and multiplies to form poisonous chemicals. It stops the body from passing water and up to 14 litres of diarrhoea can be passed in one day. Cholera can kill within 24 hours.
Since there is no fresh water, when people become ill they cannot drink lots of water to flush out their bug and few can afford the treatment when they do become ill. Sophia Lubega Nalongo hated having to give her children the dirty water. She would always boil it to try and destroy the worst of the bacteria but the children would drink straight from the swamp and she couldn’t afford treatment. She says she gives them herbal remedies and if they don’t work she scrapes together the equivalent of 15p for 10 Panadol painkillers. Imagine having to struggle for 15p. Imagine being so poor you can’t afford painkillers for your children and having to watch them suffer in tremendous pain. Imagine being afraid to give your children water as it could make them sicker. We are lucky, we live in a society where health care is free and we will be treated if we become ill. We also see clean water as a right, not a privilege. On 28 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. So why are 1.2 billion people still going without?
It is not that the richer, developed countries aren’t trying to solve the problem. $2.03 billion of Western aid is earmarked especially for water. However, the total Western aid budget is $42.5 billion so more could be spent. Africa faces many problems socially, economically and politically and the fact that many countries are led by a dictatorship means aid given to them, which may well be intended for helping with water problems, could in fact be used to buy the dictator that lovely new private jet he saw advertised in the latest edition of “Scam Your Country Monthly”. Developed countries aren’t stupid. They know giving millions of pounds for aid to a dictatorship country would be a disaster. So they don’t. Unfortunately this means the people of these countries won’t get their water access installed so will have to carry on suffering.
The inequalities faced today over water are vast and will need much investment and time to even out. Luckily, WaterAid are on the case. Now we need to encourage others to make clean water a priority. It is all very well for African countries to spend their money on other things as there are many problems, such as the AIDS epidemic. However, humans can only last a few days without water so unless access in installed, the people will simply die before they have a chance to benefit from the other schemes invested in by the government. Whilst you have been reading this essay, approximately 14 children have died from water related illnesses; illnesses that could have been prevented by access to clean water. Next time you pour yourself a glass of water look at the wonderful clarity of it and marvel at the fact that there is no green slime floating in it and it is germ and bacteria-free. We don’t have to play Russian roulette each time we take a drink. We are the lucky ones.
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Persuasive Writing Exemplar 2 “Alcohol Poses As Much Danger As Any Other Abused Drug and Should Be Banned” In the UK, 24% of people are considered to be “hazardous drinkers”. How can we let such a large percentage of people devastate their health, their society and ruin the lives of others? It is widely recognised that there is a massive issue with alcohol in Scotland at the moment. Underage drinking is rife and causes many social problems. One only has to wander the night-time streets of any Scottish town or city to see the waste and hassle alcohol causes. Young people will inevitably be rolling around on pavements - vomiting, crying and screeching. People of all ages seem to enjoy a good fight after a few “bevvies”. Teenagers create disturbances in the street and intimidate law-abiding passers-by.
Drinking-related illnesses cost the NHS millions of pounds each year. In almost all countries in the world, adults are allowed to buy and drink alcohol with very little restriction. This is in direct contrast to the legal situation with regard to other mind-altering drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, acid, and heroin. It seems bizarre that we let such a situation continue. Alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug which ruins countless lives. The sale and consumption of alcohol has to be made illegal to overcome the social problems using it causes.
Many would argue that, for most, alcohol is just a harmless pastime – a swift half often takes the sting out of a bruising day. The King of Spain argued no less in the 1970's when lobbying his government to ensure that alcohol was lightly taxed, so that the working man could enjoy his drink of an evening. Many friends of mine find his an admirable sentiment - so much better than the high taxes we place on wine and beer here. They also point to the fact that the Spanish seem to enjoy a healthy relationship with their booze, unlike us irresponsible Brits. Could it be that, in fact, it is the price of alcohol that is driving us to drink?
According to a survey undertaken last year by the European Commission, Spain is among the worst countries in Europe for alcohol abuse. 34% of people in Spain drink heavily, as opposed to 29% across Europe as a whole. Spain even beats the UK in this matter! It would appear that cheap, readily available alcohol is likely to be abused. The Scottish Government is presently in the process of re-introducing a Minimum Pricing Bill for Alcohol. It would make those drinks that are presently strong and cheap much more expensive to buy and dissuade people from drinking them. This estimable policy has been based on robust research carried out by Sheffield University which strongly suggests that if the price was set at a high enough level it could reduce the impact and cost of alcohol to society.
Surely then, if slews of studies and mountains of research consistently point out that the higher the price of alcohol, the less people drink and the less social impact it has, then just think of the tremendous benefits of banning it all together.
Social attitudes have to be changed too. Just imagine if the Spanish monarch had lobbied for cannabis to be legalised, so the workers could enjoy a “toke” at siesta! Or for heroin to be made readily and freely available, so that the lumpen populace could get their daily hit! Well, one can only imagine the apoplexy that might had induced at the Daily Mail, or its Spanish equivalent. We only accept alcohol as a recreational drug because it has been socially acceptable for such a long time. Just because an idea has sticking power and longevity doesn't necessarily make it a good one. Look at religion, for instance.
If cocaine had been the drug of choice of our ancestors, we might all be popping down the “Offy” for a wrap, or to the Public Snorthouse for a chat and a line or two. The fact that we accept alcohol at all is simply an accident of history. Many other societies, most notably Muslim ones, have done without alcohol for centuries. Attitudes towards drugs change all the time: opium (heroin) was the standard recreational drug of choice of the middle and upper classes right up until the middle of the twentieth century. It was only then that, with a drop in the price of the drug and increasing social inequality, it became associated with the Scheme and deprivation. It would only take a generation to change attitudes to alcohol as well.
What we have to understand is alcohol is just as addictive as other drugs. It isn't special or different.
Heroin, cocaine and cannabis have all been shown to have very similar effects to alcohol. Why would we continue to keep alcohol legal, when it has the same mind-altering effects as many illegal drugs? Just like heroin, alcohol triggers the release of dopamine - a chemical which produces feelings of satisfaction. It also increases the production of the brain's natural painkiller - endorphins - which scientists think could be the means by which the brain becomes trained to crave the drug. These are very similar to the effects of otherwise illegal drugs. They also make it highly addictive. It seems absurd that anyone in their right mind would want to keep a mind-altering drug, which endangers the user and others, legal.
Moreover, alcohol significantly increases the chances of a violent crime being committed. Alcohol is a contributory factor in 65-70% of violent crimes, such as child abuse and murder. Statistics from the U.S. show that alcohol is a factor in around a quarter of domestic abuse cases. How many children turn up at school each day unable to concentrate on the task at hand because of the alcohol-induced fist awaiting them once they walk through the front door? It is clear that if we want a more peaceful, more ordered society that it is essential that alcohol has to be removed from it.
Furthermore, isn't it about time that we achieved some consistency with our laws on drugs? We recognise the damage heroin does to society by banning it. Cocaine, just like alcohol, is also used recreationally, yet is still illegal. Cannabis causes almost no social problems and is not addictive, yet is still banned. Alcohol, on the other hand, was directly involved in 6,541 deaths in England alone in 2007. This means that if we continue to allow people to drink alcohol, that we are nothing but hypocrites. We can’t ban one “bad” drug and not another. By not banning alcohol we risk great damage to society and show mammoth inconsistency.
For these reasons, it is important that we take action to make alcohol illegal now. It is just as harmful and addictive as illegal drugs, such as heroin. If it was banned, it would mean that we would be more consistent in our approach to mind-altering drugs. Finally, it contributes to all manner of crimes, which otherwise might be prevented. We must stop starring dolefully into our pints, wondering what to do about a myriad of social ills. Alcohol is the corrosive substance which we daily drip onto the already threadbare fabric of our society. If we make alcohol illegal, attitudes towards it will change. Once something becomes illicit, it quickly becomes taboo for most people. Yes, the determined and the desperate will seek it out on the black market, or through their neighbourhood “Alcky-Pusher”, but the majority will speedily learn to live without alcohol and will appreciate the more ordered, cohesive, less hypocritical society that will inevitably emerge.
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