Monday, September 3, 2007

15,200 miles to go for safe drinking water

The New York Inquirer is duly impressed by several statistics associated with the Blue Planet Run: the 15,200 miles the BPR runners are putting in around the world to raise awareness of the global safe drinking water and sanitation challenge, over four continents and 95 days.

Even more meaningful statistics, however, compellingly link the issues of safe drinking water and human mobility:
  • Poor women in Africa and Asia walk an average of six kilometers a day to collect water.

  • Poor rural women in developing countries may spend eight hours a day collecting water, carrying up to 20 kilos of water on their heads each journey.
We have all seen and cooed at the glorious, romantic photographs of women in the developing world carrying those buckets of water on their heads with a baby strapped to their backs while dressed in colorful saris.

You think that’s romantic? You try it. A twenty liter bucket of water weighs 45 pounds, in some cases half the body weight of the woman carrying it. Add wild animals, snakes, and unduly interested men to the commute, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

The Blue Planet Run is performing admirably in raising ‘name recognition’ of the global health crisis of unsafe water and inadequate sanitation (which remains largely unreported in the U.S.) Name recognition will get an issue far, but not far enough (who hasn’t heard of Howard Dean?). It is up to everyone now to capitalize on the awareness that has been raised by the Blue Planet Run and move toward meaningful political and financial support:

  • How can we keep each of the actors who designed sneakers for the campaign engaged in the issue (Hilary Swank, Courteney Cox, Rosie O’Donnell, Lance Bass, Alan Cumming)? Thanks to the Blue Planet Run they are now aware of this issue, and likely interested in doing more.
  • How can we all encourage the New York Giants, also supporters of Blue Planet Run, to dedicate a day at the field to global safe water?
  • How can the Blue Planet Run Foundation best prepare for its 2009 round-the-world footrace, which is expected to travel through the southern hemisphere? What can the world community do now to encourage the governments in the countries through which the 2009 runners will travel to greet those runners with increased budgetary commitments to water and sanitation infrastructure, particularly in rural communities? How many of those countries will commit at that point to universal coverage of water and sanitation (such as we enjoy in the US, Europe and Japan)?

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