Local view on global water crisis

    Villanova hosts symposium examining lack of access to clean water

    By: Mara Zepeda

    Over a billion people do not have access to clean water. Villanova University will explore this issue at its Global Water symposium.

    Kimberly Connolly Directs the Center for Global and Public Health at Villanova. Connolly says that the crisis comes down to two issues: is there clean water, and is it readily available. She says both can have big consequences.

    Connolly: My next door neighbors had a little girl who was about 2 years old and she was sick one day with diarrhea from the local well, just didn’t have clean water, and within several days she was dead from diarrhea.

    That was in Niger, West Africa when Connolly worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. Later, when she lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she saw what happens when water was not available.

    Connolly: Women had to walk easily an hour to get water. They were exposed to violence in the area so it became a safety issue for women. The girls also weren’t in school. They weren’t being protected by that, they weren’t having the chance to go to school and get a great education.” Connolly says the majority of people without access to clean water are women and children.

    Jordan Ermilio teaches engineering and works with students to improve access to clean water in Nicaragua.

    Ermilio says that when students first arrive at these remote towns, their impulse is to bring in outside expertise. But they soon realize:

    Ermilio: There are people in this area working on this problem 24 hours a day seven days a week all of their lives.

    He says students learn they need to do more than get the locals involved:

    Ermilio: It’s really not community participation, it’s community ownership to solve these problems. So when you start to focus on community owned projects that’s when you really have the biggest impact.

    Ermilio and Connolly present at the symposium, which is free and open to the public.

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