27 Mar 2018 Drowning Out Poverty

For most of us, water is such a fundamental part of each day that we don’t often stop to contemplate its importance. We rely on it for our health, to prepare our food, and to clean our homes. Clean water is so vital that without simple, reliable access to it, our very existence would be in jeopardy. 

Unfortunately, the struggle for access to clean water is a reality for millions of people across the world. In fact, the daily pursuit of water disrupts all other activity – so much so that it is a key driver in a continued cycle of poverty for many communities. That’s because time spent collecting water is time that cannot be dedicated to other activities like education, employment, improving the community or economic development.

This is especially true of women and girls who often shoulder (quite literally) the responsibility of obtaining water. According to USAID, on average, women and girls in developing nations walk 6 kilometers or 3.5 miles to obtain water and balance 40 lb. jerry cans of water for half the distance. As a result, more women and girls are unable to pursue skills outside of the home to achieve autonomy or independence.

Additionally, a study by WaterAid found that the world’s poorest spend proportionally more on water than those in developed nations. In fact, water can claim more than half of the income of individuals living in areas where water is a scarce resource. This further restricts resources and negatively impacts their ability to afford shelter, clothing, health care and other basic needs. 

Through the Caterpillar Foundation’s work with its partners to alleviate poverty around the world, we have found that access to water is one of the most critical, basic needs of people and their communities. That’s why we have committed significant resources and attention to addressing the water crisis, helping those who are impacted by it, and ultimately, building a better world. Solving one of the world’s largest problems requires collaboration and teamwork from non-profits, businesses, foundations, governments and individuals. By establishing strong partnerships and working towards a shared goal, we can address many aspects of the water crisis – from strengthening the ecosystems that keep our water sources strong and healthy, to ensuring that people have access to water and have the tools to use it in a sanitary and sustainable way. 

Not only is solving the water crisis good for the individuals whose lives will be changed forever, the increased productivity, economic development and freedom created through the increased accessibility of water has the potential to improve the world. Driving out poverty is not only a social imperative, it’s an economic opportunity.

There is greater recognition than ever before that water access issues are sustaining poverty and hindering meaningful development and growth. In order to truly alleviate poverty, access to clean water must be guaranteed for every individual, regardless of gender, income and geographic location. It is up to us as a society to ensure that this basic human need is guaranteed across the globe.

We at the Caterpillar Foundation are honored to work with our many partners around the world who are bringing awareness of this important issue and taking steps to address the obstacles standing in the way of progress. 

This is a watershed moment, and we welcome all who are able to share in our goal to make 2018 the Year of Water – the year that tipped the scales and reversed the trends that sustain poverty – by building awareness, becoming an active participant in your area and finding ways to get involved and make an impact in the drive for water for all.

To learn more about the Caterpillar Foundation’s Value of Water awareness campaign, read stories of those directly impacted by water issues around the world, and find out how to get involved, visit www.TogetherStronger.com.

Michele L. Sullivan is Caterpillar’s Director of Corporate Social Innovation and President of the Caterpillar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Caterpillar Inc. Follow the Caterpillar Foundation at togetherstronger.com and @CatFoundationTS.