Clean drinking water is a precious commodity in rural Ecuador, and many simply cannot afford it. Instead, many families, including young children, drink untreated, contaminated water, which spreads waterborne diseases and causes chronic illness. While in Ecuador next year, Pathfinders Prjoect will work with Water Ecuador, our current Poverty & Health beneficiary, to dig wells, install water purification systems, and educate about clean water, hygiene, and sanitation. Here are two stories from Water Ecuador about how limited access to clean water affects the lives of children in Ecuador.
Rossi’s Story, as told by Allie
Every morning Rossi wakes with the sun. When I knew her, she was in 4th grade and 9 years old. School starts at 8:20. This leaves 2.5 hours of daylight before school to take care of household necessities. Fetching bathing, cooking, and “toilet” water are definite necessities, so Rossi makes several trips in the coastal rain forest she calls home. Obtaining reliable, clean drinking water is costly and inconvenient: $2.00 for a large jug. Keep in mind that $2.00 is enough to feed a family of seven a somewhat filling dinner. This agua potable has to be obtained across the river in town, an even further journey than filling jugs for cooking and washing. The river water (when high it reaches just under my chin) determines when we cross the river and how we cross the river. It is usually Rossi who walks to the store (across the river, down the beach, and into town via canoe) to gather a few eggs, a pan, etc., for the family. The challenge of obtaining water is intricately woven into Rossi’s daily life and the lives of so many others along the Northern Coast and other parts of Ecuador.
Zurullo’s Story, as told by Alex
I’ll tell you about a boy I know in Muisne named Zurullo. He was four years old at the time I knew him. His mother and aunts owned a fruit stand on the corner under the building where I lived in Muisne. I saw his family did not buy water from our water system in Muisne but instead collected well water and rainwater for drinking. I used to talk to them about why they should protect the health of their children by drinking treated water, but I think the risk of waterborne disease did not fully sink in with them, and they were also a family without much money who felt pressure not to spend money on water. So they all drank untreated water, including Zurullo. I distinctly remember seeing Zurullo having diarrhea in the middle of the street or on the sidewalk outside my building on multiple occasions. This is a little graphic, but I saw worms in his poop, and once I saw blood. I also noticed that Zurullo was smaller than the other children his age he would play with, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether he had nutritional deficiencies caused by repeated bouts of diarrhea and chronic parasitic infections. Unfortunately, children all over the world suffer long-term consequences from waterborne diseases. They are unable to attend school because they are sick; they have nutritional deficiencies that stunt their physical growth and mental development.
Learn more about the work Water Ecuador is doing to provide clean drinking water in rural Ecuador by visiting their website or following them on Facebook. To support Pathfinders Project as they carry out their year-long international service mission, click here.