Our office is a microcosm of workplaces around the world. And, like their global counterparts, our people love to talk politics. You should have heard our loyal Republicans and Democrats discussing Sarah Palin the other day. They went back-and-forth on such issues as national security, terrorism, the economy, education, crime and gas prices, to name just a few.
But, they never mentioned water. Or sanitation, for that matter. As a matter of fact, I’ve yet to hear McCain, Palin, Obama or Biden discuss the global water and sanitation crisis. And, trust me, it’s a huge crisis. Millions and millions of people in Third World countries are suffering, if not dying, because of poor water and sanitation conditions. In fact, horrific water and sanitation issues have so impacted the Third World that it’s caused a ripple effect, exacerbating everything from poverty and disease to worker productivity and a country’s global competitiveness (or lack thereof). To put it in perspective, consider this: eight out of 10 of the major river systems in one Third World country are completely contaminated by arsenic.
Girls are much more severely affected than boys. Water and sanitation systems are so bad in most Third World schools that one in four girls refuse to use the facilities and, as a result, never complete their primary education (that’s compared to one in seven boys. I’m not sure what that says about us guys, btw).
I guess water and sanitation aren’t "hot" enough issues to register on our top politicians’ agendas. That’s why it’s refreshing to see the private sector step up. Our client, ITT, has just announced a partnership with an organization called Water for People. The partnership is intended to improve the water and sanitation systems in schools in three initial countries: India, Honduras and Guatemala. It may only be a drop in the bucket (pun intended), but the ITT Watermark endowment will have a profound impact on the lives and futures of children in those countries.
Water and sanitation aren’t someone else’s concern. As a matter of fact, because we live in an increasingly interconnected global economy, it’s everyone’s concern. So, the next time you hear Sarah bashing Barack or Joe questioning McCain’s economic credentials, ask yourself why they’re not discussing the global water issue.