Water and Health

Written by: Health and Education Promotion Coordinator of FMCH Indonesia, Aris Gunawan

World Water Day is an annual celebration to encourage people’s awareness about the importance of clean and accessible water. Every year, this celebration takes a particular theme. In 2009, the theme was Shared Water, Shared Opportunities. Ten years later, in 2019, the committee chose Water and Climate Change as a theme. This year, Valuing Water is the chosen theme. Refer to worldwaterday.org, this theme’s main idea is to ask people to reflect on how important water is in every aspect of our life. The value word is beyond our essential aspects in life: health, environment, social, and culture. What a role in our entire life! 

A Brief Story of World Water Day 

The presence of World Water Day was not coming to encourage people’s awareness only but related to how we manage water’s sources also. Around 1 out 9 people from 2.1 billion world citizens are unable to access clean water. In fact, UN stated that accessing clean water is part of human rights. However, this celebration is a sign for people who cannot access clean water. Additionally, to prepare better water management. 

Based on the historical record, World Water Day was celebrated every March 22nd. It was announced on the 47th United Nations General Assembly “Environment and Development” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on December 22, 1992. The assembly assigned March 22, 1993, as the first World Water Day celebration. 

Furthermore, in 2003, the UN High-Level Committee inaugurated UN-Water as a forum to carry out an inter-agency coordination mechanism within the United Nations for all problems related to (fresh) water including sanitation. The establishment of UN-Water was carried out to address inter-sectoral relations regarding water issues and maximize coordinated action in a system. UN-Water coordinates actions aimed at implementing the agenda set out by the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on sustainable development.

Water’s Role on Health Sector

Water is the right of every human being. Access to water supports public health, besides it is a crucial thing to sustainable development and the stability of a prosperous world. We cannot become a global society if there are still many people who live without clean water. Starting for a moment in 2010, the United Nations stated that drinking safe and clean water is a basic right of every human being. That to fulfill human rights in the health sector, we need proper water. Furthermore, this right includes all people without discrimination to get water that is decent, safe, adequate, usable, and accessible, including for drinking water, personal hygiene, washing, cooking, health, and household needs.

In the health aspect, water is an important indicator in improving services. Let us take a concrete example related to FMCH Indonesia program: Cooking Class. This class is a program under the coordination of the Health and Education Promotion (HEP) Division. The target is parents of early childhood whom we assist through the PAUD program. Eating healthy food and fulfilling nutritional intake are the big vision of this program. Classes are designed by providing knowledge on how to manage nutritional food from the beginning to the end of the presentation. Starting from selecting good quality food ingredients, paying attention to the nutrition facts, managing food with clean water, and cooking it in the right way. The Indonesian Ministry of Health even recommends 3 important things in safe and healthy food management. Refers to p2ptm.kemenkes.go.id website, the Government mentions “using clean water to manage food as the first step in preparing and managing safe and healthy food”. Now, let’s imagine this: what if we have failed at the first step? We are ruining the whole process of making healthy food, are we not? Therefore, in every cooking class session, the HEP team always emphasizes the importance of the role of clean water in the cooking process. As well as continuing to educate cooking wastewater to be used for other household needs, such as watering plants or cleaning the house. Remember: using water wisely!

Move to another program: Happy Pregnancy Class (we called it PC). It is a program under the coordination of the HEP team also, particularly the Pregnancy Care Project Officer. In this program, water plays an equally important role. Until now, this program is currently running in South Central Timor District, Nusa Tenggara Timur Province. This program is not only targeting pregnant women but also midwives in our assisted locations. The absence of access to clean water and sanitation can lead to serious problems, such as increasing maternal and infant mortality. Based on the 2019 Indonesian National Health Survey (Riskesdas), the maternal mortality rate in Indonesia is still high: around 315 per 100,000 live births. Moreover, poor access to water for babies can be the cause of stunted children. Therefore, through the PC program, FMCH Indonesia always encourages mothers to implement a clean and healthy lifestyle named PHBS. It is as simple as cleaning the vital area of the woman with clean water, ensuring and coordinating with health workers during childbirth and post-delivery regarding the use of clean water, implementing the habit of washing hands, especially if you want to care for a baby or after defecating. Starting from this small thing, we strongly believe that it can be a real step in reducing maternal and infant mortality rates.

Make Water Accessible for Everyone!

On the other hand, during this pandemic, the availability of water is a dilemma. The Indonesia Water Institute released data on water needs during this pandemic. That the recommendation to wash hands for 20 seconds requires at least an additional 1.5-2 liters of clean water/person/day. Imagine if in a household there are 4-5 members. Every day, they must provide at least 8-10 liters of additional water. This number will increase higher if we add from other necessities such as bathing, washing, and latrines. Indeed, we are increasingly build awareness of the importance of water in the health aspect. However, quoting mongabay.co.id, the Community Coalition Against the Privatization of Jakarta Water (we called it KMMSAJ) said that the pandemic conditions and the availability of water made low-income people even more squeezed. They have to spend more because they have to keep buying water constantly; whereas being able to access water is a constitutional right of citizens. Therefore, in line with KMMSAJ, FMCH Indonesia calls on the government to improve the centralized management of water from the government so that inclusive water access reaches all levels of society.

This sentence seems to be in line with what the government has declared, but the execution has not been progressive. The government has launched a focus on improving access to proper sanitation and water and its sustainability through 2020-2024 National Medium-Term Development. The government’s target in 2025 is that Indonesia achieves 90% access to proper sanitation, including 20% safe access and decreased defecation by 0%. With this target, the goal is also to reduce maternal and infant mortality and child stunting. Although we are not involved in the field of sanitation and access to clean water directly, FMCH Indonesia through the Health and Education Promotion, continues to be committed to ensuring that the community is provided with health services through our strategic programs while continuing to support the government in achieving the target of proper access to sanitation and water.

We hope this 2021 World Water Day momentum could be all people’s reminder about how important the value of water. Thus, we should use water wisely to escalate our life quality. Also, our government as the main actor, able to work progressively. Happy World Water Day and be better every day! 

Written by: Aris Gunawan 

Edited by: Brigita Rumung, Media and Comms Officer, FMCH Indonesia