Issue

Water and Sanitation

Water issues affect us all, from the women who spend hours a day fetching water to political battles over international rivers to melting icepack and rising sea levels. We are all downstream.

Worldwide, just under 900 million people lack reliable access to safe water that is free from disease and industrial waste. And 40 percent do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. The result is one of the world's greatest public health crises: 4,500 children die every day from waterborne diseases, more than from HIV-AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

A robust economy depends on water. So does a thriving ecosystem. Enter politics, fulcrum of the water issue, weighing the fate of economies against the health of individuals and of the environment as a whole. Balance has been elusive. One fifth of the world's population lives in areas where water is physically scarce, and a quarter of the population faces shortages due to lack of infrastructure.

Water and Sanitation was produced by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in partnership with National Geographic, PBS NewsHour, the Common Language Project, and the Under-Told Stories Project. Support provided by the Laird Norton Family Foundation and individual donors.

 

 

Water and Sanitation

Carteret Islands: Welcome Ceremonies

We've been on the climate change awareness tour for four days. The group usually wakes around 5:30AM – when the roosters warm their vocal chords – and bathes in the nearest river or in the sea. Breakfast or kai kai in pidgin, the common language spoken on tour, is usually a plate of rice, soupy noodles with tin fish, and kaukau or sweet potato.

Carteret Islands: A Good Omen from the Sea

Today the community held a church service to commemorate the youth from the Carteret Islands who will travel to the mainland to discuss climate change and the relocation (the islanders plan to relocate from the Carteret Islands to Tinputz on mainland Bougainville).

Carteret Islands: Every Drop Counts

The first person we met this morning on the Carteret Islands was Nicholas, a 32-year-old fisherman with an easy smile who will lead the youth tour (climate change awareness tour) to Tinputz in the northeast corner of Bougainville. Tall with short spiky hair, Nicholas speaks three languages occasionally spicing up conversation with archaisms like "drunkard fellow."

The Crisis: Civil War in Papua New Guinea

Last night I was on edge.

It wasn't just the "ambassador." Much of what I'd read about Bougainville before arriving painted a picture of a troubled and unstable country. Ten years of fighting for autonomy from Papua New Guinea and a brutal civil war ravaged the country in the 80s and 90s.

The "crisis" as the locals call it started in 1989 when villagers in the south protested against Rio Tinto, an international mining company that destroyed a mountainside of pristine rainforest to build one of the largest copper mines in the world.