By Arnold Grahl and Ryan Hyland - Rotary International News

Billions of people lack access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Rotarians are involved in projects worldwide, from building mechanized water systems to teaching better personal hygiene.

Villages in four regions of Ghana are being equipped with ventilated pit latrines, showers, and boreholes featuring hand pumps and mechanized pipes through the efforts of dozens of Rotary clubs in Latin America, North America, and Ghana.

The effort is part of the International H2O Collaboration, an alliance between Rotary International and USAID. Launched in 2009, it works to implement long-term, sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the developing world. The first phase of the partnership has focused on three countries: Ghana, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic.


"With this collaboration, Rotary is taking the commitment to clean water and sanitation to the next level," says RI Vice President Thomas M. Thorfinnson, a member of the RI/USAID Steering Committee. "We're not just focused on simply providing safe drinking water and walking away. We are looking at our ability to partner to make a larger impact in a bigger part of the world through sustainable projects and clean sanitation practices."

Keep in mind, billions of people lack access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. To draw attention to the need for action, the United Nations has designated March 22 as World Water Day. Each year since 1993, it has selected a different theme. This year focuses on the impact of rapid urban growth and the challenges of urban water management. Learn more about World Water Day events

The International H2O Collaboration is an example of Rotary's dedication to water and sanitation issues, an area of focus under The Rotary Foundation's Future Vision Plan.

In Ghana, Rotarians are working with committees in about 100 communities to change sanitation behaviors and provide training on maintaining the new equipment. The committees are responsible for establishing fees for water use and using the money collected to operate and maintain the pumps. 

Rotarians in the Philippines have been working with the country's Solid Waste Management Association to keep garbage out of a wastewater treatment plant that serves one of Manila's large public markets. They have made several site visits and assisted in training and surveying market vendors. As a result, the vendors have developed a plan to compost up to 60 percent of biodegradable waste and use it to fertilize newly planted trees.

Thorfinnson says that almost all Rotary funds in the Dominican Republic are going toward bio-sand filters, while USAID funds are helping to improve and construct water supply and sanitation systems and provide hygiene education.

Rotarians are engaged in many water and sanitation projects year-round. Here's a sampling:

>  A $64,566 contribution from the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund is supporting a project of the Rotary Club of Mirebalais, Centre, Haiti, to construct 80 rainwater collection tanks with built-in filters, each with a 2,500-gallon capacity. The tanks will provide clean water for about 3,000 people. 

>  Rotarians in District 5420 (Utah, USA) are working with Rotarians in Colombia and Ecuador on a series of global grant projects to build bathrooms for schools, provide clean drinking water, and teach students better hygiene practices. They also have reached out to the general public through billboard, radio, and television public service announcements.

>  Rotarians in District 2230 (Belarus; Poland; Ukraine) are helping to build a modern septic treatment system and renovate toilets and showers in an orphanage in Krasne, Chernihivs'ka, Ukraine. 

>  Rotarians in District 6540(Northern Indiana, USA) are working to provide water well drilling equipment in Zambia, Africia, which will make it possible to bring clean potable drinking water to the communities they serve.