Clean water is something most of us don’t think twice about. You turn on the tap or open a bottle, and there it is. But that’s not the case for more than 800 million people worldwide. In addition, more than 2 billion don’t have access to the sanitation that clean water can provide. It’s a tragedy that contributes to more than 800,000 deaths worldwide of children under age five each year, and one that United VARs, an alliance of 50 SAP partners operating in 90 countries, strives to remedy.
At its recent annual meeting in St. Leon-Rot, Germany, United VARs executives voted to support Project: WASH (Water, Sanitary Facilities and Hygiene training), an organization that builds clean water systems for schools in Cambodia, one of the countries most impacted by lack of clean water, according to water.org. Detlef Mehlmann, managing director at United VARs, witnessed the dire situation in Cambodia first-hand when visiting the country with a friend two years ago.
“The schools face disastrous hygienic conditions,” he said. “There is no drinking water. No toilets. No chance to even wash hands. The students carry plastic bottles filled with water from dirty rivers. It was disconcerting to learn this was the rule and not the exception. Almost all the children suffer from diarrhea, and unfortunately, many of them die under the age of 12.”
In Cambodia, Mehlmann discovered one school that received a water collection and filtration system thanks to about €20,000 in donations, making a huge impact for the students and faculty. He presented it to United VARs leadership, who agreed to support fundraising to help additional schools. As part of the WASH campaign, each United VARs member will contribute 0.1 percent of all revenue reported during the second quarter.
“That was the easiest way to make sure all members could help,” Mehlmann said. “At the end of the day, it is a voluntary initiative, but I’m quite pleased to see such a positive response.”
The water systems collect water during the rainy season, filling several large underground tanks. It’s enough to provide clean water for the whole year, according to Mehlmann. “The kids can also take water home,” he said. “For €15,000 to €20,000, you can save the lives of 50 to 80 kids. It’s unbelievable.”
The donations will fund a new rainwater collection system with 4,000-liter tanks; the installation of bathrooms, latrines, handwashing stations, and a biosand filter; and improved testing and training for students, teachers, and school administrators learning to use the system, according to the German-based organization Kleine Hilfsaktion, which manages the program.
The goal is to raise enough money to fund at least one freshwater system, but a strong quarter by United VARs members could fund a system for a second school as well.
“I’m trying to be conservative,” Mehlmann said. “It’s a bit of a challenge. We’re working to help spread the word. I’m thankful for the support we’ve received so far.”
United VARs is proud to contribute to improving people’s lives and making the world a better place, he noted. “It’s important to give back to society, and we look forward to being able to bring freshwater systems to the children in Northern Cambodia that so desperately need it.”
For more on how technology can improve lives, see Digital Devices To Enhance Children’s Education And Health.