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Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere. 80% of the population lives in poverty, surviving on less than $2 a day. More than two thirds of Nicaragua's rural communities lack access to clean drinking water. Globally, contaminated water is the second greatest cause of infant mortality. An estimated 1.8 million children die each year as a result of illnesses linked to consumption of polluted water.
Women and girls shoulder the burden of bringing water for all the household needs, often spending several hours a day carrying 40 pound buckets for miles.
Access to clean drinking water dramatically improves family living standards, reducing disease and child mortality, freeing girls' and women's time, as well as improving school attendance and performance.
Victoria Hernández Díaz lives in a one-room brick home with a tile roof and dirt floor in Terrabona, central Nicaragua.
Before partnering with El Porvenir on a water system, Victoria and other members of her community walked 2 kilometers to a creek. There, they waited in long lines for a chance to fill their buckets with dirty water. They didn’t have latrines, but went to the bathroom outdoors. This practice contaminated their environment and led to illness (diarrhea and parasites) in people as well as in animals (who ate the human waste) they raised for food. The families also did not have healthy hygiene habits.
Constant illness from dirty water led to extra expenses for Victoria’s family: going to the doctor, buying medicine, and missing work. Many women carried all of the water they needed for the day—10 gallons—from the creek in one trip. Each woman carried one bucket on her head and an equally heavy bucket on her hip. The heavy load of water carried by these women already debilitated by diarrhea was just too much. Many women suffered miscarriages.
Now families have metered water taps right outside their door. Walking only a few steps, they can get as much water as they need.
No longer do they wait until dark to practice open air defecation. They walk out the door to their own family latrine whenever they want. After using the latrine, they wash their hands; already they are healthier.
Victoria has more time now that she doesn’t walk back and forth to the creek, so she has opened a small store in her home where she sells rice, sugar, snacks, and more. She also bakes bread to sell. Her children have been able to attend school regularly and are doing better at their studies. Her husband works as a day laborer on private farms and also has his own small farm plot.
With clean, safe water and good hygiene, this family has been able to triple its daily income! Victoria and her husband earn $6/day—much higher than the 80% of Nicaraguans who live on less than $2 a day.