Friday, June 18, 2010

It's the water and a lot more

Hello Friends,

It's been a while since we've chatted - I'm sorry for not connecting with you sooner. It has been a very busy time since I returned from Afghanistan. Last week I went to Washington DC and Hartford, CT. I met with advocates, supporters, a member of our Board, and experts in Afghan affairs. I also got to spend time with my younger son, Scott, which was a wonderful occasion.

Before I left for the east coast, I started converting a second bedroom into a home office. It was one of those times that reminded me to be wary of anything that carries the label "some assembly required". Anyway, I got thirsty and reached into my refrigerator and poured a nice cold glass of ice water. It really hit the spot. Like a lot of everyday things, it reminded me of my recent time in Afghanistan.

We may take water for granted but it is a constant matter of attention in Afghanistan. Many of the children we serve are at the end of the irrigation system and when the water runs out, dire problems occur. Most pointedly, the water supply effects rural agricultural development and disease transmission. Waterborne disease can be caused by protozoa, viruses, or bacteria, many of which are intestinal parasites. They can be transmitted when contaminated water is consumed - either directly or by eating food prepared with contaminated water. According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease is responsible for the deaths of 1.8 million people every year. It was estimated that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and is mostly concentrated in children in developing countries.

Water makes up two-thirds of our body weight. A drop of only 2% in our body's water supply can trigger short-term memory loss, trouble with basic math, difficulty focusing on small print and daytime fatigue. If you add those symptoms to being sick with diarrhea - do you think you might have trouble learning?

One (of many) things I took away from my journey was that to address the education "problem" we have to address many factors beyond the physical classroom. Wells, latrines, teacher training, curriculum, books, equipment, supplies, power, safety, transportation, literacy, child development, maintenance, social skills, community ownership, and more ... are all part of the education "system". Like the movie Field of Dreams .. if we build it they will come. But unlike the Field of Dreams ... in Afghanistan, showing up is just the beginning.