Before I stepped on the land of Africa I had greatly prepared in my mind what it would be like. However, the numerical values for birth rates, death rates, HIV-AIDS, and people with water access are not as striking to you as what you actually see here.
We did house surveys. When we asked them, “Are there any problems with your drinking water?” they answered mostly “no”. Nevertheless, there were problems apparent in the water such as a red color and solids settling. Sometimes they are suffering from the unsafe water, but they have not realized that is the cause.
Water quality is not the only problem. In a village located on the top of the mountain, women and children need to walk 7 hours twice a day to fetch water. During this time they are prone to sexual assaults. Many of the children also have potbellies, which is linked to malnutrition. I can see the significance of being able to affordably provide safe drinking water to everyone in the world.
Through chatting with local friends, I know that men in villages often have three or four wives and each wife gives birth to about seven kids. There are many more females than males; the ratio can be 7 males to 20 females. The marriage model of one husband and one wife, which we have already taken as granted, seems kind of weird here. If girls are raped, resulting in pregnancy, their family normally will not choose to report to the police. If the police take away that man, there will be no one responsible for the girl. Finally, victims choose to marry the criminals for a more secure life.
Multiple wives mean high birthrate. Meanwhile, poor medical condition determines the high death rate. Therefore parents are willing to bear more children, in hopes that more survive. It is a vicious cycle, bringing down the family living standard. Education and medical care are more difficult to access. In my opinion, if this country wants to take off, they must get rid of this cycle first.
When we took water samples in the refugee camp, lots of kids surrounded me. They are so lovely. They held my hands all the way along. I repeatedly told them “You are beautiful; life is beautiful; the world is beautiful; future is beautiful”. I hope they can understand. I told them to study very hard, read lots of books and travel to many countries. I hope they can be happy every day and have a better life. Their life should not be like this.
These days wherever we go, everyone greets to us with big smiles and warm waving hands. I have never been welcomed in this way before and have never been so expected before. I know that how much they expect us is how much the responsibility weighs on our sholders. The origin of pains is not just from environmental factors, since there are too many factors involved—wars, large population, lack of medication, lack of education, politics, and cultural tradition. Maybe what we do is not the key way to wipe out poverty, but I believe the more efforts we put in, the less pains will be in their lives.
I suffered from dental fluorosis myself due to high fluoride drinking water I had in my childhood. I know deeply that some type of harm from bad environmental quality to children will bring them lifelong sufferings. I do not know what the best I can do for them now is, I just hope that through our exploration and efforts, each child can have access to clean water and a bright childhood. I want to avoid pity in their lives, and have them believe life is beautiful and the world is beautiful.