Al Shehab Institution for Comprehensive Development

Campaigning the Egyptian Government to Provide Households with Access to Safe Water- Ezbet El Haggana

Monday 8 June 2009 by Al Shehab institution for Comprehensive Development

How does this project relate to/contribute to the GCAP/ MDG campaign?

According to UN press release of 17 March 2005, access to safe water was considered a priority and as a result the United Nations and governments are finding ways to meet the internationally agreed targets of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015, which is also one of the UN MDG. Therefore Al Shehab Institution an NGO, which is located in a slum area of Cairo, considers households of the marginalized and poor community to have access to safe drinking water as an urgent action to meet the UN MDG. Because we believe that meeting the targets on water will contribute achieving more pressing UN development goals such as eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and/or reducing child and maternal mortality.

Furthermore, lacking access to safe drinking water in poor communities particularly extends extreme poverty for those communities, as they have to buy the water. For example in Al Haggana region, where Al Shehab foundation work in, the majority of households have to pay 0.75 L.E. for one gallon of water, which adds an extra burden on families of Ezbet Al Haggana. Since in Egypt it is customary for women and girls to provide the households with water, where the community lacks access to safe drinking water, this leads to discrimination against women and a barrier to achieving universal primary education for girls. The women share the burden of carrying water for long distances. The girls maybe prevented from going to school so that they provide the family with water, which is considered a more urgent need, rather than the right of the girls to attend school. Also, the water provides by private cars and cause health risk as it is unsafe water.

We consider the current campaign as an important first step towards achieving GCAP/ MDG. Providing access to safe drinking water will alleviate the burden of poor families financially and therefore will help in reducing extreme poverty in Al Haggana region. It will also contribute in promoting gender equality, as we are planning to enhance the women participation in decision-making that relates to water issues. Moreover providing safe water to all households in Al Haggana will relieve the girls from the burden of carrying for the family and this will help eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education as well as achieving universal primary education for all. Therefore, this campaign can be considered as part of the universal action against poverty and an effort could be added to meet the UN MDG in one of the most marginalized areas around Greater Cairo.

Brief description of water problem in Al Haggana region:

The action will take place in Al Haggana settlement (Ezbet Al Haggana) that is one of the most marginalized slum areas of Cairo, which is located on the north east of the city. The area is about 31.000 m2 and the population exceeds 1 million inhabitants. According to the survey that has been conducted by Al Shehab institution in 2001 to identify the needs and the problems facing the local community, the most pressing issue was identified as the problems related to right of housing and it associated services such as right of access to safe water.

In the survey it was discovered that most of the area’s districts are deprived of safe water and the only source of safe water in these deprived districts are the water-carrier pickups that sell one gallon of water at a price of 0.75 L.E. which it too expensive for the poor community of Al Haggana region, especially when we know that the minimum amount of gallons each household uses on a daily basis is 4 gallons. The majority of women in the survey complained the added burden they face, as they have to carry the water themselves as a result of non-existence of access to safe water. Furthermore, the survey found that at least 40% of women and girls developed back problems due to carrying heavy weights on their backs. As result of the survey, it was discovered that the lack of access to safe water generated gender inequality, as it is women’s duty to provide water for the family, and a barrier to right of education for some girls who are prevented from going to school to do their domestic duty.

In addition, as a result of working in this community for the past four years, we became aware of many reasons for households to lack access to safe drinking water. One of these reasons is that some households in the community lacked access to safe water because of non-existence of water network which is failure of the government to provide safe drinking water to the residents. The second reason is that some households lacked access to safe water because they could not afford the high cost associated with individual connections. Lastly, it was discovered that the distribution of safe water and the connection of water networks are controlled by some local residents who want to benefit from selling water to the local community and they prevent people from installing individual connections. However, we have never done a research to identify the problems associated with this issue.

Therefore, it is our aim to do a PRA in order to find out exactly the reasons for the lack of access to safe water. So that we can campaign the Egyptian government to provide access to safe water in Al Haggana region using the right tools, holding a public awareness raising campaign to raise the awareness of the local community of Al Haggana region about water issue and its related problems. And pressure the manipulators who control the water resources to cease their activities.

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