drinking water(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — The Institute for Public Health and Water Research (IPWR) – in partnership with the Texas A&M Health Science Center, the University of East Anglia and the Global Water Partnership-Caribbean – has launched “Water for Life: The Trinidad and Tobago Initiative.”

Funded by a three-year, $300,000 renewable grant from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Blue Water Project, this initiative will provide an educational intervention to various communities within Trinidad and Tobago.

Led by a local steering committee and in partnership with more than 20 private, public and nongovernmental organization stakeholders, the initiative aims to build capacity at the community level and will focus on the public health implication of household practices related to conservation, collection, storage and usage of water. The impact of this knowledge significantly addresses health literacy regarding hygiene and sanitation.

“Education is the key,” said Dr. Jennie Ward-Robinson, IPWR executive director. “The delivery of safe drinking water to populations in developing countries cannot be accomplished through infrastructure alone. A long-term, sustainable solution requires culturally relevant education which generates a sense of local ownership.”

Marilyn Crichlow, acting general manager of the Water Resources Agency at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), said, “This project is seen as complimentary to its outreach programs in which the community is educated regarding technology and the application of safe water management practices.”

Results from this initiative are expected to help establish safe water management practices at the community and household level in selected rural communities of Trinidad and Tobago that depend heavily on rainwater and truck-borne water supplies.

Approximately 1.1 billion people – 18 percent of the world’s population – lack access to safe drinking water. Diarrhea and malaria (water-related diseases) are ranked third (17 percent) and fourth (8 percent) in the cause of death among children under age 5. More than 2.2 million people, mostly in developing countries, die each year from diseases associated with poor water and unsanitary conditions.

Water use increased sixfold during the last century, more than twice the rate of population growth. Approximately two billion people were affected by natural disasters in the last decade, 86 percent of them by floods and droughts.

For additional information, contact Dr. Fredericka Deare at the Institute of Gender and Development Studies in Trinidad at (868) 662-2002 ext. 3549, (868) 389-7395 or by email at gender@sta.uwi.edu. In the United States with Dr. Ward-Robinson, contact Misha Granado at (979) 845-0391 or at misha.granado@ipwr.org.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell