Social Issues

Access to safe drinking water reduces emigration in Guatemala

Puerto Morelos (Mexico), Nov 30 (EFE).- Access to basic services such as drinking water is important to prevent families in the “dry corridor” of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala from migrating to other countries, said Daniel Oporto, director for Latin America at Water for People.

In an interview with EFE, Oporto spoke about the work that the international civil society organization is carrying out as part of the Lazos de Agua initiative in four municipalities in Guatemala, located in the highlands and in scattered rural towns, where houses are separated by up to one kilometer.

“Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua are part of what is called the Central American Dry Corridor, the main area from where people migrate to the United States and other places to escape poverty,” he explained from the Mexican Caribbean, where the results of FEMSA Foundation’s Lazos de Agua program were presented.

“There are studies that show that providing basic services such as water and sanitation prevents migration and we are making progress on this,” he added.

The organization works with communities, among others, that are over 3,000 meters above sea level, where “agricultural activities such as coffee production are not enough,” the specialist explained.

Water and sanitation, he said, are triggers for development and economic activity, not only to improve health conditions, but also because they allow agricultural activity to face climate change.

The dispersed rural towns where Water for People and Lazos de Agua, an initiative of Mexico’s FEMSA Foundation, operate are where the state government has limited access and the construction of water and sewage systems is not always technically possible and financially viable.

Oporto regretted that progress cannot be made at a faster pace, as estimates indicate that close to 2 million people remain under these conditions, living in inequality and poverty without access to water and a safe and decent toilet.

“Not having access to a safe bathroom is an unthinkable issue in the 21st century, where those who suffer most are girls, adolescents and women because they are exposed to all kinds of risks when defecating or urinating in the open where there is no bathroom. That is a sign of the inequality and poverty faced in Latin America and Guatemala,” he said.

The expert indicated that the Lazos de Agua program is a strategic alliance that, with a systemic approach, builds municipal water and sanitation facilities.

“Building water systems in rural and dispersed rural areas is more expensive than building in an urban or peri-urban area, but in Latin America about 40% do not have access to water and safe toilets. Poverty in Latin America is in rural areas,” he said.

For Oporto, the water issue requires greater efforts and a radical change of mentality. EFE


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