Water First: Reaching the Millennium Development Goals
Four thousand children die every day as a result of the lack of access to clean water. Water First opens with this unbelievable figure, along with a montage of poverty-stricken African children. Luckily, the film moves beyond voyeuristic sentimentalism and goes on to make the case that access to clean water should be recognized as one of the most important global issues.
The country of Malawi is used as a case study, along with the nonprofit organization Fresh Water Malawi, run by retired firefighter Charles Banda. Fresh Water Malawi drills wells for communities throughout Malawi, usually with little support from the government or outside donors. Banda argues that the success of the eight official United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is dependent on whether or not people have access to clean water. The MDGs are goals to reduce poverty that the UN members adopted in the year 2000, with the target of having made progress toward them by 2015. The goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality, and achieving universal primary education.
The film successfully argues that water is intimately tied to all of these goals. For example, women and girls are the ones who bear the burden of fetching water, oftentimes miles away from their homes, and usually from unclean sources. Girls often drop out of school once they hit puberty because of lack of sanitation. Drinking water from unprotected sources causes cholera, malaria, dysentery and other diseases, which are especially devastating to young children and women who have recently given birth.
Water First lets the people of Malawi speak for themselves as viewers are invited to watch the daily struggle of life without access to clean water. The viewer can choose to watch a twenty-eight minute or a forty-five minute version of the film, which is helpful for teachers who want to screen Water First during class. Overall, the film is informative and cogently makes the case that water is a fundamentally important issue in advancing human rights and community development in impoverished countries around the world.