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’Deis Impact presents H2Woe: The Struggle for Clean Water

By Celia Young

Section: Features, News

February 9, 2018

’DEIS Impact presented “H2Woe: The Struggle for Clean Water,” a screening of the documentary film, “A World without Water,” on Wednesday Feb. 7, and held a question and answer session with two panelists, Donna J. Barry and Brian Concannon Jr. Esq. The discussions focused on the problems arising from the privatization of access to water and access to clean water in the third world.

Sponsored by the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, H2Woe focused on the privatization of the water industry which, according to the panelists, tends to raise the price of water access. The panelists and the film also concentrated on private industries overuse of water in rural countries, such as Bolivia and Haiti, which results in less and lower quality water for the local populations.

Barry is the Executive Director of Global Oncology, a non-profit organization that aims to reduce disparities in access to cancer treatment. The majority of her previous work is centered in public health, and she holds a Master’s from Columbia University in International Affairs and Public Health.

Concannon is a human rights lawyer and Executive Director of the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and has previously worked as a Human Rights Officer for the United Nations (UN). His work focuses specifically on Haiti, and has worked on cases such as the UN cholera case, where the United Nations admitted responsibility for an outbreak of cholera in Haiti.

The film, “A World without Water,” described the life of a family in Bolivia whose access to water was limited when water access was privatized. It goes on to focus on an Indian community in Jaipur whose water supplies are being drained, according to the film, by Coca-Cola, who mines the underground water supply beneath the community. The film also addresses water access in Detroit, MI, interviewing a family whose water access was shut off.

After the film and an intermission, Vineet Vishwanath ’18, the president of the South Asian Students Association introduced the two panelists. Vishwanath asked them both about the privatization of the water industry, the United State’s role in water access abroad, and how lack of access to water affects everyday life for families.

Barry and Concannon described the problems with water privatization, citing that privatized water tends to be more expensive at the same level of quality to the consumer. Concannon continued, “I would always approach any privatization… with great skepticism…And certainly privatization in places where people are relatively disempowered. With the current world structure I think it’s really hard to have that work fairly.”

They also described a lack of initiative on the United States to address a deficiencyof water access in the UN, and finally described that a lack of water leads to lower education in families, especially women, who often are charged with fetching the water.

Barry described how a lack of clean water affects girls, saying, “The other thing that I think is important to think about with the gender lense, it’s often girls…younger girls who are in charge of getting the water for the household…In some cases they don’t go to school because they’re charged with getting the water.”

The event concluded with Barry and Concannon giving advice to the attendees about how to get involved in the fight for clean water at Brandeis.

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