The UUSC is funding a legal and organizing project around the Human Right to Water. One of the symptoms of the violations of this human right (derechos humanos) is the contamination of the public water system in poor and people of color communities – Guayaquil Ecuador had one such drawn out incident at 8 public schools.
Over 150 children were diagnosed with Hepatitis A over the period of several months from a number of schools. The outbreak was caught early on by school doctors, and information was shared with the authorities and now-privatized water company (Bechtel), yet no action was taken and the schools were blamed for poor sanitary conditions. Mi Cometa, the community group, and their public watch partner the Public Observatory Network of neighborhood and community groups, kept organizing from the first outbreak in 2005 into today. The debate has been very public, with hundreds of media pieces in the papers, radio and television, and the effects of the outbreak are still being dealt with – children are reporting chronic physical and mental health effects. This trauma, and the lack of a meaningful immediate government response, is fueling more social action around the Human Right to Water.
We visited one of the schools with the largest outbreak, and met both children and their parents. Here are several photos from our visit – Mi Cometa invited the children to draw pictures of their experience with Hep A, and parents caucused and talked about what political action they could take. The energy was really high!