Water Is Life: Armenia Fund Thanksgiving Telethon Is Here

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NEW YORK — On Thanksgiving Day, November 25, Armenia Fund, with its worldwide affiliates, will air the annual Thanksgiving Telethon on satellite and cable networks throughout major Armenian- American communities in the United States and throughout the world. Supporters, donors and friends are urged to join this global fund-raising drive to give rural Karabagh access to clean drinking and irrigation water.

The 2010 telethon is called “Water is Life” and its log illustrates a hand extending water. The lack of access to drinking and irrigation water has long been a bane for the rural communities throughout Armenia and Artsakh. On average, each family spends 40 percent of their daily lives carrying water from a source anywhere from two to five miles away. That water is not always clean; in fact, 88 percent of all diseases are related to tainted drinking water.

Water projects are not new to Armenia Fund: over the past 18 years, the organization has constructed more than 140 miles of water pipelines in more than 80 settlements. The recently-completed large-scale irrigation water project in the Tavush region of Armenia — the Armenian-French Friendship Canal — has proven that every $1 invested in improved water access yields an average of $12 in economic returns.

Each and every project they have undertaken has ultimately depended on access to water: imagine trying to build a new school or hospital, expand the agricultural sector or embark on any long-term reconstruction effort without factoring clean, safe water into the equation. Water infrastructure is vital to effectively address socioeconomic need.

Telethon 2010 has but one purpose: Solve the water supply challenges that continue to plague many rural Armenian communities — once and for all.

Steps are being taken to address this issue with multiple water projects being performed throughout Artsakh in Hadrut, Mardakert, Berdzor, Martuni and Askeran, the largest of which will be in Togh, Aknaghbyur, Ukhtadzor and Hartashen. Between these four communities alone, more than 1,550 villagers in 430 households will benefit. Furthermore, the cumulative effort of this ambitious undertaking will help over 70,000 people from 200 villages in Karabagh.

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Problems range from an almost universal lack of purification systems to sub-par conditions of reservoirs and internal distribution network pipelines. Many of these networks also lack valves to regulate water flow, which means villagers living closer to the source get more water. Village-wide access is often limited to one to two hours per day in which all cooking, washing and bathing must be performed. Villages located at a higher altitude grapple with freezing pipes while even villages not in mountainous regions are in jeopardy: their pipes are without anti-rusting insulation.