John Oldfield

John Oldfield is an executive with Water Advocates, a lobbying and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

Recent Articles

Curing the Developing World's Water Woes

Online Extra: We have an unprecedented opportunity to prioritize safe drinking water and sanitation investments.

It's often said that the worst job in the world is being the "before guy" in weight-loss ads: pasty, flabby, and balding. The "before guy" picture in the developing world is far more photogenic. It is a photograph of an elegant Asian or African woman wrapped in a vivid sari or kente cloth, gracefully carrying a brass kettle of drinking water on her head under a warm tropical sun. As popular and romanticized as such photos are, the way that woman spends many of her waking hours is precisely what many governments and international donors are working to change. With a body weight of perhaps 90 to 100 pounds, she has to haul 5 gallons of water (45 pounds) on her head for a daily average of over three miles. Often she must return to that unsafe forest or jungle path to gather the firewood with which to boil that water to make it potable for her children. Hers is indeed a thankless job. Worse, her children in many cases must join her, risking injury, rape, and wild animal attacks while...