CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As fathers, we both have had to tell our young children "it's not safe to drink the water." It wasn't safe three Fridays ago, and we still don't believe it is safe today. We cannot answer their questions as to when that may change. And we try to hide the thoughts in our own minds about what kind of long-term damage this might cause them. What if the effects aren't clear for 20 years? What about their kids?
We aren't alone. Over 300,000 West Virginians were affected by the water crisis and now we are left wondering. Since one of the areas affected was our state's Capitol, special attention has been given to this situation. However, for our most vulnerable West Virginians, the lack of water was just another day lacking access to basic necessities many of us take for granted. For many, living without water and other necessities is simply a way of life.
Currently in West Virginia, 185,000 children (nearly 1 out of every 2) live in a family that does not have enough money to make ends meet:
• 128,000 regularly go without food.
• 3,961 are victims of abuse and neglect (the reported cases) each year.
• Hundreds go without clean water for years, not just days.
And things are getting worse. Two weeks ago, the governor cut early childhood programs by $980,000 -- not a lot of money until you consider the millions in matching funds that could be jeopardized.
We are pledging to each other, as men, as dads, to respond to this water crisis with righteous indignation and arms outstretched. We are helping folks get water. We are working with legislators to get better legislation. We are calling on the president to declare what has happened a major disaster -- so that working families who have lost wages can claim Disaster Unemployment Assistance.