The Diplomatic Envoy
Foreign CorrespondentsDecember 2015

Emily O’Connor: Morocco and Senegal

Anyone who knows me knows that five in the morning is not an Emily-friendly time.

To me, the day should start at brunch. So when I found myself awake that early in the middle of the Saharan desert, I already knew that something was wrong.

About ten minutes after stumbling out of my tent over to a secluded area with sand all around me, I threw up as the desert sun peaked over the dunes.

It was clear I had food poisoning. Luckily it struck me the morning of departure from the nomad camp that Semester at Sea students were staying in. Armed with a barf bag, I rode a camel two hours out of the desert.

I have never had food poisoning before.

Of course, when I’m in America I know not to eat pink chicken and to be careful with sushi.

But when I’m thirsty in the U.S., I can go to my fridge, my sink, my shower, even a toilet if I was so inclined, and drink clean water that would not give me any problems.

I can eat at a multitude of restaurants and never face food poisoning because of tainted water or dirty food. Getting food poisoning is an anomaly, a rare occurrence.

However, in countries like Morocco and Senegal, clean food and water are luxuries rarely found in places outside of American hotels.

In markets (a major part of these countries’ economies), animal feces is left next to food stands, produce sellers leave their produce uncovered with hundreds (seriously, hundreds) of flies circling and swarming the fruits and vegetables, and street snacks are served from communal platters without gloves, hand-washing stations, or a stigma against double-dipping.

I had only been in Morocco four days when I got sick.

My first thought was, “My coddled and sissy American immune system can’t take a little foreign bacteria like the locals can.”

But that’s just not the case. One in three Senegalese do not have access to clean drinking water. Every twenty seconds a child under the age of five dies from water borne illnesses and 80 percent of diseases worldwide is related to contaminated water.

Clean water and basic food sanitation regulations are incredible privileges that keep Americans healthy.

So in a world where almost a billion people live without clean drinking water, the idea of 20-minute showers and drinking water preferences in the United States become impossible to justify.

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