Latin American Water ScarcityIn Latin America, the health and well-being of rural communities are threatened by water scarcity and poor sanitation. In recent decades, the number of people facing water scarcity has declined. Unfortunately, with 36 million people currently lacking access to clean water in Latin America, water scarcity is an issue that is just too prevalent. EOS International aims to address Latin American water scarcity by providing simple and affordable solutions to increase access to clean water.

Causes of Latin American Water Scarcity

While many factors contribute to the water crisis, the outsized role of climate change cannot be ignored. Recent increases in extreme weather events including flooding, hurricanes and droughts threaten the water supply of many Latin American countries. For example, in Peru, flooding left water treatment plants full of rocks and debris, clogging the water supply. Consequently, authorities made the decision to restrict water usage in the Peruvian cities of Lima and Arequipa.

On the other end of the spectrum, drought threatens Bolivia’s water supply, which is significantly rainfall-reliant. Extreme weather conditions, however, are not the only factors threatening clean water access for Latin Americans. Misguided governmental decision-making exacerbates the problem. Most consequentially, increases in deforestation, mining and the creation of mega dams have exacerbated the occurrence of extreme weather patterns. In turn, these developments often harm the water supply in many Latin American countries. Of particular concern in Peru, international mining companies polluted waterways and “hijacked” the water supply, harming the livelihoods of farmers in the region.

In other countries, the biggest threat to the water supply is agribusinesses with undue control over water allocation. This synergy of extreme weather conditions, extractive industries, agribusinesses and governmental inaction still threatens rural families in Latin America who lack access to clean water.

Health and Water Scarcity

Water scarcity poses a direct danger to human health. The most harrowing outcome is waterborne illnesses, primarily diarrheal diseases, which are too often fatal. Waterborne illness is responsible for one in nine child deaths around the world. The pollution in the water itself is an environmental hazard. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that in children younger than 5 in the Americas, close to 100,000 die from such pollution annually.

Water Scarcity Hinders Poverty Reduction

Not only does water scarcity threaten the health of rural communities in Latin America but it is also a major obstacle to poverty prevention. Without clean water, it is nearly impossible to stay healthy enough to manage a job, go to school, construct a home or undertake other essential endeavors necessary to pull oneself out of poverty.

When women have to travel long distances to collect water, they waste hours of time and energy that can otherwise go toward more productive endeavors such as education and paid employment. Areas lacking clean water are also more vulnerable to food insecurity as it is more difficult to grow sufficient crops to feed the populous. Food security, education and employment are all key to poverty reduction, however, a lack of access to water presents a barrier to these outcomes.

Efforts to Alleviate Water Scarcity

Organizational efforts play a role in driving the decrease in overall water scarcity. EOS International is one such organization. EOS stands for “Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability.” The organization’s work aims to empower rural families in Central America by facilitating access to clean drinking water through technological advances and education.

As part of this goal, EOS volunteers help rural communities to safeguard clean water. The volunteers regularly test water quality and then treat unsafe and contaminated water, usually with chlorine tablets. The volunteers then monitor the water system over time, providing chlorine tablets to communities when required. Not only does EOS provide base-level support but it also manufactures and installs simple technologies that provide long-term support for the water supply. Since its establishment in 2008, EOS has installed more than 2,000 simple, affordable and “locally serviceable technologies” in Central America.

The organization also supports economic growth and income generation in communities. EOS International has “provided clean water services including training, education and support for 1,169 communities,” positively impacting more than 500,000 people. Furthermore, the organization’s “50 chlorine distribution centers have created income-generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”

Looking to the Future

EOS International has made a measurable impact on the health of rural Latin Americans. The organization has installed technologies that provided lasting clean water access to more than half a million people in Honduras and Nicaragua alone.

EOS International’s successes in combating Latin American water scarcity are not possible without the support of donors and volunteers. The implementation of technologies is done in large part by people willing to give their time to support rural families. Nonprofits make a measurable impact in the lives of countless families facing water insecurity. However, their work is not possible without generous contributions of time and monetary support. EOS International’s efforts are an example of the vital work being done by nonprofits to combat global poverty.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in SomaliaSomalia is facing an ongoing humanitarian crisis that has affected millions. Over 70% of the country’s population is currently living in poverty, with more than 4.8 million people suffering from food insecurity. Political instability, armed conflict and extreme weather coupled with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has caused the country’s GDP to decrease by 1.5%. Extreme weather caused over $3 billion worth of damage to Somalia in 2018 which was more than 50% of the country’s GDP. The current state of Somalia has only deteriorated with the need for humanitarian support increasing. Food insecurity, malnutrition and access to clean water in Somalia are major issues requiring continued humanitarian attention.

Access to Clean Water in Somalia

The United Nations has reported that over 2 billion people globally lack access to clean water. UNICEF reports that only 52% of the population of Somalia has access to a water source. With such a low percentage of the Somali people having readily accessible clean water, preventable diseases become a greater threat. Access to clean water in Somalia means improving sanitation, hygiene and decreasing susceptibility to diseases like cholera, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Save the Children has reported that droughts have left 70% of Somali families lacking access to clean water. The survey gathered responses from over 630 families in 18 provinces of Somalia. Droughts have led to crop failures resulting in more people struggling with food insecurity. Without access to clean water, women and children face an increased risk of health-related issues, like preventable diseases and childbirth complications.

Providing Clean Water in Somalia

Mercy-USA for Aid and Development is a nonprofit organization from Michigan that has been working in Somalia since 1997. The United States-based nonprofit has projects spanning several countries including Syria, Kenya and Yemen. The programs in Somalia are developing self-reliance skills through education, skill training and food and water assistance. In order to combat the crisis of accessibility to clean water in Somalia, Mercy-USA is building wells for the Somali people. The organization has built over 700 wells, which have provided clean water to over 750,000 people. The organization can build a new well for $3,500 which can provide water to an entire community.

CARE International is a non-governmental organization based in Switzerland that has been providing humanitarian aid to Somalia since 1981. The organization has been helping mitigate the damage that extreme weather like floods and droughts have had on Somali agriculture. CARE’s programs in Somalia have helped over 250,000 people through improvements to clean water accessibility, sanitation and hygiene. The organization works with local authorities and international organizations to treat preventable diseases like acute watery diarrhea. CARE International has provided over 10,000 people access to clean water. The organization’s ongoing projects include efforts to improve agriculture, sanitation and develop local businesses.

Looking Forward

With extreme weather displacing communities and damaging agriculture, more people are finding themselves without access to clean water in Somalia. The Somali government is working to expand assistance and opportunities to those suffering from the effects of poverty with the support of humanitarian organizations like Mercy-USA and CARE International. The poverty rate is expected to remain at 71% as the Coronavirus pandemic further exacerbates food insecurity and displacement. Continued humanitarian support is necessary to improve the situation of the Somali people and ensure everyone has access to clean water in Somalia.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo:Flickr

NanoseenIn Sopot, Poland, co-founders Bartosz Kruzska and Mikolaj Granuszewski are leading innovations that could change access to clean, drinkable water forever. Startup firm, Nanoseen, is developing the NanoseenX, a water filter made of recycled metal wafers that can desalinate water. The startup, which was ranked as one of the top “15 Chemical Engineering Startups Positioned to Make it Big in 2021” by the Welp Magazine, aims to revolutionize the use and development of nanotechnology to build the most modern products. “Nanoseen is a team of nanotechnology engineers and scientists who prove remarkable properties of NanoseenX nanomaterials as a core component of the company’s products that will help solve many problems related to climate change such as water shortage and plastic pollution,” Kruszka told THEfirstNEWS. The company plans to begin mass production of its water desalination devices in 2021, making it one of the most highly anticipated startups of the upcoming year.

NanoseenX Water Filter

The filter can desalinate both brackish and seawater, giving it the potential to become essential to both disaster relief and combating global poverty. Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source and one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water, making clean water one of the chief obstacles of under-developed nations. Countries like Papua New Guinea, Mozambique, Tanzania and Somalia struggle with clean water but border the oceans so they can benefit greatly from the filter. The provision of clean water will not only improve sanitation but consequently improve health and infant survival rates, which is fundamental to fighting poverty. The product could also aid natural relief teams in tropical countries that are prone to hurricanes and typhoons. For example, crises like the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which cut off access to clean water in Puerto Rico for months, can be resolved. Removing clean water as a pressing concern will also give destitute communities a better opportunity to develop and escape poverty.

Other Innovative Initiatives by Nanoseen

In addition to the water filter, Kruzska elaborates that Nanoseen is tackling research on a method of damaging micro and nano-plastics in water, with the use of NanopowderX. Such development could help clear pollution in oceans, which contain 25-50 trillion macro and microplastics. Being able to filter such microplastics from the water will be the most effective way to curb this new atmospheric pollutant. The team is also pioneering unique paints that will remove pollutants from the air to fight atmospheric pollution, a phenomenon that disproportionately affects impoverished people.

Innovatively Addressing Global Issues

Nanoseen’s ingenious filter is paradigmatic of innovations in STEM creating solutions to global poverty. The startup also offers other eco-friendly and problem-solving materials. The startup’s website offers viewers more in-depth descriptions and applications of its products and states its goals of creating innovative nanomaterials to build modern products that solve the main problems of today’s world.

– Christine Chang
Photo: Flickr

Nanotechnology is Alleviating PovertyIn its most basic sense, the concepts behind nanotechnology were formulated by acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman in 1959. Over the past four decades, nanotechnology has made significant advancements and research is expanding as costs are falling. Because of these innovations, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty worldwide.

Using Nanosensors for Water Management in Agriculture

Whether mechanical or chemical, nanosensors use tools to detect minor changes in chemical composition and relay information to change the dynamics of whatever they are monitoring. Nanosensors use artificial intelligence and computing to make adjustments as soon as any predicaments arise. Because of their sensitivity and small scale, nanosensors can detect problems well before other outdated instruments.

In a study for sustainable agriculture, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) asserts nanotechnology is alleviating poverty issues such as food insecurity. The OECD study concluded that nanosensors effectively detect changes in moisture across fields of crops. They then automatically adjust the disbursement of water and eliminate water waste while preventing crop losses. Farm machines outfitted with nanosensors detect moisture levels in different crops and suggest better-suited areas for specific crops allowing farmers to change planting patterns or change water allocations to other land plots.

Nanofiltration Membranes Provide Clean Drinking Water

Access to clean water is a crisis that many developing countries face. Usually, the first issue dealt with when fighting poverty is economic development so regulations are not often in place to protect against pollution. In some countries, scarcity of clean groundwater becomes problematic too. However, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in these areas by providing clean drinking water.

Ghana was the center of a study on the effectiveness of nanofiltration membranes conducted by the International Water Association (IWA) and members of the Indian Institute of Science. The IWA chose to test Ghana’s groundwater due to the high level of pollutants present. During the study, it tested the levels of contaminants, bacteria and natural materials that render water non-potable before and after utilizing nanofiltration membranes.

The results of the IWA study were impressive. Not only did the study determine that nanofiltration reduces pollutants to potable levels, but executed efficiently enough, rural areas could produce enough water for more than 100 households. Ultimately, the conclusion was that nanofiltration was a low-cost solution for drinking water access and production in impoverished rural regions worldwide.

Nanotechnology to Fight Infectious Disease

Most original concepts of nanotechnology’s usefulness focused on medical care. The World Health Organization (WHO) has long been fond of utilizing nanotechnology in health care and fighting infectious diseases. The WHO now recognizes that nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations through scientific medical breakthroughs.

The first need for nanotechnology to address in developing countries is the diagnosis of disease. Nanobiotechnology allows for an inexpensive option to find multiple dangerous microbes using a single test. These technologies have improved over time and are being used in developing nations to detect most viral and bacterial infections, including tuberculosis.

The COVID-19 vaccine development shows the importance of nanotechnology in the prevention of disease too. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a nanocarrier system designed to activate the immune system to fight COVID-19 by assisting antibody production. The distribution of the vaccine to developing nations is now underway.

The Future of Nanotechnology for Poverty Reduction

Nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations, and with continued scientific inquiry and advancements in nanotechnology, new applications for poverty reduction will improve. Nanotechnology’s cost-effectiveness and versatility make it one of the most viable technologies to assist in the struggle against poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Sunlight-Powered Desalination ProcessAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to clean sources of drinking water. This figure is often quite surprising to many because it is difficult to comprehend how water can be so scarce when it is seemingly so bountiful. However, in truth, only 3% of Earth’s water is freshwater. Additionally, with current trends of rising temperatures and increasing worldwide consumption of freshwater, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could face water scarcities. For this reason, researchers in Australia have developed a sunlight-powered desalination process to quickly convert tainted water into a safe, drinkable form.

The Process of Sunlight-Powered Desalination

In August 2020, a team of Chinese and Australian researchers based at Monash University in Australia announced via the science journal, Nature Sustainability, that they had developed a new sunlight-powered desalination process. The method uses their self-developed metal-organic framework (MOF), an extremely porous metal, called PSP-MIL-53. Once exposed to sufficient sunlight, this MOF is “activated” and absorbs particles like salt and bacteria from brackish water to create water that can be consumed by humans.

This sunlight-powered desalination process, according to the scientists participating in the study, produces water cleaner than WHO standards. WHO sets the standard for drinking water at having less than 600 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved solids. Meanwhile, this new method was able to reduce the number of dissolved solids from 2,233ppm to 500ppm of dissolved solids.

Clean Water in 30 Minutes

Along with creating water cleaner than WHO standards, the new sunlight-powered desalination process can desalinate brackish water in less than 30 minutes. This approach is more efficient than other methods of desalination with it generating nearly 37 gallons of potable water per day from only one kilogram of PSP-MIL-53.

Benefits for the Impoverished

By using sunlight for activation energy, the newly developed method does not require heat or electricity to jumpstart the active desalination. While other technologies that use processes like reverse osmosis require sophisticated energy infrastructure and dangerous chemicals to operate, the Australian-developed procedure does not. This will allow poor, rural areas in developing nations, places where water is increasingly becoming most scarce, to use this sunlight-powered desalination process to obtain drinkable water without needing to create a robust power grid nearby. Lack of chemicals and reliance solely on sunlight also makes this type of desalination energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly, minimalizing damage to surrounding ecosystems.

Further Potential for Developing Countries

With the potential to quickly and efficiently provide millions with safe, drinkable water, Monash University researchers are continuing to perfect the technology. According to lead scientists on the project, the sunlight-powered desalination process can be cheaply distributed to areas in dire need overcoming the cost barrier of desalination plants that have previously prevented developing countries from purchasing desalination technology. Professor Huanting Wang, one of the lead scientists, also stated that the byproducts of the desalination process, those being the minerals and other materials extracted from the water, could function as a secondary benefit of the technique by providing an environmentally-friendly source of raw materials that could help boost the economies of poor regions.

The Future of PSP-MIL-53

Much is still to be done by researchers at Monash University before PSP-MIL-53 is ready for widespread distribution. Despite this, it is clear that this new discovery provides hope for impoverished communities who face threats of drought or unclean water. The cost and energy requirements have always been an entry barrier to gaining access to potentially life-saving desalination plants. These scientists are gunning to change the world by providing the poor with access to clean, drinkable water.

– Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation Practices in Tanzania
Tanzania has made considerable strides in decreasing extreme poverty. For example, from 2007–2018, the country’s poverty rate declined from 34% to 26% (of the total population). However, this progress in poverty reduction has not translated as successfully when addressing sanitation. Improving sanitation practices in Tanzania directly relates to decreasing infant mortality and malnutrition. Currently, 23 million of Tanzania’s 57 million residents obtain drinking water from potentially hazardous sources. Acknowledging these disparities and the value of potable water in eradicating poverty, the initiative Project SHINE works in rural communities where low access to clean water and poor hygiene practices are common. The organization is on a mission to improve sanitation by inventing cost-effective, simple solutions that enhance hygiene in Tanzania.

Poor Sanitation and Resulting Diseases

Poor sanitation practices in Tanzania contribute to a host of preventable infections in the country. Tanzania suffers frequent cholera outbreaks, which cause extreme diarrhea and dehydration. Diarrheal disease is one of the largest contributors to child mortality in countries facing extreme poverty. Moreover, those who do survive, suffer developmental obstacles. Cholera, as well as the related disease typhoid, can transmit through drinking water polluted with human feces. Open excretion, a widely spread issue in Tanzania, is easily preventable by developing water sanitation infrastructure.

In terms of parasitic infections, malaria commonly transmits through mosquitoes. This illness and schistosomiasis easily spread due to a lack of proper drainage systems in Tanzania. Finally, skin, eye and oral infections are a common result of the lack of knowledge among Tanzanians regarding proper hygiene practices.

Rural communities in Tanzania learn and influence hygiene practices based on previously established knowledge and cultural practices. Therefore, many children are predisposed to the same habits — and therefore, the same risks as their families. To help combat these norms that often pose significant health risks, Project SHINE is introducing innovations in sanitation and hygiene for Tanzanians.

Sanitation and Hygiene Innovation in Education (SHINE)

Project SHINE uses science to educate children and motivate changes in their hygienic behaviors by cooperating with schools. The program also reaches out to parents and other community members to develop a better understanding of attitudes toward health within this field. Through its educational initiatives, Project SHINE engages pastoralists who, even though many children come from these families, often lack access to resources and are actively involved with livestock. In particular, SHINE highlights the importance of both animal and human health for these audiences.

Education Strategy: Science Fairs

Project SHINE promotes science fairs in its target schools to encourage greater conversation and education about sanitation. These events focus on three subjects: water, sanitation and hygiene. This project’s aim is to help motivate youth, health care workers and community members to adopt improved health care practices. The long-term goal of motivating future generations to permanently incorporate these habits into their daily routines is paramount.

During this process, teachers receive private training in separate workshops where they gain strategies for presenting hygiene and sanitation to students in engaging ways.

Students engage in these science fairs by conducting research and forming hypotheses. One project students can complete, for example, is to create sustainable hand-washing stations using local, low-cost materials. Project SHINE also incorporates a One Health Paradigm that emphasizes the connection between livestock, humans and the environment. Notably, this is a relevant framework for children from pastoral families. Overall, fitting sanitation practices in Tanzania into the school curriculum has become a priority for SHINE.

The Journey Ahead

Progress for hygiene and sanitation practices in Tanzania has been a long, difficult journey for many families who still struggle to obtain clean water. Nevertheless, interventions from Project SHINE have already made significant differences. The initiative is planning to expand to other parts of the community, including out-of-school youth and the disabled. Overall, the work of Project SHINE offers promise for the health and prosperity of thousands across Tanzania.

– Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Solar Technology Alleviating PovertyGivePower, founded in 2013 by Hayes Barnard, is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to use solar technology in alleviating poverty worldwide. The United Nations reports that, as of 2019, “over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.” These water-related stress levels are expected to rise with increased population growth and global economic development. Ultimately, yielding a rise in poverty.

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

Solar technology presents a solution to this growing, global, water crisis. This is because solar technology holds the power to supply clean water and efficient energy systems to communities located in virtually any part of the world. Since 2013, GivePower has worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries gain access to a source of clean, renewable and resilient energy. This has in turn allowed for more readily available, clean drinking water, agricultural production and self-sustaining communities. For example, in 2018 alone, GivePower granted access to clean water, electricity and food to more than 30,000 people in five countries. Since its founding, GivePower has completed projects in the following six countries:

  1. Nicaragua: Though education through the primary stages is mandatory for Nicaraguans, school enrollment numbers are low. During its first-ever, solar microgrid installation in 2014, GivePower, recognized the importance of education. In this vein, GivePower shifted its resources toward powering a school in El Islote, Nicaragua. The school’s enrollment has improved tremendously, now offering classes and resources for both children and adults.
  2. Nepal: In Nepal, access to electricity has increased by nearly 10% for the entire Nepalese population, since GivePower began installing solar microgrids in 2015. Installation occurred throughout various parts of the country. Rural villages now have access to electricity — allowing schools, businesses, healthcare services, agricultural production and other forms of technology to prosper. Part of GivePower’s work in Nepal includes installing a 6kW microgrid on a medical clinic in a rural community, ensuring essential services.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): During 2016, the GivePower team reached the DRC, where civil war has ended in a struggle for both people and the country’s wildlife. The DRC is home to many of the world’s endangered species, making protection of the country’s wildlife essential. GivePower has successfully installed solar panels for ranger stations in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. In this way, wildlife thrives. This power provides a means for rangers to meet their basic needs and increases the likelihood that rangers can protect wildlife.
  4. Puerto Rico: In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful category four hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico. The disaster left many without shelter, food, power or clean water for months. GivePower intervened, installing solar microgrids and reaching more than 23,000 people. The organization provided individual water purification systems to families without access to clean drinking water and installed solar microgrids. In this effort, the main goals were to restore and encourage more disaster relief, emergency and medical services. Furthermore, the refrigeration of food and medication and the continuation of educational services were paramount in these efforts.
  5. Kenya: Typically, only about 41% of Kenyans have access to clean water for fulfilling basic human needs. Notably, about 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water. During 2018, using solar technology in alleviating poverty, GivePower provided electricity to Kenyans living in Kiunga. Moreover, GivePower also increased access to clean water through a large-scale, microgrid water desalination farm. The water farm provides clean water for about 35,000 Kenyans, daily. The organization has also reached the Namunyak Wildlife Conservatory located in Samburu, Kenya. There, GivePower installed solar panels to ensure refrigeration and communications at the conservatory.
  6. Colombia: In 2019, GivePower installed solar microgrids in Colombia to preserve one of the country’s most famous cultural heritage sites. Moreover, the microgrids helped to support research conducted in the area. The grids installed have been able to sustain a 100-acre research field and cold storage units.

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable, clean and resilient energy has granted many populations the ability to innovate. In this way, other basic, yet vital human needs are met. Using solar technology alone in alleviating poverty has been enough to create water farms that provide clean water to thousands. With water and energy for innovation — agricultural production flourishes. This, in turn, addresses hunger issues while also working toward economic development. Having already touched the lives of more than 400,000 people, GivePower and solar technology present a promising solution in alleviating global poverty.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Climate Change in the Pacific Islands
The Pacific Islands are a geographical region that the many small islands scattered across Southeast Asia characterize. It contains 15 countries such as Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Micronesia and more. As such, it is an extremely ecologically diverse area, home to many unique species of plants and animals. However, environmental challenges in the Pacific Islands pose a serious threat to the region, as natural disasters are prevalent. These ongoing natural disasters have destroyed much of the development in the area, leading to the Pacific Island’s long-standing struggle with economic growth as it lags behind its neighboring regions and countries.

Approximately one in four Pacific Islanders live below the poverty line, some of the highest rates of poverty in the world. These pressures have resulted in many people starting local projects to benefit their communities, which end up leading the world in how to adapt to environmental difficulties.

How Natural Disasters Exacerbate Poverty

As environmental challenges in the Pacific Islands continue to worsen, natural disasters have become increasingly common and dangerous. As an island region with some areas just 10 feet above sea level, the Pacific Islands is especially susceptible to the effects of these disasters. Estimates have determined that the region has lost a total of $3.2 billion since the 1950s due to natural disasters alone. As the area must allocate money towards repairing damaged structures and maintaining critical services, less can go to social programs to lift people out of poverty.

Major events like floods, droughts, tropical cyclones and tsunamis plague the region, reversing years of developmental projects like houses, hospitals, schools and more in just a few days. Long-term effects like inconsistent rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and seawater contamination have caused widespread food insecurity, water shortages and forced migration away from flooded or damaged areas. Many of these issues hit those already in poverty the hardest. Impoverished islanders lack the resources necessary for resilience in the face of such natural disasters, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

Innovations to Deal with Natural Disasters

Native peoples have come up with creative strategies to combat the threat of environmental challenges in the Pacific Islands at the community level. They are driving the world’s innovations to adapt to natural disasters by combining their knowledge of the native flora and fauna with high-tech science to protect their homes and livelihoods. These innovations have taken many forms, ranging from new data models to resilience-building aimed at future-proofing local economies and resources.

Most notably, communities have begun focusing on ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) in the Pacific Islands. This form of adaptation builds on the idea that healthy ecosystems are naturally resilient to the impacts of natural disasters. It prioritizes strengthening, restoring and sustainably managing damaged ecosystems.

Many areas have begun allocating resources towards the restoration of habitats resilient to natural disasters, such as mangrove and seagrass biomes. Studies that researchers conducted in Lami Town, Fiji have demonstrated that this method is both cheaper and more effective than man-made alternatives, especially for long-term development. As a result, the UN promotes EbA as the top method for adapting to the effects of natural disasters in the Pacific Islands.

Communities across the Pacific Islands have initiated projects to grow native plants along coastlines for their disaster-resistant properties and implemented laws to protect the many nearby marine ecosystems. They have also begun experimenting with drought-resistant crops. These projects have shown to positively affect local ecosystems, as well as benefiting the people’s sense of culture and identity while strengthening local governments and reducing reliance on outside forces.

Some areas struggling with water scarcity have rehabilitated their traditional water wells by adding a vegetation buffer to prevent sediments and pollution from falling into the well. Landowners are also agreeing to share wells during drought season, a concept that people developed and piloted in Oneisomw, Micronesia.

Work Remains

The Pacific islands have also made huge steps in climate-smart development, using the best science available to them to identify and prevent the devastating effects of natural disasters. The Catastrophe Risk Information System (PacRIS) acts as a huge database on where disasters have hit historically, as well as the damage they instigated. This project has grown to focus on urban development, strengthening building codes and making predictions about future disasters and their severity.

Although the Pacific Islands has made great strides in addressing the many effects of natural disasters and environmental conditions to prevent poverty and destruction in their communities, the region still requires imminent international support. The Pacific Islands account for a negligible amount of carbon emissions causing many of these issues. Yet the effects of environmental challenges in the Pacific islands are some of the most catastrophic, while major countries refuse to take action to reduce emissions and provide aid. Despite the large obstacles the Pacific Islands face, there is still hope that the area will be able to maintain its way of life and a reasonable amount of stability with the right tools and resources.

Elizabeth Lee
Photo: Flickr

water management in africaAccess to safe drinking water is the building block for a healthy society. Unfortunately, 780 million people worldwide do not have access to improved water sources. This means that they are more likely to become ill or even die from consumption of contaminated water, which can cause diarrheal infections, cholera, and an array of other deadly diseases. It is estimated that roughly 801,000 children under the age of five die from diarrheal infections every year, and about 88% of these deaths can be traced back to the consumption of contaminated water. Innovation in water management in Africa is therefore sorely needed.

Many communities in Africa have historically suffered from inadequate clean water access due to factors such as geography, urbanization, population growth and low GDP. For this reason, in March of 2020 the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy suggested new policies for water management in Africa. The goal of these policies is to “increase Africa’s preparedness to address water and climate change vulnerabilities, with less fragmentation of efforts, as well as improve upon monitoring and forecasting tools, and enhance knowledge sharing and technology transfer.” To do this, the Commission is focusing on innovation and enhancing the existing skill sets of local organizations concentrating on water management in Africa. Here are five innovative solutions focusing on water management in Africa.

Five Innovative Solutions for Water Management in Africa

  1. Decision-Analytic Framework (DAFNE): The DAFNE Project is funded by the European Union and focuses on improving collaboration efforts regarding resource management among African countries. Many water sources in Africa, such as rivers, flow through multiple countries, posing a risk that water-related conflicts could emerge. Additionally, water pollution from one country can influence water quality downstream in others. DAFNE is consolidating existing data and processing it in order to explore alternative water management techniques that could be utilized to maximize efficiency in water management in Africa. It also aims to reduce conflict between neighboring countries for water access.
  2. FLOWERED: The FLOWERED Project has designed a device that can remove fluoride from water sources. This is important because in many rural African countries, groundwater is the primary water source for drinking, crop production and cooking. Unfortunately, groundwater in many areas contains toxic levels of fluoride. Although this filtration device has not been fully developed, a prototype has proven to be successful in Tanzania. In the coming months, FLOWERED intends to complete production of its de-fluoridation devices and conduct research to determine which communities are suffering from toxic fluoride levels in their water.
  3. MADFORWATER: MADFORWATER is a project that focuses on cost-effective water treatment allowing water to be reused and utilized for irrigation. Many communities in Africa face extreme heat that makes water a scarce resource. This makes water treatment a necessity, as people rely on clean water not only for direct consumption but also for farming. This project focuses on ensuring that this water treatment technology is affordable, user-friendly and environmentally conscious.
  4. AfriAlliance: AfriAlliance is a project that began in 2016 and is projected to be completed in 2021. Sixteen partners from all across Europe and Africa are connecting social networks throughout Africa to consolidate water-related innovation and make this knowledge readily available to community organizers. Additionally, a large goal of the program is to improve upon existing water accessibility research.
  5. SafeWaterAfrica: SafeWaterAfrica is a project that has developed a solar-powered water purification device. This device removes dangerous pathogens and chemicals from water sources, making water safe to drink. There are currently one of these devices in Mozambique and one in South Africa. These devices can make roughly 10 cubic meters of water per day, but have the potential to produce much more. Since they utilize solar energy, these devices may generate close to 10,000 liters of clean water per day in African countries.

While there is still more work to be done, these five projects have already made lasting impacts on many communities throughout Africa. An important aspect of these projects is their focus on creating sustainable solutions and including community leaders. These long-term solutions are a necessity, as they allow members of these communities to focus on economic stability while improving water management in Africa.

– Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Eritrea’s Lack of Clean WaterEritrea is a northeast country in Africa, bordering the Red Sea coast. Eritrea has faced severe drought issues over the years. In addition, Eritrea’s lack of clean water affects over 80% of its citizens. This problem has negatively impacted its ongoing poverty issue.

Climate

Eritrea’s weather varies depending on the location. The variety of weather conditions is due to the differences in elevation between plains and plateaus. The average temperature by Massawa, or the coast, is around mid-80s Fahrenheit. However, on higher grounds, like plateaus, the average temperature is around low-60s Fahrenheit. The mean annual rainfall in the plateaus is around 16-20 inches. In the west plain, it is usually less than 16 inches. That is below average in many other parts of the world.

Effects of the Lack of Clean Water

Despite the fact that Eritrea has around 16 to 20 inches of rainfall annually, almost half of the country does not have access to clean water. As of 2020, 80.7% of Eritreans lack basic water services. This problem leads to consequential outcomes such as:

  1. Hygiene & the Contamination of Public Water Sources: Without the basic access to clean water, citizens of Eritrea are forced to use public water sources like rivers and streams. Citizens use public water sources to perform their everyday activities since they do not have safe accessible water at their homes. People will cook and shower with the same water. Thus, the sources become contaminated over time. The water contamination can then lead to fatal diseases.
  2. Diseases: Diarrhoeal disease is a type of bowel infection that usually spreads through contaminated water. Bacteria and viruses from water need a host in order to survive. It is unusual for the diarrhoeal disease to be deadly, but death can occur if a person loses over 10% of their body’s water. According to UNICEF, diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Eritrea. Cholera is an infectious disease that contaminated water sources also cause. The symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdomen pain. This disease can be fatal if a person does not receive treatment on time because the body will eventually become dehydrated.

Effects of Poverty

Eritrea’s lack of clean water and poverty are linked to one another. Access to clean water means being able to cook, bathe and drink. Aside from covering basic needs, it also helps businesses run safely, keep children healthy and reduces vulnerability during a natural disaster.

  1. Businesses: Farmers and local business owners rely, to some extent, on the access to clean water. Farmers need to keep their crops clean by washing them. Local businesses also need clean water to create products or sell food. Without accessible clean water nearby, owners and employees have to leave their businesses to find a drinkable water source and sanitation facilities. By doing so, they could potentially lose customers.
  2. Girl’s Education: When girls hit puberty, they begin menstruating. If girls cannot practice proper hygiene or have access to clean water at school, they often miss out on education. Some have to skip class until their menstruation ends, which is around a week. During that week, they do not learn whatever their schools teach.
  3. Vulnerability During Natural Disasters: Clean water promotes good health. If communities lack strength due to unsafe water usage, citizens may have a hard time withstanding times of disasters. Houses would possibly be destroyed and businesses may be ruined. Thus, those in poverty would be forced to leave their homes and find another by traveling long distances. Many, without access to clean water, would struggle along the way because potential diseases from contaminated water would weaken their body.

Government Involvement

Eritrea’s state government has partnered up with UNICEF to improve citizens’ drinking water and sanitation issues. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aims to increase accessible clean water and promote safe WASH practices in drought-prone areas of Eritrea. UNICEF is also working to connect many schools to community water supply systems.

With the state government’s involvement, Eritrea’s clean water crisis will eventually improve. The promotion of good hygiene practices reduces the spread of diseases. With many schools being connected to safe water supply systems, students will be healthy and girls will not have to skip school during the week of their menstruation. This brings hope for the future of Eritrea.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr