Clean Water in Rwanda
On January 10, 2020, Zeke Delgado journeyed down a narrow dirt road to a rural Rwandan village, two hours from the capital city of Kigali. Delgado had visited the village of Ngenda once before. This time, he sought to improve access to clean water in Rwanda by building a $25,000 well.

Jean Hajabakiga acts as a liaison between U.S. native Delgado and the isolated African village. Following the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Hajabakiga relocated to Canada for several years before returning to his home country to mitigate extreme poverty. In 2017, Hajabakiga visited Twain Harte, California to share his story with Revive Warehouse Ministries, where he motivated Delgado to join a handful of other men on their first mission trip to Ngenda.

Challenges to Accessing Clean Water in Rwanda

Beyond spreading the Christian gospel, the mission trip aimed to promote clean water in Rwanda. In an exclusive interview with The Borgen Project, Delgado elaborated on the logistical barriers to sanitary drinking water. He explained that “It takes two to three hours to get water from a creek near the village. The water that they do get [from the creek] is dirty, and it’s difficult to burn out the bacteria by boiling it.”

The challenges regarding water access in Ngenda exist throughout the country. According to UNICEF, 43% of the Rwandan population lacks access to clean water within 30 minutes of their home. Consequently, children give up critical time in school to gather water for their families.

Beyond logistical problems, Delgado observed how contaminated water gives way to other complications related to health. He recounted, “Because of the dirty water, the kids’ stomachs were full of amoebas and parasites.” In fact, on a global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) traces nearly half a million diarrhea-related deaths to unsanitary drinking water. It can also spread diseases such as cholera, typhoid and polio.

Removing Barriers to Sanitary Water

In 2018, Hajabakiga led his team in constructing a roof on his church that caught approximately 30,000 gallons of rainwater annually. The roof water proved beneficial to the villagers’ health and resolved the need to drink from the distant, contaminated creek. Yet, because the roof relied on rain, dry spells limited the consistency of a clean water supply.

In 2009, the Rwandan government confirmed the issue with climate-dependent water sources. The Rwanda State of Environment and Outlook Report state that “people’s livelihoods are vulnerable to climate variability,” especially in situations where water resources depend on rainfall.

Thus, Hajabakiga compelled his American missionaries to return to Rwanda in 2020 to drill a village well. The well enabled the installation of several toilets, eight showers and a steady source of drinkable water.

The Positive Impact of the Water Well

Delgado celebrates the success of the completed effort, asserting, “Water is life. That’s number one. If you don’t have water, you can’t live. With running water, they have access to showers, toilets, and clean water that improves overall hygiene.”

Though Rwanda continues to suffer from widespread poverty and limited water supplies, small-scale efforts by passionate individuals like Delgado and Hajabakiga offer sustainable solutions. In Delgado’s words, “It’s amazing that for $25,000 you can save so many lives.” He hopes to return to Ngenda every other year to continue promoting access to clean water in Rwanda.

– Maya Gonzales
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

Sanitation in East TimorEast Timor is a Southeast Asian country that is located on the eastern half of the island of Timor. Detrimental health and sanitation in the country, alongside the household effects of unsanitary water management, have notably impacted East Timor’s agricultural-based economy. Sanitation in East Timor has thus become vital to national rehabilitation projects.

East Timor has a long history of colonial and other foreign occupation; however, the nation has been independent since 2002. From the point of liberation in 2002 until 2008, the country experienced violent policing and political upheaval. This came as a result of unrest regarding national security. Instability led to the involvement of an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). These peacekeeping forces remained active in East Timor until 2008 when rebels within the country lost power. Since 2008, the country has experienced steadiness in national security, presidential guidance and rebuilding of important infrastructure like sanitation.

10 Facts About Sanitation in East Timor

  1. The stabilization of governance within East Timor has enabled rectification of sanitation infrastructure. After East Timor gained independence in 2002, economic destabilization had a lasting impact on the country’s ability to invest in renovating sanitation infrastructure. Oil revenue in the country, along with agricultural revenue, has struggled to increase over the past 15 years. In addition to governmental stabilization, aid from multiple international programs supports sanitation development in East Timor.
  2. East Timor’s governmental efforts to address water sanitation have stabilized urban access to clean drinking water. Of the 1.18 million people living in East Timor, 30% of the population lives in urban centers. The 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation in East Timor was set at 75% improved access to water sources and 55% improved sanitation. In terms of the urban population, just 9% live without access to improved water sources; 27% live without access to improved sanitation. As of 2015, sanitation in East Timor’s urban areas had reached MDG targets.
  3. Sanitation in East Timor’s rural regions is a work in progress. While urban water sanitation initiatives to reach MDG targets have successfully brought clean drinking water and waste management to urban cities, the remaining 70% of the population of the country is often without reliable access. Data shows that 40% of the rural population remains without access to clean water sources and 70% without improved sanitation. Because MDG goals were not met in rural East Timor, governmental plans for extending access to sanitary water into rural parts of the country have been implemented with the goal of completion by 2030.
  4. Reconfiguration of irrigation infrastructure is key to increased crop output from rural workers. Stabilization of irrigation consists of routing water from the river weirs to crop fields. In addition, it also includes the management of crop flooding as a result of natural disasters within the country. The importance of an updated irrigation system is central to the stabilization of the agro-based rural economy of East Timor.
  5. Rural agricultural workers have experienced personal benefits from the restoration of sanitation infrastructure. Because 70% of the population lives in rural regions of East Timor, agricultural-based livelihoods dominate the workforce. Nearly 42% of rural farmers live in poverty and rely on independent subsistence practices for food. Not only does crop output better the independent livelihood of agricultural workers, but it also provides a source of sustainable local subsistence.
  6. While education represents 10% of the overall GDP expenditure in East Timor, many schools continue to lack access to sanitary water. According to UNICEF, 60% of primary schools and middle schools have access to improved water sources, though 30% do not have access to functioning waste facilities. UNICEF is implementing a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program in order to create sustainable community habits of maintaining waste facilities. This initiative is expected to increase community sanitary habits, health and enrollment rates throughout the country.
  7. Bringing a sanitary water supply to health outposts in rural East Timor has been a focus of the country’s health administrators. Around 50% of rural health centers are without access to clean water. In response, the WASH program from UNICEF is working locally to improve sanitation in health centers. WaterAid is working with local health facilities to improve maternal health outcomes by providing resources for sanitary reproduction.
  8. The Ministry of Health in East Timor has set a goal to entirely alleviate the issue of open defecation across the country by the end of 2020. UNICEF statistics show that around 170 communities, along with a 21,000-household municipality, have been open-defecation free with the organization’s support.
  9. Diarrhea-related deaths have decreased as a result of improved water sanitation in East Timor. Data shows that diarrhea-related deaths decreased by 30.7% between 2007 and 2017. With UNICEF’s WASH program, the incidence of chronic diarrhea will decrease as poor water sanitation is resolved. UNICEF is focused on alleviating poor quality drinking water in five rural municipalities in particular.
  10. Childhood malnutrition rates related to water sanitation in East Timor decreased by 1%. World Bank data from 2013 claims that just over 50% of children in East Timor were stunted in growth as a result of malnutrition; in 2014, reports showed that 49.2% of children had signs of stunted growth. In a single year, steady improvement to water sanitation within the country decreased rates of childhood malnutrition.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Improving Access to Clean Water and Sanitation in ZimbabweAccess to adequate clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe continues to be an issue, especially for those living in rural areas. While many organizations have been working together to improve these issues, inadequate access threatens to worsen the spread of COVID-19. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe has increased funding for “resilience-building” in the country.

Clean Water and Sanitation in Zimbabwe

UNICEF reported that only about 35% of Zimbabwe’s population has access to adequate improved sanitation in Zimbabwe. This mainly impacts rural areas. In addition, CARE reported that 67% of people living in rural Zimbabwe don’t have access to safe drinking water. Inadequate access to sanitation and clean drinking water has a great impact on low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 827,000 people in those countries die every year from a lack of access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene.

In 2015, the U.N. released a report by WaterAid on the impacts of improved water, sanitation and hygiene on poverty. Additionally, the report stated that improving access to clean water and sanitation could help increase incomes for people living in poverty. It could also decrease the strain on healthcare systems and the impacts of malnutrition and disease, which would improve health outcomes for the poorest people.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH Program)

Many organizations, including UNICEF, have been working to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene through the WASH program. The program provides education and builde things like handwashing stations. In addition, the WASH program provides people with access to clean water. Since June 18, 2020, the program has helped 1,859 people in Zimbabwe access adequate sanitation. Also, it helped 3,781 people gain access to clean water. Moreover, a total of 2.1 million people in Zimbabwe has been reached by the program so far.

Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic

In a press release on June 4, 2020, Sweden’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Åsa Pehrson said that COVID-19 has increased the need for access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. This need is not specific to rural areas. Additionally, Human Rights Watch reported that people living in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, and the surrounding metropolitan area are struggling to access adequate sanitation services and clean drinking water. More than 2 million people are in need of access. People who have to wait in long lines to access wells with clean water.

“Resilience Building” in Zimbabwe

In June 2020, The Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe announced that it is putting 15 million Swedish Kroner ($1.6 million) towards helping those in need of access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. The embassy is increasing an already existing investment in “resilience-building” for Zimbabweans. In addition, the Swedish Embassy plans to put the money toward strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene activities. These activities are implemented under the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund. Furthermore, the program will focus on water sources that already exist and aims to rehabilitate them. One part of the investment focuses on clean water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Another part will be dedicated to agriculture and livestock water sources in order to protect the food supply.

Zimbabweans continue to struggle to gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation, especially those living in rural areas. The WASH program has helped improve these conditions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to endanger those who still lack safe drinking water and sanitation. People living in big cities without access may be at risk while waiting in lines for wells with clean water. To help alleviate these problems, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe is increasing an existing investment in the country. They are putting money toward both improving access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, as well as protecting water sources for livestock and agriculture.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Access to Clean Water For Panama's Indigenous CommunitiesAccess to clean water and sanitation resources is a major issue in Panama. While this is an obstacle for all citizens, Panama’s indigenous communities are disproportionately affected. There are six major indigenous communities in Panama: Naso, Bri Bri, Ngobe-Bugle, Bokata, Guna and Embera-Wounaan. These indigenous groups make up around 200,000 of Panama’s population. Many indigenous communities are poverty-stricken. Only 9% of indigenous communities in Panama are not living in poverty and have access to clean water resources.

Lack of Clean Water for Indigenous Communities in Panama

The lack of necessary resources leads to health problems for indigenous communities in Panama. There are several diseases associated with a lack of clean water, such as diarrhea and dysentery. Indigenous communities often have no choice but to use unclean water sources. Location, especially in remote areas, can be a major obstacle to accessing clean water in Panama.

United Nations Joint Programme

Several programs are working to help indigenous communities access clean water in Panama. The United Nations is working toward a solution through its “Joint Programme on Water and Sanitation for Dispersed Rural and Indigenous Communities in Nicaragua, Panama, and Paraguay.” The U.N.’s program worked to educate local populations about managing their water process. Its goal was to ensure more widespread access to clean water and proper sanitation. By tackling the problem in this way, the U.N. was seeking a long term and sustainable solution. The U.N.’s project developed under the Millenium Development Goals Fund. It assists in sustaining economic advances for indigenous communities.

Sanitation Information System

After the program, the U.N. gained assistance from The Rural Water and Sanitation Information System (SIASAR). The companies’ goal was to provide Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay with accurate information about the success and quality of the newly acquired water resources. The data from SIASAR focuses on four categories: system, community, service provider and technical assistance. SIASAR data showed that over 60,000 households now have access to clean water, while 19,000 remain without access.

Solea Water

Solea Water has also been helping increase access to clean water in Panama. One of Solea Water‘s main goals is to ensure that indigenous communities are empowered to control and sustain their development of water sources. The organization assists indigenous people with their work and programs. Solea water also asks indigenous people to help with the programs the organization itself has started. The organization’s goal is to ensure a sense of understanding and growth by working together.

Solea Water recently completed a project, with the assistance of the residents in La Reserva, called “La Reserva Panama Project Report”. The report displays the lack of water sources for residents in La Reserva over a long period of time. Solea Water’s project helped the La Reserva community access clean water again.

According to a 2019 annual report released by Solea Water, it raised over $52,000 worth of funds for completed and future projects. This has allowed Solea Water to help close to 2,700 people around Panama. Solea Water has completed almost 50 projects and has helped a total of 25,000 people since 2015.

Indigenous communities in Panama continue to struggle with accessing clean water. Alongside this issue is a lack of resources in general and a high level of poverty among indigenous communities. Location has continued to affect their access to resources. Multiple organizations are dedicated to helping indigenous communities access clean water in Panama. The United Nations is working to improve access through a water and sanitation program in Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay. Solea Water has also worked to help indigenous communities empower themselves and sustain growth from their joint projects.
Jamal Patterson
Photo: Flickr

The Republic of South Sudan is located in East-Central Africa. South Sudan’s current population is 13 million, and more than 50% of the population lacks proper access to clean water resources. Constant conflict and a civil war, which began in 2013, led to the current water crisis in South Sudan. During the war, the nation’s water systems were deserted and demolished. The 2011 East African drought and the country’s low rainfall further exacerbated the water crisis in South Sudan. As only 2% of the country’s water is used domestically, the South Sudanese peoples’ access to clean water is scarce. Furthermore, South Sudan’s water resources are trans-boundary waters shared with other African countries. The Nile River Basin is South Sudan’s primary water source, but it is shared with ten other countries. This shared ownership intensifies the water crisis in South Sudan.

Without access to clean water, South Sudanese families often drink dirty water to survive. This increases their risk of receiving waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea or parasites. Since 1990, diarrhea has been a leading cause of death for children in impoverished countries, accounting for one in nine child deaths worldwide. The disease kills more than 2,000 children every day, a toll greater than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Currently, in South Sudan, 77% of children under the age of five die from diarrhea. In addition, the country is home to 24% of the world’s lingering Guinea worm cases, a parasitic infection. Numerous water-focused charities are combating the current water crisis in South Sudan by facilitating clean water improvements.

Water is Basic

Water is Basic was founded in 2006 by Sudanese religious leaders who wanted to solve the water crisis in Sudan. The organization is a borehole drilling operation that manufactured its first water well in the Republic of the Sudan in 2008. Since then, Water is Basic has assembled more than 500 wells and improved over 300 more. In 2012, Water is Basic became a U.S. 501(c)(3) organization, earning nonprofit status under the federal law of the United States. This status allows the agency to be exempt from some federal income taxes; consequently, it was able to focus its profits specifically on water projects. To date, Water is Basic’s solutions have provided clean water to 1.5 million people in South Sudan, nearly 10% of the country’s total population.

Additionally, Water is Basic shares its expertise in developing clean water solutions with organizations in other African countries. In 2017, Water is Basic provided 30,000 people with clean water in Kibumba, Democratic Republic of Congo. Overall, Water is Basic has employed more than 100 local South Sudanese citizens who strive to bring to life the organization’s mission: that every person in South Sudan will finally have access to clean water.

Water for South Sudan

Salva Dut established Water for South Sudan in Rochester, New York, in 2003. Dut was born in southwestern Sudan to the Dinka tribe. The Sudanese civil war separated Salva from his family when he was only 11 years old. Seeking refuge by foot, Dut joined the thousands of boys known as the “Lost Boys” on their journey to Ethiopia. After living in refugee camps for more than 10 years, Dut moved to the United States and decided to aid South Sudan by giving clean water to those in need.

The organization’s mission is to end the water crisis in South Sudan by providing access to clean water and improving sanitation practices in impoverished South Sudanese communities. As of April 1, 2020, Water for South Sudan has drilled 452 new drills since 2003. The U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit has also restored 162 wells and taught 422 hygiene lessons. The hygiene lessons include information on washing hands properly, covering water containers to keep the water clean, food safety practices and how to dispose of waste. Water for South Sudan has uplifted entire South Sudanese villages. The nonprofit has transformed their lives and health by installing wells, thus helping the people gain access to clean water.

Wells for Sudan

In 2013, The Water Project, a charity concentrated at ending the water crisis across sub-Saharan Africa, partnered with Neverthirst, a sponsor group for water charities in 2013. Together, the organizations drilled wells as part of their combined project Wells for Sudan. The collaboration has installed more than 400 wells in remote villages across South Sudan.

As Wells for Sudan establish water wells to help end the water crisis in South Sudan, the collaborating organizations include holistic approaches to its water projects. Its water projects consist of on-site evaluation, pump repair training and the formation of water committees to manage the wells’ maintenance. Neverthirst has also pledged regular inspections of the wells to ensure proper usage.

With the help of these highlighted organizations, the water crisis in South Sudan is declining. Now, more than 729,100 South Sudanese citizens have improved drinking water resources. Nevertheless, Water is Basic, Water for South Sudan and Wells for Sudan all vow to continue their efforts until every citizen in South Sudan has access to clean water resources and improved sanitation.

– Kacie Frederick
Photo: Flickr

clean water in Mexico
Water is fundamental to human survival, yet half of the population of Mexico lacks drinkable water. These seven facts highlight how limited access to clean water in Mexico can intensify poverty.

7 Facts about Access to Clean Water in Mexico

  1. Water Scarcity: Over 50% of people in Mexico face water scarcity. Mexico has an insufficient water supply that cannot sustain a population of 125.5 million people. As a result, an enormous 65 million people are struggling with water scarcity. This issue intensifies during Mexico’s driest month of April as people face droughts preventing accessible water.
  2. Natural Disasters: Natural disasters negatively affect access to clean water. Climate change brings hotter temperatures and droughts that can possibly dry up Mexico’s vital water sources. Earthquakes can destroy water purification plants and break pipelines, leading to floods of toxic waste. These sudden events can lead to an unpredictable water crisis for large numbers of Mexican citizens.
  3. Water Systems: An aging pipe system can also cause an inadequate water supply. Around 35% of water is lost through poor distribution, while faulty pipelines lead to pollution. Plans of the neighboring purification plant should be reconsidered as the city of Tijuana is overwhelmed with toxic sewage water from failing pumps.
  4. Mexico City is Sinking: The populous capital is sinking up to 12 inches annually due to the lack of groundwater. Consequently, floating houses pollute waterways and lead to further destruction of infrastructure. The city plans to modernize hydraulics or implement artificial aquifers to combat water scarcity.
  5. Rural Mexico: Rural regions are often overlooked in favor of cities. Water systems that run through rural towns are riddled with pollutants, making the water undrinkable. The town of Endhó dangerously uses Mexico City’s polluted water for farming because it does not have access to clean water. Some households have no running water, so they drink from polluted lakes to avoid the expense of bottled water. To prevent these dire conditions, government agencies are working to expand waterworks throughout rural areas.
  6. Water Laws: Water laws in Mexico are not enforced. The Mexican government is responsible for regulating access to clean water, but the laws are often disregarded. Citizens demand water for agriculture, which results in over-pumping of groundwater. Environmental problems such as 60% of groundwater in use being tainted are preventable by upholding Mexico’s Environmental Standard.
  7. Children’s Health: Children are vulnerable to arsenic and fluoride that contaminate the drinking water. Mexico’s regulations allow µg/L of arsenic in the drinking water which considerably surpasses the World Health Organization’s (WHO) suggestion of a maximum of 10 µg/L. This poses a dire situation in which 6.5 million children drink this hazardous water putting them at risk of severe health consequences including cancer.

These seven facts concerning water quality in Mexico focus on the importance of having clean drinking water. Access to clean water is necessary in order to maintain good health. The nation is working to fix its outdated infrastructure to bring improvements necessary to solving the water crisis in both urban and rural regions.

Hannah Nelson
Photo: Pixabay

Clean Water in Palestine
Palestine is a sovereign state in the Middle East that contains both the Gaza Strip and West Bank. It is undergoing conflict with Israel, with Israel in control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Today, many Palestinians live with limited access to clean water, which disturbs their ability to live peacefully. Here are 10 facts about access to clean water in Palestine.

10 Facts About Access to Clean Water in Palestine

  1. Limited Clean Water Access: In the Gaza Strip, only one in 10 people have direct access to clean and safe water and 97% of freshwater from Gaza’s only aquifer is unfit for human consumption. Overpopulation, over-pumping and the seeping of seawater into freshwater have significantly reduced the amount of clean water available in Palestine.
  2. Clean Water is Expensive: Due to the severe shortage of clean in Palestine, private vendors charge high prices for their water. Freshwater costs 30 shekels ($7) per cubic meter. As of 2017, 95% of Gaza’s population depends on these private vendors for desalinated and clean water.
  3. Violence Damages Water Networks: In 2014, the Gaza War caused $30 million worth of damage to water storage tanks and pumping and piping systems. Tensions with Israel have exacerbated this problem, as Israel maintains a blockade around the Gaza Strip, which prevents Palestinians in Gaza from seeking clean water sources outside of the Gaza’s contaminated aquifer.
  4. There is a Sanitation Crisis: After the Gaza Power Plant ran out of fuel and shut down, energy shortages adversely affected more than 450 water and wastewater facilities. As a result, 108,000 m3 (about 43 standard Olympic pools) worth of sewage flows every day into the Mediterranean Sea. About 70% of Gaza beaches have experienced contamination; in the winter, sewage floods the streets. UNICEF is tackling this by supporting WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) services that improve access to clean water for 40,000 people. Other services and interventions UNICEF supports include rehabilitation of infrastructure, repairs of public sanitation facilities and maintenance works and rehabilitation of water wells and stormwater pumping stations.
  5. Risk of Disease is High: With access to clean water deteriorating, Palestinians cannot shower and wash their food and hands frequently, which intensifies the risk of disease. In 2017, diarrhea in children as young as 3-years-old doubled in 3 months, from nearly 1,483 cases in March to 3,713 in June. UNICEF has been combating this since January and February 2020 by supporting the monthly distribution of sodium hypochlorite to public water facilities in Gaza. This helps avert waterborne disease outbreaks as well as improve access to safe and clean water in Palestine.
  6. Poverty Hinders the Ability to Pay: Between 80% and 85% of people in Gaza live in abject poverty and cannot afford to pay their water bills. The 11-year blockade has worsened unemployment in Gaza, which is at 60% for young adults. Meanwhile, the municipality cannot afford to fuel water pumps. Jamal Al-Khudari, a Palestinian legislator, said in February 2020 that long-distance or remote employment opportunities might help unemployed Palestinians, though the best way to reduce unemployment is to end the Israeli siege.
  7. Water Usage Per Day is Meager: Palestinians in the West Bank only use about 72 liters of water per day. In contrast, the average American uses about 302-378 liters of water per day, and the average water usage per person in the U.K. in 2018 was 149 liters.
  8. Gaza Could Become Uninhabitable: The United Nations reported that Gaza may become uninhabitable by 2020, with the principal reason being the water crisis. The damage to the Gaza aquifer may become irreparable by that time. UNICEF planned to prevent this by funding the Gaza Strip’s largest desalination plant in 2017, which projections determine will produce 20,000 cubic meters of desalinated water in 2020. This will serve about 275,000 people in Rafah and Khan Younis with 90 liters of water per capita per day. UNICEF also funded the largest solar field in Gaza, which will help power the seawater desalination plant and allow more citizens to obtain safe and clean drinking water in Palestine.
  9. Other Organizations Working to Help Palestine: The Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine collaborates with many organizations around the world to raise awareness about the water crisis in Palestine. One such organization is House of Water and Environment, a Palestinian nonprofit NGO that works with Newcastle University to conduct water and environmental research and development projects that improve water supply as well as sanitation services in Palestine. HWE also develops simulation models to solve regional and national water and environmental problems.
  10. Another NGO is Working to Provide Clean Water to Schools: The Middle East Children’s Alliance started The Maia Project to provide clean water to children in Gaza by installing and maintaining water purification and desalination units to children in Gaza schools and community kindergartens. MECA has constructed 42 water purification units, with 10 more currently being constructed. Each unit provides clean water for more than 2,000 students and staff. MECA plans to continue The Maia Project until it has installed units in all 221 U.N. schools in Gaza refugee camps as well as in hundreds of kindergarten and preschools in Gaza. The Maia Project accepts donations for maintenance, cleaning and purchases of water purification units and drinking fountains on its website. As of June 2020, it raised about $78,000 of its $80,000 goal.

One can infer from these facts that the Palestinian water crisis is severe. Organizations such as UNICEF, MECA and HWE are working to provide greater desalination processes and improve water and sanitation infrastructure in Palestine. Even an ordinary citizen can help by donating money to a project such as The Maia Project to help Palestinians obtain access to clean and safe drinking water.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr

Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 
Mauritania is the geographic and cultural bridge between North African Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Islamic nation has a population of around 4 million people. Located in northwest Africa, the coastal country includes 90% desert land. Mauritania is infamous for being the last country to abolish slavery — in 1981 — and slaves still make up 4% to 10% of the population. Meanwhile, Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mauritania

  1. According to WHO, the lack of water sanitation causes nearly 90% of the 2,150 deaths from diarrheal diseases in Mauritania each year. Stagnant water breeds malaria mosquitos, parasites and other contaminants. With over 16.6% of the population below the extreme poverty line, many Mauritanians cannot afford to acquire clean water or proper healthcare.
  2. According to the Africa Development Bank Group, 68% of Mauritanians have access to potable water. In 2008, only 49% of the population had access to potable water. In isolated desert villages, citizens must trek miles to reach the closest water source. Meanwhile, in the capital city of Nouakchott, people in poverty often purchase water from vendors who hauled the barrels from a water supply several kilometers away.
  3. WaterAid determined that in 2017, 1,048,500 Mauritanian children under the age of 17 lacked a proper household toilet. Because people cannot afford toilets and lack access to running water, Mauritanians rely on latrines. In 2010, the government of Mauritania halted funding towards latrines, further stalling progress toward sanitation. However, UNICEF’s Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative has improved 67% of latrines since 2009.
  4. As of June 12th, 2020, Mauritania logged 1,439 cases of the novel COVID-19. Although many facilities lack proper sanitation to handle the virus, the Mauritanian government enforced curfews, travel bans and shop closures. In hopes of preventing potential economic damage, the government also distributed food and exempted 174,707 households from paying electricity bills. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF responded to the situation by treating coronavirus patients and implementing sanitation facilities to contain the virus.
  5. In 2018, the Chinese company CTE subsidized $40.3 million toward a rainwater collection system for a new sanitary sewerage network in Nouakchott. Prior to the project, Nouakchott’s sewerage network served only 5% of the city’s households. Building better sewerage networks will allow Mauritania to bring running water to rural areas. Since the country is below sea level, sewerage networks can also help limit floods and stagnant water.
  6. The African Development Bank funded the National Integrated Rural Water Sector Project (PNISER) to install drinking water supply networks and solar pumping stations in rural Mauritania. The Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation is implementing the new networks in rural communities that lack water systems. Around 400,000 square meters of irrigated land will receive water availability, generating additional income for women and youth.
  7. World Vision initiated the WASH Mauritania program in 2016. It has provided three local villages with access to water, hygiene and sanitation resources. With funding from the U.S. and Germany, World Vision Mauritania “[rehabilitated] boreholes, water towers, water retention points, fountains and water network extension.” In the village of Maghtaa Sfeira, WASH benefited over 900 people and sponsored more than 200 children. As a result of this program, many women and children no longer have to seek unsanitary water holes or trek miles for water supplies.
  8. According to WaterAid, 60% of Mauritania’s schools lacked sanitation in 2016. When schools offer sanitation, not only can children practice good hygiene, but their school attendance increases.
  9. Because Mauritania is vulnerable to desertification, WHO partnered with the Mauritanian government in 2013 to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and villages have proper water, sanitation and hygiene. WHO provided water basins, installed toilets and insured higher quality of food for schools. In addition, WHO equipped the country with six biomedical waste incinerators to dispose of hazardous substances. In one instance, transforming a Land Rover into a mobile water laboratory has enabled WHO to monitor the water quality of different villages.
  10. In 2020, the World Bank secured funding for the Water and Sanitation Sectoral project and the Mauritania Health System Support project. The Water and Sanitation Sectoral Project received an International Development Association (IDA) grant of $44 million to improve latrines, add hand-washing facilities and rehabilitate water systems. In the Hodh el Chargui region in eastern Mauritania, an additional $23 million IDA grant will increase the quality of reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health and nutrition services. Together, these projects will benefit more than 473,000 people.

Improving sanitation in Mauritania can potentially have wide-reaching benefits — from raising incomes and boosting the national economy, to improving education and lowering mortality rates. It is imperative that the government and other organizations focus on providing sanitation resources to the people of Mauritania.

– Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in SlovakiaThe country of Slovakia is located in central Europe and borders The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and Austria. Slovakia has a deep-rooted history in Europe. Slovakia was originally a part of Czechia and had the name of Czechoslovakia. While allying with Nazi Germany, the Slovakian government became independent. After the war, however, Czechia and Slovakia became one country once again until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. In 1993, the two countries peacefully agreed to separate and become two independent countries.

The current population of Slovakia is 5.4 million and 80.7% is Slovik. Slovakia does not have a high percentage of migrants, with only 0.2 migrants per 1,000 persons. Also, less than one-eighth of the population lives in poverty. Although poverty is not as severe in Slovakia as in other countries, poverty affects certain demographics more heavily. Here are four facts about poverty in Slovakia.

4 Facts About Poverty in Slovakia

  1. The Poverty Rate: In 2016, 3.30% of people in the Slovak Republic were living on less than $5.50 a day, a decline from their highest poverty rate in 2004, when 5.30% of people lived on less than $5.50 a day. The rate fluctuates between a 0.1% and 0.8% increase or decrease each year.
  2. Minorities: The majority of the Slovak ethnic group residing in Slovakia experience the luxuries of living in the country. These luxuries include access to clean water, comfortable living conditions, access to health care and sanitized environments. Although many Slovaks have these luxuries, minority groups such as the Romani people experience higher poverty rates on average. Poverty in Slovakia directly affects the Romani people, the third-largest minority group. The majority of these communities do not have access to running water, electricity or a proper system for waste disposal. The children within this group are more likely to drop out of secondary school, experience trafficking (prostitution or forced labor) and not receive necessary health care.
  3. Access to Clean Water: As of 2017, 99.79% of people have access to clean water. Compared to the rest of the world, Slovakia ranks 17th for clean water access. The fewest amount of people had access to clean water in the year 2000, with 7.82% of the population not having access to clean water. The rate continues to steadily rise every year.
  4. Housing: Habitat for Humanity partnered with the Environmental Training Project and started a program to build housing for poor communities in 2004. So far, this project has served more than 1,000 families in Eastern Slovakia. To begin construction, the program assisted families in taking out microloans and it provided construction training to families to develop skills. In addition to construction skills, families learned how to manage their finances and take out microloans in the future.

These four facts about poverty in Slovakia show that it has a low poverty rate in comparison to other countries. Access to clean water and other human necessities are available for some; however, poverty in Slovakia disproportionately affects minority groups. These groups do not have the same access to essential human needs and it affects their everyday lives. There is hope, however, because organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and The Environmental Training Project, are working to provide necessary resources for developing communities.

– Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr