BARKA FoundationBurkina Faso is a small, land-locked country located in western Africa. Due to recurring droughts and the lack of efficient infrastructure, access to clean water remains an issue in Burkina Faso, especially during the dry winter months when two of the country’s three rivers dry up. In addition to water scarcity, many areas still do not have the sanitation facilities necessary to ensure drinking water is clean and safe. An organization called the BARKA Foundation is working to change that.

Barka is an African word meaning gratitude, blessing and reciprocity. These three words embody the mission of the BARKA Foundation, an American non-profit that strives to bring clean water to all parts of Burkina Faso. In 2015, 93.3 percent of the rural population and 80.3 percent of the total population did not have improved sanitation facility access. Nearly half the country still lives without clean water. Dirty water can spread diarrheal diseases and other infections to the public. Below are descriptions of the BARKA Foundation’s current clean water projects, and the positive effects these projects have had on communities in Burkina Faso.

WASH

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) is a long-term initiative that not only supplies rural villages with clean water but also educates the villagers on important sanitation and water purification practices. The goal here is sustainability. By giving village members lifelong sanitation skills, BARKA can be confident that their positive impact will continue after they have left. WASH objectives include digging wells, building latrines and educating members of the community.

Part of what makes the BARKA Foundation special is its culturally sensitive and community-based approach to clean water. Before any project starts, BARKA makes sure it is in accordance with the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). This principle ensures that all beneficiary communities agree to the non-profit’s presence and initiatives, have the right to negotiate the terms of the agreement and can withdraw consent at any time.

BARKA also makes a point of developing sustained personal relationships with each village, so the two groups can develop trust and collaborate effectively. The foundation establishes water and sanitation committees in each town, which are run by the villagers and must be made up of equal parts men and women. These principles are central to WASH’s desire to create a sustainable system of clean water and sanitation. So far, more than 25,000 rural villages have been improved by WASH. The organization has drilled 6 wells and built 14 bathrooms in 5 primary schools in rural areas.

Social Art

BARKA recognizes the cultural importance of song, dance and performance in Burkina Faso. Therefore, to engage village members, the BARKA Foundation uses theater to relay information to the public. These performances involve a portable stage along with light and sound equipment. The plays often contain themes such as female empowerment and sustainable agriculture. After a performance, the audience and the actors on stage have a lively debate where questions may be asked or points challenged. The goal is to create an immersive and interactive learning experience in which everyone can participate.

The adult literacy rate in Burkina Faso is only 34.6 percent. For this reason, engaging and participatory education is extremely important in rural areas. BARKA wants to get the necessary information out there in an effective way that does not exclude illiterate members of society. BARKA has involved 10,023 people in villages and public performances to date, benefiting more than 16,000 people. The average audience size per performance is 432 people.

Walk for Water

A great way for people in their home countries to get involved with the BARKA Foundation is to do a Walk for Water. When there are no wells close by, villagers must travel to a water source to fill up heavy jugs of water and lug them home. The chore typically falls on the shoulders of women and girls in the village, so they usually have to attend to small children while making the journey. Often, those going to get water are barefoot or equipped with poor footwear. This practice is physically tiring and time-consuming and takes time away from girls’ education.

Walks for Water are an imitation of this daily burden. Classrooms, schools and clubs raise money and awareness by carrying water jugs and walking for a set distance (usually 6 kilometers). The fundraiser engages the entire community and is a great way to get everyone involved in an important cause.

Ceramic Filters

Ceramic water filters are a cheap, environmentally sustainable and generally effective way to purify household water. The CDC found that people who used ceramic filters were 60 to 70 percent less likely to contract diarrheal diseases from their drinking water. While these filters are useful for removing most protozoa and bacterial pathogens, they are typically not as effective at removing viruses. For this reason, filters should not be considered a long-term solution but rather an important step.

The BARKA Foundation uses a “cross-subsidization” model to distribute filters to impoverished areas. Essentially, BARKA sells the filters to NGOs and the Burkinabe middle class that can afford them. They then use those profits to distribute ceramic filters to poor areas, often visiting rural villages with little to no sanitation facility access. These filters represent a simple and effective way to ensure every household has at least some method of water purification.

Outlook

Although the federal government recognized the importance of clean water distribution with the Water Act in 2001, Burkina Faso’s local governments largely do not have the money or resources to maintain filtered water and sanitation practices. The BARKA Foundation seeks to fill these gaps, and its efforts have no doubt resulted in success on the ground.

While it can be difficult to quantify exactly how much improvement BARKA has brought about, they are headed in the right direction. In 2005, a year before BARKA was founded, the life expectancy in Burkina Faso was 53.3 years. Today, the country’s life expectancy is about 61 years. BARKA’s various projects will continue to fight poverty by bringing clean, safe and sustainable water to Burkina Faso.

Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in IndiaIndia is home to approximately 16 percent of the world’s population. However, India only holds about 4 percent of the world’s freshwater, leaving 76 million Indians without access to safe drinking water. The water crisis in India worsens each year as precipitation becomes more unreliable and groundwater sources run dry. More than 500 people in Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city, were arrested during protests in front of the municipal government on June 19. Protesters blame the government for the water crisis as a result of “negligence and mismanagement.”

Background

Usually, June is the start of monsoon season in Chennai. Precipitation levels are only half of what they should be. June 20 was the first major rainfall of the year, 29 millimeters. This was more than the total documented rainfall since December. Furthermore, Chennai’s basic infrastructure system is unable to efficiently store water during rainstorms to save for periods of drought. The rivers fill quickly and often flood. Meanwhile, 91 percent of the water flows into the ocean where it is no longer drinkable. Chennai is the first major city to experience a water crisis in India this severe.

The four largest reservoirs around Chennai have run dry. They are not expected to fill until November. The government is currently shipping water directly into Chennai, where thousands of residents wait in line for their share. Once residents receive their water, they must carry over a dozen pots back home for their families. People have resorted to violence, fighting over water or hijacking water trucks, to survive.

How Did This Happen?

There are two sources of water in the world: surface water and groundwater. Around 700 million Indians rely on groundwater as their main source of drinking water. But groundwater is only supposed to be a buffer resource in case of drought. Additionally, monsoon season’s unpredictability over the last few years has prevented groundwater from replenishing. For instance, between 2002 and 2012, groundwater depletion rates in Chennai were 8 percent faster than recharge.

Protesters blame the government for the water crisis in India because of the lack of regulation to protect groundwater has left reservoirs dry. India uses more groundwater than any other country, using about 25 percent of all groundwater extracted in the world. Unlike surface water, the Indian government does not regulate groundwater. The Easement Act of 1882 gives landowners the right to collect water under their land despite it being a shared resource. In other words, the lack of regulation gave way to the tragedy of the commons. Individuals acted independently to advance their own interests without worrying about the consequences of over-exploitation and depletion for the community.

Future Effects

Chennai’s geological systems are susceptible to quick depletion because of its shallow crystalline aquifers with little storage room for water. Additionally, crystalline rock has low permeability, which drastically decreased recharge rates during rainfall. These conditions caused almost immediate depletion. However, water insecurity will continue to worsen across other parts of India with different geological structures as more groundwater is over-exploited.

If they continue to exploit groundwater at this rate, 40 percent of the population will not have access to drinking water by 2030. Furthermore, 21 cities will run out of groundwater by 2020. Lastly, by the year 2050, 6 percent of GDP will be lost.

Potential Solutions

Replenishing groundwater is essential to ending the water crisis in India. However, as monsoon season brings unreliable rainfall, communities must search for other ways to refill aquifers. One idea is to desalinate seawater. About 25 percent of India’s population, including residents of Chennai, live along the water. Currently, desalinated water makes up 40 percent of Chennai’s supply. However, this is not enough to end the water crisis. Desalination requires too high of costs and energy consumption for a fuel-poor country. The Desalination Journal conducted a study in 2014. The study found that solar energy can desalinate water. However, desalination cannot produce water at a sustainable monetary cost.

The government must find other solutions to the severe water crisis in India. Leaving the rights of groundwater to landowners will continue to lead to further depletion. It will take a large government commitment to reverse the effects of the water crisis in India and provide its residents with sufficient access to clean water.

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

drought in AfricaThe Horn of Africa, a region where nearly 80 percent of the population relies on farming for survival, has been hit with a prolonged and harmful drought. Periods of dry weather are not uncommon in the area. However, such a significant timespan without any rainfall spells disaster for those who require healthy crops to make a living. The Horn of Africa drought is even more dangerous considering climate change and the United States’ reduced foreign aid budget.

The Drought

The Horn of Africa is well acquainted with droughts. The region has faced several in recent years. However, the current dry spell is severely affecting the ability of families to obtain food, making it one of the harshest droughts the region has seen.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that the ongoing Horn of Africa drought has triggered widespread food insecurity, especially among families raising livestock. Expecting the drought to cause increased hunger, the FAO issued a pre-famine alert for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The governments of Kenya and Somalia have already declared a national disaster.

The FAO also reports that families are malnourished due to scarce food and a lack of proper nutrients. Since the onset of the drought in 2017, the number of people grappling with food insecurity has increased dramatically. For example, 2.7 million people in Kenya, 2.9 million people in Somalia and 5.6 million people in Ethiopia are suffering from food insecurit.

Climate Change: Another Hurdle

Climate change is a major factor influencing the impact of the African Horn drought. According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2018, the number of disasters related to climate change have doubled since 1990. These events include flooding, droughts and fires caused by extreme dry heat.

The people who live in the region have remarked on the disastrous consequences of climate change. Birhan, an Ethiopian mother of four, commented, “We have not seen an improvement in the climate situation… The drought is becoming recurrent. But if there is rain, it is excessive and destroys the crops.” Birhan and 1.5 million other people are able to receive emergency rations during the drought thanks to the USAID food program. However, the aid is not enough to quell the rising need for food, livestock and water.

Cutting Back Foreign Aid

In March, the White House proposed the 2020 fiscal budget. This budget aims to cut U.S. foreign food and financial assistance by 24 percent. This funding reduction will exacerbate the adverse impacts of the Horn of Africa drought. Without assistance from developed nations such as the U.S., access to food and clean water will become more difficult for those inhabiting the affected regions.

Matt Davis is the East Africa regional director for Catholic Relief Services, an organization overseeing a U.S.-funded food program in the area. Davis commented on the federal budget’s impact on struggling populations: “We’re very concerned by the deteriorating conditions in the region where we are seeing families–whose lives rely on the land–unable to cope,” he said. “We are concerned the administration’s budget could abandon millions of families around the world just when they need help the most.”

Relief Efforts

Climate hazards and reduced U.S. assistance have worsened the impact of the Horn of Africa drought. Several organizations are working to help families with food and financial aid to combat these issues. In 2017, the European Union decided to further aid the people of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia during the recurring drought by offering nearly €260 million in financial assistance.

The Horn of Africa drought is cyclical in nature. The countries most affected by the drought are seeking localized solutions to surviving climate-related issues. Kenya appears to be moving forward in this area, with the government investing in community water sources independent of rain-fueled agriculture.

Ethiopia has also made strides in building a defense against the drought by implementing The Productive Safety Net Programme. This program helps food-insecure communities build stockpiles of food to prepare for drought and ultimately become food self-sufficient.

Coordination between the affected countries and more developed nations is necessary to build resistance to drought and other disastrous climate-related issues. Global financial and food assistance programs, a U.S. budget that does not drastically reduce foreign aid and localized efforts to build resistance against drought are effective approaches. These strategies will help the Horn of Africa move closer to a truly thriving expanse of subsistence farming.

– Holli Flanagan
Photo: Flickr

India water crisisIndia’s dry season has been notably harsh in 2019, and the country is suffering its lowest rainfall before a monsoon season in six decades. Just under half the population is facing a drought and dozens have died from the combination of a heat wave and a lack of water. The India water crisis is also causing evacuations as the drought is forcing families to leave their homes in search of water.

Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, is facing extreme water scarcity. The reservoir water supply shrank between 2018 and 2019 and is almost entirely drained of water.

Effect of the Drought

Experts blame the severe drought on mismanaged resources along with industrial and human waste, bad policy decisions and climate change. Thirty-two states have organized a State Action Plan on Climate Change in order to achieve national as well as regional priorities. But many farmers claim the government plan has not been carried out. “There is a lack of interest among politicians and the bureaucracy, which is keen to look for temporary solutions to drought and climate change impacts,” stated agricultural and climate change researcher Atul Deulgaonkar.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the drought has not only affected the monsoon and winter crops but also destroyed supplementary crops. Because agriculture is the most important sector of its economy, India is heavily reliant on monsoon rains. The drought is particularly dangerous for marginalized farmers in rural areas. Approximately 80 percent of districts in Karnataka and 72 percent in Maharashtra are faced with crop failure, which has put the livelihood of eight million farmers in jeopardy.

Solutions to the Crisis

However, there are solutions to the crisis such as reducing the need for the enormous amounts of water used for crops. Because agriculture accounts for nearly 90 percent of India’s water consumption, reducing the dependence on water-intensive crops and agricultural methods would substantially increase water for drinking and make farmers less vulnerable to water shortages. Environmental scientist Kyle Davis stated, “Diversifying the crops that a country grows can be an effective way to adapt its food-production systems to the growing influence of climate change.” In addition, the use of alternative grains can improve nutrition and reduce greenhouse emissions from agriculture.

Other steps are currently underway for alleviating the water crisis. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed an $87 billion plan to reduce flooding and improve irrigation by linking 60 rivers across India. So far only 16 rivers have been linked and the effect of this plan is yet to be determined. Some Indian states such as Maharashtra have followed the example of Israel and implemented a drip irrigation method, which involves dripping water onto individual plants through tubes or pipes rather than flooding whole fields.

Whatever the means, the India water crisis must come to an end. One-hundred million children in India lack water and one out of every two are underfed. Water security must be guaranteed in India amidst rising temperatures and falling water tables so families can raise their children with dignity and health in the upcoming century. A slew of solutions indicate hope for the future, though.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pixabay

Causes of Desertification
As the world continues to heat up from causes both natural and manmade, nations across the globe are seeing once fertile land becoming barren and unproductive. Some consider this process, known as desertification, irreversible. Officially, the United Nations defines desertification as “the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas.” The shrinking of arable land threatens food and water security for those in poor and rural areas. Poverty and desertification go hand in hand in a vicious cycle. It is important to understand where this phenomenon tends to occur and what the causes of desertification are.

Where Does Desertification Occur?

Desertification is most common in Africa. More specifically, areas of sub-Saharan Africa see the largest amount of devastation from this environmental issue. By 2030, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculates that upwards of two-thirds of Africa’s fertile, productive soil will be lost if desertification continues.

In Ethiopia, FAO calculates that desertification causes the loss of 92,000 hectares of woodlands every year, along with 2 billion tons of fertile, productive soil. As a result, Ethiopian citizens cannot rely on food security. Senegal, a country all the way across the continent from Ethiopia, also struggles with the harsh effects of desertification. Here, desertification causes low productivity in agriculture and has forced Senegal’s citizens to migrate.

Africa is not the only victim, however. Mexico’s citizens are suffering, too. Many entering the U.S. from Mexico are fleeing poverty caused by land degradation, according to the Natural Heritage Institute. The state of Oaxaca, where fruit trees native to Mexico once flourished, possesses dry patches of land no longer useful for agriculture. Every year, nearly one million Mexican citizens have little choice but to migrate away from the barren land that threatens job opportunities and food security.

The Causes of Desertification

Desertification is caused by a number of different issues. Human hands or natural occurrences can exacerbate or spark desertification. In areas of low precipitation, like Sub-Saharan Africa, long droughts that turn arid land to unproductive, barren soil are a frequent cause of desertification. Drought alters just about everything including farming opportunity, food and water security, population growth and migration. Drought exacerbates poverty, which is already an issue in many Sub-Saharan countries like Ethiopia and Senegal. Many people in these areas are unable to confront what causes desertification without proper preparation.

Human activities are also what cause desertification in many cases. Overcultivation or overcropping occurs in population-dense areas around the globe. Soil nutrients deplete and become unproductive in areas where growers overuse and overharvest formerly arable land. In Nigeria, over cultivation is a major issue threatening the livelihood of its citizens who depend on the nearly infertile land for agriculture.

Overgrazing of livestock is another root issue of desertification. Farmers would formerly graze livestock by moving the animals around, but this is no longer the case. Cattle grazing in a permanent space prevents the regeneration of the plants the animals are feeding on. Overgrazing makes the soil unusable since the land is unable to keep up with the needs of the livestock. This is a large threat in the Central Asian rangelands, like Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

The Good News

The world can combat this phenomenon by understanding the causes of desertification and implementing various acts to aid in regenerating arable land. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), established in 1994, is working to improve conditions and increase productivity in vulnerable areas of the world. The organization created the Great Green Wall Initiative, in which the goals are to expand arable land, generate more economic opportunities and increase food and water security in struggling areas, among other objectives.

Action Against Desertification, an initiative built off of the Green Wall Initiative, is helping six African countries (Ethiopia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Niger and Nigeria) that struggle most profoundly with desertification by educating farmers about more sustainable agricultural practices, planting millions of seedlings to expand arable land and rehabilitating desertified forests.

In May of 2017, the China-U.N. Peace and Development Trust Fund created the Juncao Technology project to combat desertification, erosion and hunger in Asian and African countries. The project’s approach is to replace wood with grass. This, in turn, will help to soften the blow of overgrazing and generate clean energy, all while preventing soil erosion and desertification.

Further, the UNCCD is working to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN), which is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”

– Anna Giffels
Photo: Flickr

Drought in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, a landlocked Asian country, is experiencing the worst drought in the past five decades. The United Nations has estimated that 2 million people have been affected by the drought and that 1.4 million people are in need of urgent food assistance. Several years of low rainfall and snowfall have led to the seriousness of the drought in Afghanistan.

The Drought in Afghanistan

The drought has affected 20 provinces in the country. Almost 1.5 million people rely on agriculture products for food in these affected regions. It has majorly affected the planting of wheat and livestock pastures. The Famine Early Warning System Network has placed many regions in Afghanistan in a crisis state and some regions are even considered to be in emergency phases. Due to the drought in Afghanistan, the number of households in the crisis to emergency phases are expected to rise even more.

The Effect on Refugee Crisis

The recent drought in Afghanistan has added more pressure to the refugee and displaced person population in the region. Water levels are so low that, in some areas, dry wells are driving even more people to leave the country.

Continuous conflict and unemployment have been a typical factor of migration in Afghanistan, but now the drought adds to the problem. During the recent refugee crisis, Afghans were the second largest group of refugees. Countries like Iran and Pakistan are no longer welcoming Afghanistan refugees and are even encouraging refugees to return home. Those who are unable to leave the country move into urban cities in order to find work to provide for their family.

International Response to Drought in Afghanistan

The European Union has recently added $22.7 million in emergency aid to the region in response to the severeness of the drought in Afghanistan. The recent funding will help to provide assistance to projects on the ground. These ground projects include food assistance, water, sanitation and health care.

A portion of this help will come from the EU’s own Emergency Response Mechanism that provides assistance to vulnerable regions. The Humanitarian Country Team also plans to revise their Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) to ask for $177 million in aid to assist people affected by the drought. The revision of the HRP plans to reach 4.2 million people across the country in various aspects, especially agriculture, sanitation and nutrition. These programs aim to ensure food security in the region as the number of households in need of emergency assistance increases.

There is hope for the region to somewhat sustain itself. The coming of Fall and El Nino, routine climate pattern, are promising to planters in Afghanistan. El Nino is expected to provide more than average precipitation in the coming season. The areas planted for wheat are expected to be higher than average due to the prediction of high precipitation.

This prediction, however, is one of many and there are other outcomes for the spread of rainfall. Hopefully, rainfall will return to the region and provide farmers with the resources to plant and harvest. As long as the people in urgent need of humanitarian aid are assisted, there is hope to ensure food security for those most affected by the drought in Afghanistan.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr

Cities That Will Run Out of WaterOver 70 percent of the world’s surface area is covered in water. However, the majority of the world’s poor, who number about three billion, live in areas absent of clean water. Most of the earth’s water is saltwater, but there are still means to purify it for drinking and cooking purposes.

According to UNICEF, women may spend between 30 minutes to eight hours a day searching for water. The average walking distance for women in Africa and Asia is 6.0 km (3.7 miles) to walk and carry the water for their families. The following are all cities that will run out of water soon without proper attention.

  1. Cape Town, South Africa: There might be a large-scale shutdown of tap water this summer. Mayor Patricia de Lille laments that residents have not heeded to advice to reduce consumption. If national consumption exceeds the dam capacity, there will be a total shutdown this April. This is referred to as “Day Zero.”

    Solution: Large-scale desalination plants along the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

  2. Sao Paolo, Brazil: Brazil’s largest city was recently devastated by droughts. The Cantareira Reservoir is now a cracked and parched dirt field. This is a result of reduced rainfall and increased demand for water by the unauthorized settling of residents in nearby areas.

    Solution: Restoring degraded forests; this will prevent soil erosion, floods and allow for plants to store the water naturally and recycle it as a watershed.

  3. Bangalore, India: This city cannot ignore the water shortage any longer. The local demand far exceeds the available cubic meters of safe water. Bangalore has a reputation of possessing the most inefficient water pumping and distribution network in all of Asia.

    Solution: Repair the rampant leakage in the corroded, 100- to 200-year-old piping system, and improve the efficiency of the distribution system. Water is plentiful in Bangalore, but a modern distribution mechanism will ensure it evades being among the cities that will run out of water soon.

  4. Beijing, China: China is home to nearly 20 percent of the world’s population, but only has seven percent of the world’s freshwater. To make matters worse, what little water it has is unsafe for drinking due to pollution. Furthermore, the Chinese government has authorized the construction of oil refineries in areas where water is scarce, such as the Xinjiang province.

    Solution: Recycle more than half of its water, which would be on the same standard as developed European nations. With this development, Beijing can strive for a living standard of cleaner water instead of being among the first cities that will run out of water.

  5. Cairo, Egypt: The Nile is almost all of the country’s source of water. A city of 20 million people, and rapidly growing, does not fare well with a fixed water share. Some farmers have even been forced to irrigate using sewage water.

    Solution: Currently, the Egyptian government is urging people to move to surrounding cities whose water sources are detached from Cairo. This will reduce the water stress on the city and prevent further stress on new desalination plants exclusively for the city of Cairo.

Better planning and management of water sources are only possible once wealth increases and corruption is eradicated. Eliminating undue bureaucracy is a difficult step, so it is important to approach each of these cities’ challenges on a needs basis. It is necessary to understand that water is not only a basic human need but also a basic human right.

– Awad Bin-Jawed

Photo: Flickr

water quality in SomaliaFor a country whose entire eastern border is an ocean, water quality in Somalia is a longstanding worry for the nation’s citizens. According to UNICEF Somalia’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) studies, of the nearly 15 million people living in Somalia, only 45 percent of them have access to clean water. Only one in four people have access to adequate sanitation facilities within a reasonable distance of their homes.

WASH has linked the lack of clean water and sanitation facilities to the rising disease rates in Somalia, most notably, the widespread prevalence of widespread waterborne diseases such as diarrhea that account for more than 20 percent of deaths of children under five. Additionally, the lack of clean water is heavily correlated to malnourishment, which over 300,000 children in Somalia are currently suffering from.

While having clean drinking water is imperative to survival, the disposal of wastewater (water used for cooking, bathing, sewage and other uses) is nearly as important to providing a safe and clean environment for Somalians to live in. Considering that the infrastructure to dispose of wastewater is severely lacking in Somalia, and the fact that most Somalians rely on rivers and rainwater for water (natural sources which are highly prone to contamination by wastewater), it is little surprise that so many Somalians lack adequate drinking water.

Estimates indicate that it would cost $1.5 billion to provide clean water to all Somalians that would not be dependent on weather patterns, droughts or possible contamination by wastewater. While by no means a small sum, it is also not an outrageous one, and one that is being decreased by efforts to improve Somalian irrigation techniques, harvesting and storing cleaner rainwater, as well as other methods to help Somalia use less water more efficiently.

These efforts, however, are only made tougher due to the twofold threat of the terrorist organization al-Shabaab, which controls much of rural Somalia, where the lack of clean water is felt most severely, and the harsh drought and famine that is currently sweeping the country. While food and water supplies are already running low, al-Shabaab puts up blockades and refuses to let aid workers assist the starving and thirsty people. In March, the Somali prime minister reported that over a hundred people had died as a result of the drought, and that number has likely only continued to worsen as concerns over the water quality in Somalia continue to linger.

Organizations such as UNICEF have stepped up to combat the water shortages by providing medical services and other necessities. Most pressingly, UNICEF was providing over 400,000 people with daily water as of early 2017. Members of the group hope and plan to increase that number fourfold and provide water vouches to well over a million people.

USAID has already committed more than $300 million towards humanitarian assistance in Somalia for 2017. Much of that money is devoted to assisting the UNICEF WASH programs and activities already underway; however, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has involved itself in an attempt to address the emergency caused by the drought through other initiatives. This assistance is key to helping those affected survive the droughts and allow time for more sustainable solutions to be put in place to improve the water quality in Somalia.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in GuatemalaWater quality in Guatemala has become an increasingly important issue because the country is facing one of its worst droughts in decades. The drought has reduced access to clean water, and poor water quality has resulted in the spread of waterborne illnesses throughout the country. Additionally, this lack of water means immense food shortages and increasing malnutrition among children in Guatemala.

Approximately 43 percent of Guatemalan children under the age of five are fatally malnourished, and among rural Guatemalan children this number rises to around 80 percent. It is in rural areas that the drought has the strongest effect, as there is less access to clean water and there are more stagnant bodies of water that increase the spread of disease.

Due to the drought, Guatemala’s disposal of solid and liquid waste in local bodies of water is having a larger impact than ever. With limited quantities of clean water, the waste that is deposited in rivers makes the spread of disease and infection in the population even more rampant. Access to clean water is a major issue facing the country, but there have been some strides in resolving it.

Guatemala was able to reduce the percentage of citizens without access to drinking water to 50 percent, which met the 2015 Millennium Development Goal for access to clean water. In 2016, 93 percent of Guatemalans had access to non-polluted water, which is an impressive statistic.

There are also nonprofit organizations working to improve water quality in Guatemala. Water for People is an organization that focuses on providing clean water to certain communities in impoverished nations. They currently have a number of projects running in Guatemala, one of which is the Everyone Forever program. The program pledges to provide water and sanitation to every single person in those communities, forever. This is a very ambitious project, but it is also incredibly important.

In addition to simply providing clean water to those in Santa Cruz Del Quiche, or San Bartolome Jocotenago, Water for People creates a model that can be replicated by governments to provide water and sanitation for all parts of the nation. The organization also has programs for watershed management and school programming related to water sanitation.

There are also, of course, programs set in place by United Nations agencies such as the Pan American Health Organization, UNDP, and UNICEF. These organizations put in place measures that will raise the living conditions of people in poor communities, primarily through improving water sanitation systems.

Ultimately, water quality in Guatemala is a major issue, but there are improvements being made. Through collaboration between NGOs, the Guatemalan government and United Nations agencies, the issue of water quality and access in the country will hopefully be resolved soon, improving the quality of life for all of its residents.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

 NamibiaNamibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990. However, it is still dealing with the result of socioeconomic inequalities that came from the apartheid system during colonization. The government has achieved the UNDP Millennium Development Goal of cutting its poverty rate in half, but has unfortunately failed to eradicate hunger in Namibia.

Namibia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 31.4, as reported by the International Food Policy Research Institute. This shows an alarming level of hunger in Namibia. What makes it more serious is the fact that Namibia has the lowest percentage reductions in GHI scores since 2000. Though child stunting, child wasting and child mortality have declined, undernourishment has increased to 42.3 percent. The factors that lead to hunger in Namibia include frequent droughts and flooding, putting pressure on the country’s agricultural and livestock production.

Chronic droughts, lack of agricultural land and water shortages result in crop failure. This means that agricultural production is severely low, even though about 70 percent of the population depends on the agricultural sector for their subsistence.

15.8 percent of Namibia’s population lives on less than $ 1.25 per day. Its economy is largely dependent on extraction and limited processing of minerals like diamonds, gold and zinc. It is also one of the largest producers of uranium in the world. However, only 10 percent of the labor force is employed in the mining sector.

Poverty is the most important of the causes of hunger in Namibia, limiting access to food. Another problem is that Namibia is heavily reliant on food imports (60 percent of all its food requirements), which means it is subject to high prices. The proportion of food insecure individuals was estimated at 25 percent in 2016.

Recently, the World Food Programme and Namibia’s National Planning Commission launched a five-year Country Strategic Plan (CSP) with an aim to end hunger in Namibia. The CSP is aligned with the Fifth National Development Plan and the Zero Hunger Roadmap, meant to achieve two strategic wins: enabling the vulnerable population to meet their food and nutrition requirement and ensuring government policies and programme designs are more informed of hunger issues. The support includes implementation of food-based safety net programmes, food management and monitoring system as well as capacity development to sustain the improvements and achieve zero hunger in Namibia.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr