Period PovertyPeriod poverty, a significant issue around the world, is an umbrella term that describes inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products, washing facilities, waste management and education. This lack of access impacts women and girls in Namibia, sometimes hindering their health and education. However, Eco-Sanitary Training, a local business, is stepping in to help.

Worldwide Period Poverty

Globally, there are 2.3 billion people that live without basic sanitation. 73% live in homes without sufficient hand-washing facilities. This exacerbates period poverty, as it makes it almost impossible for women and girls to manage their periods.

In many places around the world, menstruation products are very hard to access due to high prices. Although these products are a necessity, many countries still tax them. In Hungary, the tax rate on feminine hygiene products in 2020 is 27%, followed by Sweden and Mexico with 25% and 16% respectively. Some of the countries where female sanitary items are tax-free include Ireland, Malaysia, Tanzania and Lebanon.

An example of how feminine hygiene products affect women can be seen through the story of Suzana Frederick, a 19-year-old single mother who lives at Arusha, Tanzania. Frederick makes around 30,000 shillings ($13) monthly and spends between 1,500 and 3,000 shillings ($0.70 to $1.30) on sanitary products. The amount she spends on the products is  5% to 10% of her salary. This would be equivalent to an American woman with an average wage spending around $169 and $338 for sanitary products.

Period Poverty in Namibia

Period poverty has many consequences for women and girls in Namibia. According to Action Aid, “One in 10 girls in Africa miss school because they don’t have access to sanitary products, or because there aren’t safe, private toilets to use at school.” Many women and girls are also forced to use mattresses, clothes and newspapers every month because they cannot afford sanitary products.

A story from a girl who lives in Namibia reveals that she chose to get a contraceptive injection because her mother couldn’t afford pads. Contraceptive injections – a birth control method of releasing hormones like progesterone to stop the release of an egg – are free in all governmental hospitals in Namibia. Unfortunately, the injections have side effects, including significant bone mineral density loss, and are not intended for regulating menstruation. Another girl, also from Namibia, mentioned that dating older men is the only option that some girls have to get the money needed to afford pads.

How a Local Business Has Helped

Eco-Sanitary Trading is a local business in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Around March 4, 2019, the business joined the local market to make affordable pads that are high in quality and can also be reused or discarded. The managing director of the business, Naomi Kefas, mentioned that she got the idea from the realization of the fact that many girls are missing school frequently due to their periods.

For two years, Kefas and her team did extensive research and traveled to places including South Africa, Kenya, India and China to invent a new sanitary pad. They then came up with a product called “Perfect Fit,” a locally produced sanitary pad with good quality and affordability. “Perfect Fit” is benefiting women and girls in Namibia.

Moving Forward

The work that Eco-Sanitary Trading is essential to reducing period poverty in Namibia. However, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations also step in. Moving forward, other barriers to menstrual hygiene products and facilities must be reduced, including high tax rates.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire, a tropical destination nestled in the south-western coast of Africa, is home to 22 million people who struggle to access clean water and sanitation facilities. The sanitation practices and systems in Côte d’Ivoire have faced setbacks from political instability and rapid urbanization. With the help of international aid, the country can increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities. By repairing infrastructure and reallocating funds, the sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire is on track to be up to par in the foreseeable future.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. The sanitation crisis in Côte d’Ivoire is partly due to political unrest. Since the Second Ivorian Civil War in 2011, the country has experienced unrest that has pushed sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire to the bottom of the political agenda. Because of the sociopolitical crisis, large numbers of people have fled to settlements where there is little access to purified water or clean bathrooms. This displacement, paired with immigration from bordering countries like Ghana, caused the sewage systems and water purifying plants in Côte d’Ivoire to become overwhelmed and even harder to fix.
  2. Almost half of the population struggles to access clean water. In Côte d’Ivoire, 35% of individuals living in rural settlements do not have access to clean drinking water. Around 9 million people in the country are unable to reach a sanitation facility that houses bathrooms, showers, and places to purify water. Côte d’Ivoire is working to improve this; in 2010, only 14 million citizens had access to safe drinking water, but in 2015, more than 16 million people had access to basic drinking water.
  3. The sewage and water sanitation systems are outdated and neglected. Because of the ongoing political distress, important maintenance of sanitation systems has fallen by the wayside. In 2016, The World Bank started the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project, providing Côte d’Ivoire with a $50 million credit. Regular upkeep of water purifying plants and sewage pipes is crucial to public health.
  4. Tainted water supplies affect infants. One study found that E.coli fervently contaminates infant formula when areas store municipal water rather than treating it immediately. Around 41% of households in the study appeared to have E.coli present in the water they used for infants’ formula, increasing the infant mortality rate. Fortunately, since 2010, the infant mortality rate in Côte d’Ivoire has decreased from 107.2 per 1,000 births to 80.9 per 1,000 births.
  5. Contaminated drinking water increases water-borne illness. Many people must seek unsafe alternatives in the absence of properly cleaned water. Drinking or using contaminated water to cook can cause cholera, dysentery, typhoid and giardia, to name a few. Public health depends on government action to improve the sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire, which includes providing access to clean drinking water.
  6. The inaccessibility of clean water disproportionately affects women. Women and girls are typically responsible for bringing clean water to their homes. Because they must walk long distances alone to fetch water, they face an increased risk of others abducting or harassing them along their route. Girls also forfeit attending school because 0f this responsibility. According to the UNDP, the school enrollment rate for girls is 33% in comparison to a 45% enrollment rate for boys.
  7. Two of the country’s top 10 leading causes of death are a result of poor sanitation. Malaria and diarrheal diseases are two of the leading causes of death in Côte d’Ivoire. The lack of access to working bathroom facilities has caused many citizens to defecate outside, leaving cesspools for mosquitoes to breed and spread malaria. Drinking contaminated drinking water causes diarrheal infections.
  8. Côte d’Ivoire launched a team to tackle the sanitation issue. In November 2019, the Minister of Hygiene and Sanitation established a brigade of workers to help cities build working sewage systems and accessible sanitation facilities. The country is employing SODECI and other sanitation companies to clean up the community by picking up litter, cleaning gutters and cutting grass; they also encourage people to keep the area around where they live and warn of illegally dumping into water supplies.
  9. Many organizations work to help sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire. Habitat for Humanity has mobilized hundreds of workers to install water pumps and teach locals how to maintain them. USAID researches sustainable technology, develops prototypes and creates working models for new technology such as double pit latrines. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) monitor and track the spread of various illnesses related to poor sanitation and provide funding to governments to help with these issues.
  10. Côte d’Ivoire received millions of dollars during COVID-19 to help with the sanitation crisis. In May 2020, The World Bank agreed on a $35 million credit to allow the government of Côte d’Ivoire to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit will help the government install water treatment plants, restructure sewage systems and provide access to clean water and other resources needed to maintain proper hygiene.

Although these facts show Côte d’Ivoire’s sanitation challenges, they also indicate some of the initiatives to develop the country’s sanitation. The sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire should improve greatly throughout the next few years and continue beyond if aid from the international community and other organizations persists.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Sanitation in NicaraguaAlthough Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, it is also one of the poorest nations in the region. Its mountainous location presents a challenge when considering the development of infrastructure necessary for a functioning water and sanitation system. Although access to resources has been a persistent challenge, the following 10 facts about sanitation in Nicaragua explain the country’s upward trajectory of living conditions and a patchwork of support.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Nicaragua

  1. Improved Sanitation Coverage. Access to improved sanitation in the past 30 years has increased significantly. In 1990, Nicaragua had 44 percent overall sanitation coverage. As of 2015, that number increased to 68 percent, according to data collected by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  2. Improved Drinking-water Source Coverage. Driven by the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (U.N.), Nicaragua has managed to increase access to drinking-water coverage from 73 percent to 87 percent of the population between 1990 to 2015.
  3. Urban vs. Rural Coverage. Like in many countries, access to sanitary services depends on location and economic status. This is even more apparent for the Nicaraguan population, which has a high coverage gap of 22 percent between rural and urban areas in basic sanitary services. Nevertheless, the gap has decreased somewhat over time. It is down from a 28 percent gap in 2000.
  4. Climate factors. Nicaragua is situated in what is called the “Dry Corridor” of Central America, leaving it exposed to heavy drought. To compound, the negative factors of “El niño” warming the surface temperatures has prolonged these dry spells and intensified storms. The consequence of these abnormalities makes it harder to travel for water pick-up, so families try to store water indoors. This leads to communicable diseases such as diarrhea. Luckily, humanitarian organizations have not been largely hindered by climate-related occurrences and continue to offer services such as new sanitation projects toward greater coverage.
  5. WaterAid and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). Created by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WASH is a global effort to promote access to clean water, sanitation and hygienic practices to those in need. WaterAid is the biggest international nonprofit organization to exclusively promote WASH. It has intervened in principalities lacking water systems to connect 24,000 to clean water sources, 9,600 with toilets in their homes and 55,000 with hygiene education since 2011.
  6. Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). IDB is a Latin American regional bank with similar development goals to that of the World Bank. In order to finance the expansion of water and sanitation services, IDB loaned 11 Nicaraguan cities a total of $72 million for better access to potable water and sanitation facilities. The project is expected to bring clean drinking water to 65,000 people and benefit 31,000 with new sewage networks. These improvements in technical assistance and equipment will benefit 375,000 residents of the capital city, Managua.
  7. Water For People. Another nonprofit that is promoting the WASH initiative is Water For People. It works with district governments to construct water pipes and ensure their sustainability. It also started a microfinance approach by partnering with local institutions to train on how to offer loans for sanitation purposes. To promote better hygiene in schools, the organization partners with schools to bring hygiene programming into teacher-led activities. It helps parent-teacher associations to monitor its effectiveness. Water For People has brought reliable water services in two districts for more than 26,000 residents.
  8. American Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF). Founded in 1992, ANF is a nonprofit with the objective of reducing the ingestion of contaminated water and improving living conditions for Nicaraguans. Its projects have built sanitation facilities, wells, tap stands, rainwater collection and water filtration systems. In 2018 alone, ANF built 24 water wells, 711 sanitation facilities and more than 730 water taps, benefiting thousands of local residents.
  9. Faith-based nonprofits and agriculture. Since rural farmlands have poor access to water and sanitation, a number of churches in Nicaragua have partnered with local farmers to implement more sustainable farming practices that can protect the soil and water from pollution. Episcopal Relief & Development is a faith-based nonprofit. Its initiatives include crop diversity, increased food production, tree planting, constructing land ridges and ditches to reduce soil erosion and harvesting rainwater with micro-dams. The organization is currently working on a WASH project in Boaco to educate local communities on how to improve facilities and access to clean water.
  10. Esperança Projects. Esperança is a comprehensive nonprofit focused on health and education. Since 2001, it has been working in the northern region of Jinotega, a poor farming region of Nicaragua. Among its services, it provides clean water sources like wells to help limit water-borne diseases that disproportionately affect children, women and poor communities as they expose themselves to harm when traveling long distances for water. It also educates farmers on better agroecological techniques that leave water sources uncontaminated. Along with education, the organization provides families with seeds and livestock that help combat soil erosion and water pollution.

The Millennium Development Goals and network of nonprofits working in Nicaragua have proved paramount to the nation’s development of water systems, sanitation and agricultural sustainability. Basic access to clean water and sanitation services are directly dependent on proper hygiene education and resources that these organizations have increasingly provided. These 10 facts about sanitation in Nicaragua represent both the challenges and optimism for its people with a highlight on the notable progress that has been made with support from local and global communities.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Facts about LaosLaos is a small, South Asian country that recently experienced a significant increase in its gross domestic product (GDP). Poverty in Laos plummeted from 33.5 percent to 23.2 percent allowing the country to meet the Millennium Development Goal by reducing its extreme poverty rate by half. However, there is still much work to be done. Around 80 percent of Laotians live on less than $3 a day and face a 10 percent chance of falling into poverty. Knowing that poverty and poor health care often co-exist, the government has made it a goal to strengthen its national health care system by achieving universal health coverage by 2020. Below are nine health care facts about Laos.

9 Health Care Facts About Laos

  1. The Food and Drug Department is the regulatory authority for health care in Laos. The body is responsible for regulating pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The most recent legislation the country passed is the “Law on Drugs and Medical Products No. 07/NA,” in 2012. The law provided stricter guidelines for drugs and medical products. It also creates a classification for medical devices and registration for drugs and other medical products.
  2. Between 1997 and 2015 Laos’ poverty rate declined from 40 percent to 23 percent. The improvement in life expectancy is likely due to the recent improvements of the government on health care in Laos. For example, in 2011 Laos’ National Government Assembly decided to increase the government expenditure for health from 4 percent to 9 percent, likely influencing poverty rates.
  3. Laos has separate health care programs for different income groups. The country has the State Authority for Social Security (SASS) for civil servants, the Social Security Office (SSO) for employees of the state and private companies, the Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI) for informal-sector workers and the Health Equity Funds (HEFs) for the country’s poor.
  4. Laos’ current health insurance only covers 20 percent of the population. The lack of coverage could be due to the large spread of the country’s population outside of its major urban centers. Around 80 percent of Laos’ populace live and work in rural communities. The country’s ministry of health has made efforts to provide more services to people who live outside the main urban centers by decentralizing health care into three administrative levels: the central Ministry of Health, provincial administration levels and a district-level administration.
  5. Wealthy Laotians in need of medical care travel to Thailand for treatment. Despite the increased cost of care in Thailand, Laotians travel internationally because of the better quality of care. Health care in Laos at the local levels suffers from unqualified staff and inadequate infrastructure; additionally, inadequate drug supply is a problem. Due to these issues, Laos depends on international aid. In fact, donors and grant funding finance most of the disease control, investment, training and administrative costs.
  6. Many Laotian citizens believe illness is caused by imbalances of spirit, spiritual possession and weather. Despite Laotian spirituality, knowledge of germs as the root cause of the disease is well understood. Laotian hospitals use antibiotics and other medications when they are available. However, folk medicine is often used as a treatment. For example, herbal medicines and spiritual cures include items, such as a special tree bark, which is believed to grant long life when it is prepared with rice.
  7. Many Laotians remain malnourished. Despite recent economic growth, many children under 5 are chronically malnourished; every fifth child in rural areas is severely stunted. Malnutrition is largely influenced by natural disasters. Laos has a weak infrastructure making it difficult to cope with floods, droughts and insect swarms.
  8. Local drug shops as a primary source of medicinal remedies are actually causing problems. Most of these shops are unregulated and the owners are unlicensed. Misprescription and inadequate and overdosage are common. Venders sell small packets of drugs that often include an antibiotic, vitamins and a fever suppressant. They sell these packets as single dose cures for a wide variety of illnesses.
  9. Laos has a high risk of infectious water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Common waterborne diseases include protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid. Vector-borne diseases include dengue fever and malaria. Typically, diarrheal disease outbreaks occur annually during the beginning of the rainy season when the water becomes contaminated by human and animal waste on hillsides. Few homes have squat-pits or water-sealed toilets, causing sanitation and health issues.

 

As it stands, health care in Laos is still underdeveloped. However, the nation’s recent economic growth provides an opportunity to remedy the problem even though a majority of the current health care system is funded by foreign sources. As with all struggles, the desired outcome will take time. With enough cooperation with other countries and non-profit organizations, Laos has a chance to create a sustainable health care system for its citizens. Increasing health education among Laotians will be one key to improving public health in Laos. This can be done through the help of nonprofit organizations and others aiding in efforts to educate countries on sanitation and health.

– Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

 

Positive Impact on Women’s Health in India
Individuals and other stakeholders have the determination to bring positive impacts to women’s health in India. Reema Kumari is an aspiring singer who is making an impact on women’s health and hygiene in India. In Indian culture, menstruation is often a taboo subject; people believe that it is unholy and unclean. Hence, the stigma of menstrual health still occurs, even when menstrual health is a normal and healthy part of a women’s life.

Kumari’s devotion to women’s health and hygiene began at the age of 17. She mentored and educated other young women on social issues including the importance of literacy and self-care. She became involved with GARIMA events where she voiced concerns and demanded better methods of sanitation for girls and women. For Kumari, self-care meant having the dignity to attend personal hygiene needs with care and privacy.

Promises and Progress

One of Kumari’s main goals is having access to incinerators for proper disposal of menstrual absorbents. The new Gram Pradhan or the village leader or head of the village heard about Kumari’s concerns and delivered. In addition, the village now has several fully operating incinerators. The work continues as they work to build inside toilets and bathrooms. Moreover, the safety of having an inside toilet adds to the safety and to the dignity of women’s health care. To move forward with construction, funds will go towards the upcoming round of allocations.

The Facts

The Indian Census of 2011 reported that 89 percent of women live without toilets. Also, only 12 percent can afford sanitary products. Unfortunately, over 355 million people struggle with monthly menstrual cycles. Lack of proper sanitation measures presents public health issues as well as safety issues. Meanwhile, limited indoor facilities force women and girls to make unsafe decisions like using facilities at nighttime which exposes them to the risk of suffering attack.

The Good News

SWaCH is a self-governing organization providing waste-management services including producing and selling yellow plastic bags with strings. These bags offer protection to waste-pickers and a sense of privacy for girls and women. Other NGO grassroots efforts include advocacy on behalf of creating and providing environmentally safe sanitary products. Shockingly, around 58 million sanitary products end up in landfills or sewage systems.

Per the National Family Health Survey, the 2015-2016 cycle estimated that only 36 percent used pads. Old rags and cloths are typical substitutes for pads. As a result, the effects of poor hygiene can lead to the dangers of contracting cervical cancer, reproductive tract infection, hepatitis B and so forth. Mental health issues can manifest in developing low self-esteem and depression. The lack of provisions and the inability to properly care for herself at a sensitive time each month affects how a young woman sees herself and her worth.

Education and Employment

Education for young girls can wain under the pressures of having poor menstrual provisions in place. A report titled Spot On by the NGO Dasra declared that school-aged girls missed multiple days of schools or dropped out completely for lack of facilities and products. Fortunately, in Tamil Nadu, UNICEF created affordable incinerators at local schools. The specialized firewood allows for properly discarding of sanitary products. Bathrooms stack with sanitary products as well.

At Jatan Sansthan, an organization on the southern region of India mobilizes and encourages women and men in the efforts to destigmatize any long-held beliefs about menstruation. Additionally, the organization encourages women to produce affordable and re-useable sanitary products. At Sukhibhava, a local social enterprise continues to educate women on basic business economic principles in slum villages. Women entrepreneurs buy and sell to other entrepreneurs. The business to business endeavor has served a population of 80,000. Women are gaining confidence from the skills they learn and the difference they make in other women’s lives. The organization has educated over 12,000 women to date. The move forward lands India at 130 out of 155 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.

Progress continues today as May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day and people celebrate it globally. Reema Kumari and others continue to make positive impacts on women’s health and hygiene in India by promoting and protecting the dignity of adolescent girls and women. The progress has been slow, but nonetheless, India has proven that it can and will continue to close the gap.

–  Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Cholera in BurundiThe World Health Organization (WHO) has identified more than 1,000 cases of cholera in cities across the Republic of Burundi. Burundi is an East African country that has been plagued by violence, disease and poor sanitation for years. Most of the population lives in rural areas where drinking water is unsafe and sanitation practices are nearly non-existent. This has created the perfect storm for cholera to spread quickly across the country. It has led to six deaths from an otherwise treatable disease. Below are nine facts about the outbreak of cholera in the Republic of Burundi.

9 Facts about Cholera in Burundi

  1. Cholera is a gastrointestinal infection caused by bacteria. Generally, it is attributed to unsafe drinking
    water and often associated with raw or undercooked fish. It is transmitted from person to person through oral-fecal contamination due to improper sanitation and poor hygiene.
  2. This outbreak started in a time of political peril in Burundi. Rebel forces and the country’s army are fighting across rural areas, which is displacing people. Instability and lack of security make it difficult for people to find safety and sources of income. This has created a high level of poverty for Burundi’s people and exacerbated the poor water conditions.
  3. Most patients are displaced persons (IDPs) from rural Bujumbura. Fighting in Bujumbura became so violent that the government moved the capital to Gitega in February 2019. When the capital moved, many people were left without the support and resources of the government.
  4. Treatment usually takes several days per patient. Patients typically present symptoms related to dehydration. Dehydration occurs because of the excessive vomiting and diarrhea that comes with cholera. Patients are usually treated with an oral rehydration solution made up of a sugar and salt mixture in clean water. In extreme situations, patients may need intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
  5. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has three treatment centers for cholera in Burundi where professionals are trained and supervised. The goal of these facilities is to provide free patient care and increase the local public health staff. These centers provide care when most of the hospitals are unable to respond to the needs of cholera patients. MSF has also set up a 50-person treatment center in Bujumbura.
  6. Sterilization is a very important part of reducing the spread of cholera, so the MSF staff uses a chlorine solution to disinfect the center. This reduces the chances of another outbreak or infecting the staff. This solution can also be used to disinfect the homes of families who have been infected.
  7. Disinfecting isn’t the only solution to preventing the spread of cholera because the problem is directly related to the distribution of water. Without proper containment of poor water sources, the disease will continue to spread. To ameliorate the risks of cholera related to unsafe drinking water, MSF installed two water distribution bladders in the most affected areas. These bladders supply 30,000 liters of potable water.
  8. UNICEF has been providing cholera kits to people in Burundi. There are four different kinds of kits to help with various aspects of need. UNICEF has also established two cholera treatment centers to control the spread of the disease.
  9. To avoid contamination, experts suggest drinking disinfected water and eating a balanced, thoroughly cooked diet. Organizations like WHO are emphasizing the importance of washing hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer to reduce the risk of transmission.

Cholera is an easily treatable and preventable disease that occurs in poverty-stricken areas with poor sanitation. Many organizations have reached out to add potable water sources and aid by training the people of Burundi to treat and prevent the disease themselves. With rebel fighting and insurgent forces crossing the country, the disease is projected to spread to further areas of rural poverty.

Kaylee Seddio, PhD
Photo: Iwacu

10 Facts about Sanitation in EthiopiaEthiopia is Africa’s second-most populated country with more than 109 million people. It is also its fastest-growing economy even though it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Sanitation in Ethiopia is one of the factors proving to be a challenge when it comes to sustaining or improving on the country’s growth and development. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Ethiopia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia is considered water-stressed because the rapid population growth over the last decade has put a strain on its abundant water sources. Despite estimations showing that 13.5 to 28 billion cubic meters of renewable annual groundwater is available per year, only 2.6 billion cubic meters is usable.
  2. Ethiopia is a country of two extremes. Some parts of the country are plagued by constant flooding while other parts experience water scarcity, degraded water quality and food insecurity because of recurring droughts.
  3. The majority of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on subsistence farming; therefore, a lot of water is used for agriculture. The global average for water withdrawals for agricultural use is 70 percent. Ethiopia uses 93 percent for agricultural.
  4. According to the WHO, 43 percent of Ethiopia’s population lacks access to an improved water source. Only around 28 percent of people nationwide have access to improved sanitation. While this is astoundingly low, it is an improvement from 3 percent in 1990.
  5. Women and girls bear the brunt of Ethiopia’s water and sanitation problem as they have to travel long distances daily to fetch water. Consequently, they are often unable to fully participate in community life or go to school.
  6. Open defecation is a daily part of life in 32 percent of Ethiopia’s rural homes and 7 percent of its urban population. Twenty-three million people practice open defecation due to a lack of access to improved sanitation.
  7. UNICEF attributes between “60 to 80 percent of communicable diseases in Ethiopia” to “limited access to safe water and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.” Diarrhea, for example, accounts for 23 percent of all deaths for children under the age of five. Another report also shows that about 32 percent of health facilities in Ethiopia have access to safe water.
  8. The good news is that change is happening and has been happening. A joint report by WHO and UNICEF shows that Ethiopia has improved its water supply by 97 percent in urban areas and 42 percent in rural areas. Ethiopia achieved its Millenium Development Goal (MDG) target of providing 57 percent of the population with access to safe drinking water. This reduced the number of people without access to clean drinking water since 1990 by half.
  9. The government plans to further improve sanitation in Ethiopia under the One WASH National Program. It hopes to increase access to safe water to 98 percent for rural areas and 100 percent for urban areas. Under the program, all Ethiopians will also be provided with access to basic sanitation.
  10. There are also many international organizations aiding the government to improve sanitation in Ethiopia. Water.org has been working in Ethiopia since 2004 and has reached 243,000 people so far. Others, such as UNICEF and USAID, are supporting the One WASH program in various capacities.

The government and other partners need to continue improving sanitation in Ethiopia if the economy is to continue to grow. Aspects of development like life expectancy, improved opportunities for women and girls to participate in society and food production are dependent on sanitation. It is only by dealing with this that the government can hope for continued growth and development as well as poverty reduction.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

UNICEF’s WASH Program
According to a joint report from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four of the world’s health care facilities does not have adequate access to clean water and sanitation services, including sewer access. This means that about 2 billion people face a lack of clean water in their communities globally. Luckily, UNICEF’s WASH Program is in place to help remedy this.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

In 17 out of 69 impoverished countries, at least 20 percent of medical facilities had no water service at all in 2016. Therefore, by going to these facilities, there is a risk of further infection. Ironically, the condition the facility is attempting to remedy could worsen. In developing countries, people often have a concern that they could become sicker after visiting a hospital. UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program aims to bring water and means of sanitation to these at-risk health care facilities to create immediate benefits and establish an element of trust between medical facilities and the general population of impoverished countries. By doing so, projections determine that poor communities should increasingly report to medical professionals when they have a health concern, and many poverty-linked, poor-sanitation-caused diseases will receive better treatment and be better controlled.

UNICEF’s WASH program promotes education, fixing systemic issues and training. However, it mainly goes about achieving these goals by addressing issues on the ground level. Simply put, impoverished communities typically do not have easy access to sanitation measures and fresh water. Therefore, WASH has set out to directly fix the issue by installing facilities that can directly bring free, clean water to people in need. In certain areas that especially need better sanitation and water access, the program goes so far as to build physical water facilities.

How it Works

The facilities consist of a solar-powered borehole well that pumps clean groundwater from within the earth into 24-liter storage tanks above ground. These tanks keep the water clean and usable for whenever communities need it. There are no restrictions on the use of WASH facilities. Those who need it can use it to wash their hands, fill up bathtubs and draw water from their households, etc. In addition to supplying usable water to these communities, the WASH program also installs latrines. The latrines make use of the newly-supplied groundwater to reduce the amount of open defecation in impoverished communities.

WASH in Nigeria

A WASH facility in north-central Nigeria has seen exceptional progress after its installation. Like many poor Nigerian communities, there was little to no health care coverage. Further, the water was dirty and soil-transmitted helminths infected the area due to unsanitary defecation. Even the schools were a breeding ground for disease. Just by bringing clean water, WASH brought the rural community from an unsanitary village to an “open defecation-free” location. In doing so, they also slashed the prevalence of poverty-linked diseases.

UNICEF’s WASH program operates in coordination with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Two out of the 17 SDGs directly apply to WASH’s mission. First, ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Second, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. By making direct, measurable progress towards these goals, the U.N. can garner further support. Therefore, the world will be able to meet more SDGs, making the world a better place for everyone in the very near future.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Sierra Leone Health Care
Access to quality health care in Sierra Leone has been an ongoing struggle for many people in the country due in part to a history of war and conflict. Poor living conditions also have an impact on the percentage of the population with access to essential, life-saving health care services. Of note, in Sierra Leone, 73 percent of rural citizens live in poverty. Fortunately, both local and international powers are making attempts to change the status quo in order to create a more promising future for Sierra Leoneans. Keep reading to learn more about efforts to improve.

5 Ways Health Care is Improving in Sierra Leone

  1. In September 2017, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation proposed the National Health Sector Strategic Plan. The plan outlines how years after the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the disease still impacts survivors’ daily lives. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation proposes a long-term recovery plan to last until 2021. The proposal states its vision of “A well-functioning national health system that delivers efficient and high-quality healthcare and ultimately contributes to the socio-economic development of the country. This care must be of high quality, accessible, affordable and equitable to all Sierra Leoneans.”
  2. In 2017, the International Organization for Migration began the Strengthening Sierra Leonean National Health Care Capacity through Diaspora Engagement project. This project connects health care professionals in Sierra Leone with residents in rural areas, providing them with free health care assistance. Over 1,000 people living in the Moyamba District benefited from it because it provided surgeries, dental care and examinations to those who needed them. Although the project lasted for only two years, ending in March 2019, a new Mobile Health Clinics campaign began shortly afterward in May 2019 in association with the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health calling to continue to serve those in need of health care in rural towns.

  3. In March 2019, The United Nations Development Programme distributed 15 vehicles to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Because the country has many roads and other areas that are difficult to travel on foot, the vehicles allow people to deliver health care supplies to those in need more safely and quickly. The United Nations also trained Sierra Leoneanese, including 360 women, in the management of the Health and Sanitation facility. “Health-related issues shouldn’t be restricted to one agency,” said the UNDP’s Resident Coordinator, “there should concerted efforts from all stakeholders. Development starts with healthy people.”

  4. According to the World Health Organization, hand hygiene has served as a major issue within the country. Many people in Sierra Leone do not have access to clean water to wash their hands, which aids in the spread of diseases. In response to this and to support World Hand Hygiene Day each May, Sierra Leone now has handwashing stations near hospitals. WHO has also held events educating locals about the importance of handwashing to keep both individuals and communities disease-free.

  5. In September 2019, Sierra Leone’s government opened Rokupa Hospital in Western Urban District, Freetown, aiming to improve health care services for women and children. An estimated one in 17 women in the country dies due to complications from childbirth and the facility aims to provide women with access to better maternal health care. The hospital has added 4,000 new health care staff and increased the financial investment for health services by 2.1 percent. On top of the Sierra Leoneans government, the U.K. government and the United Nations Population Fund also funded the construction of the new facility.

Sierra Leone may have a long way to go to improve its health care, but its significant progress is impressive. With increased efforts, the country should be able to provide even better care in the future.

– A. O’Shea
Photo: Unspash

Life Expectancy in Chile
Located on the southwest edge of South America, Chile‘s international poverty rate is 1.3 percent. This number is fairly low compared to other nations, but Chilean poverty is on the rise as the nation’s international poverty rate increased from 0.9 percent in 2015. Today, 234,083 Chilean people remain impoverished and currently survive on less than $1.90 a day. Despite this descent in economic prosperity, poverty has not negatively affected the country’s life expectancy as it is has risen from 73.6 in 1990 to 79.1 in 2018. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Chile.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Chile

  1. Female Life Expectancy: While the overall average life expectancy in Chile evens out at 79.1 years, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), women tend to live longer. Women have an average lifespan of 82.2 years while most men live to the age of 76. Despite this gap in longevity, Chilean citizens generally live long lives as the country ranks 51st among 222 other global nations.
  2. Living Conditions: Overcrowding has long been an issue in Chile. Not only does it reflect the economic fragility of the region but it also harms the physical and mental health of citizens subjected to it. When the Chilean government implemented the Social Housing Recovery of 2014, the health of the country’s citizens increased and their life expectancy increased as a result. Today, the average Chilean home houses 1.2 people per room, which is better than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) average of 1.8. Thanks to the Social Housing Recovery initiative, Chileans not only experience a higher standard of living, but they also received their right to better health and longer lives.
  3. Obesity: Obesity is one of Chile’s leading health issues. According to the CIA, nearly one-third of all Chilean adults suffer from obesity. Chile’s obesity rates ranked number 32 globally with 34.4 percent of adults and 44.5 percent of children suffering from the condition. Because of obesity, a large number of the nation’s citizens have an increased risk of other diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes, some of the nation’s leading causes of death.
  4. Public Health Interventions: The Bono Auge Programme of 2010 created a universal health care program for Chile’s people. By providing a private health care voucher when public sector care is unavailable, more Chilean citizens are able to receive health care. Following its implementation, the program reduced the patient waiting list by 113,556 in 2010 to 50,780 the following year. The program also prioritizes those with high mortality pathological conditions and sets a two-day time limit on their waiting period for care. Patients who do not see a health care provider in this time frame receive a voucher so that another provider will see them. Equal health care increases the life expectancy of the Chilean people, as faster care and treatment not only saves lives but also extends them.
  5. Cancer: According to the OECD, Chile’s cancer mortality rate is high in comparison with its level of occurrence. Of the 35 percent of cases diagnosed, 23.8 percent end in death. This number makes up 24 percent of Chile’s national mortality rate and shortens the expected life span of its people. While the country has ways to treat the disease, much of this treatment is unequal and not enough. While it has created good screening procedures for cervical and breast cancers, it lacks large quantities of the equipment necessary to perform the job. Consequently, it is unable to reach a large number of people, and many people’s cancers go undetected. Unequal and limited proper testing hold Chile’s life expectancy back, as many of the country’s people die of cancers they are not aware they even have.
  6. Child Mortality: Ranked 163 in comparison with other countries, Chile’s infant mortality rate is fairly low. With an average of 6.4 deaths per 1,000 births and an under-5 mortality rate of 7.4 out of 1,000 during 2017, the country’s numbers prove themselves unalarming. Also, Chile’s infant mortality rate is on the decline, as the country’s under-5 mortality has dropped from 33.10 in 1980 to 7.4 in 2017.
  7. Air Pollution: Chile’s high concentration of air pollutant particles has a negative effect on the nation’s life expectancy. With 16.03 micrograms per cubic meter polluting Chilean air, the country fails to meet the 10 microgram standard that the World Health Organization set. The issue with polluted air is that it increases the risk for other diseases, such as lung cancer, which can eventually lead to death. Also, many expect that polluted air will be the leading cause of environmental premature death by 2050, meaning that without intervention, the country’s air quality will not only shorten the lives of people in the present, but it will also hurt the citizens of Chile’s future.
  8. Access to Health Care: While Chile has made strides towards equalizing its health care, care inequality is still a large issue. Socioeconomic status is the main determinant of the amount and quality of health care Chilean citizens receive. Chile’s indigenous citizens are statistically more impoverished, as they have a 35.6 percent poverty rate in comparison to their non-indigenous counterparts whose poverty rate rests at 22.7 percent. With a lower economic status, indigenous individuals have a higher risk of death, especially within their first year of life. In Mapuche, Chile, the children indigenous to Araucania have a 250 percent higher risk of death in their first year than those non-indigenous to the region. Without proper and equal access to health care, Chile’s impoverished people have a lower life expectancy merely because of economic status.
  9. Tobacco Consumption: According to the Pan American Health Organization, 20.2 percent of Chilean adolescents aged 19 to 25 participate in tobacco use. This number rises to 49.1 percent when assessing those citizens aged 26 to 34. This popularity in tobacco use not only increases the country’s risk of death from lung-related diseases, but it accounts for a large chunk of its lung cancer diagnoses. Chile is doing work to combat the issue, as it has implemented many anti-smoking policies, such as prohibiting smoking in public. As a result of these legislations, the prevalence of the nation’s total tobacco use has decreased from 42.6 percent in 2006 to 34.7 percent in 2014.
  10. Maternal Mortality: As of 2014, parasites and infections are the largest contributors to maternal deaths in Chile, as they make up to 25 percent of the total causes. While the maternal mortality rate has decreased, as deaths per 100,000 live births have dropped from 39.9 in 1990 to 22.2 in 2015. Improving Chilean poverty and prioritizing Chilean health care would improve the maternal death rate even more, as parasitic and infectious diseases are more prevalent among poverty-stricken regions.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Chile show that by working towards ending Chilean poverty, the country’s total life expectancy will rise as a result. With poverty increasing the risk of many factors that contribute to Chilean mortality, such as decreased access to health care, reduced health literacy, higher risk of disease and higher prevalence of destructive behavior, a fight against poverty is a fight for all Chilean life.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Flickr