CARE is a nonprofit international organization that has worked for 75 years to create better lives for the underprivileged. In 2020, CARE implemented 1,300 projects that reached 90 million people across 100 countries. The organization’s work focuses on women and girls because it believes that poverty will not undergo eradication until all people have equal rights and opportunities. Two CARE programs in Africa are helping reduce poverty in several different ways.
CARE uses many different approaches to help countries all around the world. One approach is Water+, which focuses on using water to alleviate contributing factors of poverty. This program links water to more than just hand-washing and clean drinking water. In order to make the most significant impact possible, it focuses on the connections between water and many other systems, including agriculture, education and nutrition.
In 2013, 14 studies occurred in low-income countries on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions that found that WASH interventions improved the height-for-age scores in children below the age of 5 years old. This is significant because malnutrition is the surface cause for stunted growth. However, by improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene, the nutrition of the children improved. The direct link between nutrition, hygiene and poverty means that CARE’s Water+ programs are effectively able to alleviate many contributing factors of poverty.
Water+ puts in extra effort to ensure that the water services it provides receive proper maintenance and financing once they are in place so that they will be sustainable. In 2019, CARE’s Water+ approach has directly impacted 8 million people throughout 56 countries. Here is information about two CARE programs in Africa working to improve circumstances regarding poverty and clean water.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women have limited access to land, water and education, yet they make up 50% of the workforce and are responsible for a large portion of agricultural labor. She’s SMART impacts poverty in Africa by working with female farmers in Mali, Malawi and Ghana, helping them grow more food by using Water Smart Agriculture (WaSA). Women farmers in Mali restored around 225 acres of land to productivity using techniques they learned from the WaSA project.
Women are also receiving encouragement to use CARE’s Village Savings and Loan model because having savings allows them to borrow money for any needs they might have. The Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are currently part of a 12-year strategy to support 65 million people as they form groups by 2030. The savings groups usually contain 15 to 25 people that meet up to “save their money in a safe space, access small loans, and obtain emergency insurance.”
Overall, women in Mali report that they retrieve water for their fields half as often since implementing the WaSA techniques and they saw an increase of 18% in their annual income. In Malawi, the women saw a 27% increase in their income, while Ghana saw a 27% decrease in the costs of production. Thanks to She’s SMART, 36,000 women across these three countries have learned to grow and prepare healthy vegetables, and how to use wastewater to reduce the amount of labor for water collection.
CARE’s Nutrition and Hygiene Project
Each year, malnutrition is responsible for almost 50% of child deaths globally. Therefore, it is important to improve sanitation and provide access to clean drinking water in order to prevent communicable diseases that can lead to malnutrition. The CARE Nutrition and Hygiene project lessens the impact of poverty in Africa by improving the nutrition and health of pregnant women and children under the age of 2 years old in Mali by implementing nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and agricultural interventions. The project takes multiple approaches including helping farmers to produce more nutritious foods, improving the treatment of malnutrition and educating communities on healthy nutrition.
As of August 2019, 48,364 children under the age of 5 years old had improved their nutritional status, 277,838 people had access to an improved sanitation facility, more than 180 communities received open defecation free certification and 9,000 farmers had applied new management or technology practices and increased their food security. At the end of the program interventions in 2019, the project reached 173,000 children under the age of 2 years old, along with 68,300 pregnant and lactating women and 17,500 farmers and their households. There was also a 70% decrease in the prevalence of underweight children.
The Good News
These two CARE programs in Africa were both successful and made an impact on many lives. Past programs also include Glarciares+ which worked to help communities better adapt to changing weather in Peru, and the School Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene plus Community Impact (SWASH+) which focused on “increasing the scale, impact, and sustainability of school water, sanitation, and hygiene (SWASH) programming in Kenya.” Currently, CARE is implementing Rural Access to New Opportunities in WASH (RANO-WASH) which aims to “create solutions for sustainable and equitable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) systems so people can live healthier lives and preserve the environment” in rural parts of Madagascar. With continued efforts, CARE will have a positive impact on communities by focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene programs to alleviate poverty for years to come.
– Trystin Baker