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

Enteric and Diarrheal DiseasesEnteric and diarrheal diseases affect 1.7 billion children around the world every year killing over 500,000 children under five annually. The most common enteric and diarrheal diseases are rotavirus, cholera, shigella and typhoid.

Types of Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Rotavirus: Rotavirus is a highly transmittable disease and is one of the main causes of severe diarrhea in children. The disease affects millions of individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in over 215,000 cases. The disease most often transfers via consumption of fecal matter, which can occur when individuals do not have access to proper handwashing and sanitation facilities. The Rotavirus vaccine can help prevent rotavirus. It is effective in preventing severe rotavirus in 90 percent of cases and the WHO has recommended it for use. Typically, children that are two to six months old receive two to three doses of the vaccine. Individuals who do not receive this vaccine and contract rotavirus (or cholera, typhoid, or shigella) most often receive treatment with either zinc supplementation or rehydration therapy or both. Zinc supplementation can reduce the severity of diarrhea in an individual while oral rehydration therapy can help rehydrate an individual that has become dehydrated due to diarrhea.

Cholera: Cholera is another diarrheal illness that individuals can contract by consuming contaminated food or water. It affects roughly three million individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in nearly 145,000 cases. Furthermore, there have been recent outbreaks in countries like Haiti, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Guinea. Like rotavirus, a specialized vaccine can prevent cholera as well as sound sanitation techniques. Individuals older than six receive the vaccine in two doses while younger individuals receive three doses.

Typhoid: Like rotavirus and cholera, typhoid is transmitted through fecal contamination. It affects 22 million people annually and is the cause of death in roughly 200,000 cases per year. Before recently, no one had developed a vaccine to treat typhoid; however, in 2018, the WHO approved a vaccine called Typbar TCV. Scientists from Bharat Biotech International, a biotechnology company based in Hyderabad, India, developed the vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have received the vaccine and it has played a key role in stemming a recent typhoid breakout in Pakistan.

Shigella: The last major form of an enteric/diarrheal disease is shigella. Over 165 million individuals contract shigella every year (causing one million deaths), in large part due to the fact that there is no preventative vaccine for the disease. Because of this, much of the effort that has been given to prevent Shigella recently (as well as rotavirus, cholera and typhoid) have focused on ensuring proper hygiene and sanitation in areas that are at risk for fecal contamination. Listed below are some promising solutions to improve hygiene and sanitation in developing countries around the world.

Solutions to Reduce Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Janicki Omni Processor (JOP): The Janicki Omni Processor is an innovative solution that can help turn waste into clean drinking water. To do so, wet waste enters the JOP which dries and burns the waste in a controlled fashion. The JOP filters and condenses the resulting steam from the burning process, distilling the water. This water then receives treatment in order to meet clean drinking water standards. The JOP is environmentally friendly (the entire process is self-sustainable) and, through heavy funding from NGOs such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is a cheap and efficient way to provide clean water to communities throughout the developing world.

Nano Membrane Toilet: The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution with regards to sanitation practices throughout the developing world. The toilet is sustainable and requires no water or electricity to function. It works like this: after an individual uses it, the toilet utilizes a waterless flushing system to separate the urine from the feces. The feces are then chopped up into small bits and placed into a combustion chamber. After roughly a week, the feces will turn into a substance similar to ash and people can safely deposit it in the trash. The water, meanwhile, enters a separate tank to purify. The purified water then enters a tank at the front of the toilet for the purpose of outdoor irrigation and cleaning. The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution to help reduce feces contamination because it does not require water to function and is easily implementable in many communities around the world.

Hand Washing: Hand washing isn’t a new technology, but it can go a long way towards preventing a multitude of enteric and diarrheal diseases. Research indicates that diarrheal deaths could decrease by as much as 50 percent if the prevalence of handwashing increased around the globe. NGOs such as The Global Handwashing Partnership and World Vision have done great work in recent years to lead handwashing programs in developing nations and increase awareness about the importance of handwashing.

Looking Ahead

The prevention and treatment of individuals with rotavirus, cholera, typhoid and shigella are some of the biggest challenges facing the world in the coming years. The transmittable nature of these diseases makes them difficult to eradicate, and people cannot fix many of the reasons that they are prevalent (lack of sanitation, poor water quality, etc.) overnight. Continued investments from governments and NGOs around the world in promising technologies like the Janicki Omni Processor and the Nano Membrane Toilet are a step in the right direction towards the prevention of enteric and diarrheal diseases in individuals around the world.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pexels

Five Soap Brands that Give BackAccording to the CDC, nearly 2.5 billion people lack access to clean water. Without a sanitation system, diseases can spread at a disastrous rate. Each year, more than 800,000 children die due to the lack of sanitation in communities across the globe. This article focuses on five soap brands that give back to those without access to clean water.

5 Soap Brands that Give Back

  1. Hand in Hand
    After reading a startling statistic about the number of people affected by water-related illnesses, Bill Glaab & Courtney Apple founded Hand in Hand. Together, they partnered with My Neighbor’s Children, a non-profit organization based in Haiti focused on impoverished children. Through this partnership, all of Hand in Hand’s donations go toward these children. In 2013, Hand in Hand opened their first well in Onaville, Haiti, which now serves over 240 families daily. Through their “Buy a bar. Give a bar.” program, Hand in Hand has donated more than 1 million bars of soap. With every bar purchased, Hand in Hand provides a child in need with a bar of soap and a month of clean water.
  2. Pacha Soap Co.
    After a large flood in the Peruvian Andes, most families lost work and communication with the world they once knew. They depended upon the “pacha” or “earth” in Quechua. In 2011, Andrew and Abi founded Pacha Soap Co. with the mission to create a product that would help others as well as the earth. Since then, Pacha Soap Co. has supplied 14 communities with clean water wells, served more than 4,000 people clean water for the first time and have funded eight independent soap shops in Africa. Through all of this hard work, Pacha Soap Co. has donated more than 3.8 million bars of soap to schools in developing counties, provided over 74,000 children with hand-washing education and has created over 250 careers.
  3. Soapbox Soaps
    Founded in 2010 by Dave Simnick, Soapbox Soaps has made it their mission to empower consumers “with the ability to change the world through everyday, simple purchases”. Partnering with the Sundara Fund, a non-profit that recycles soap from hotels, Soapbox Soaps has been able to supply 30 women with a reliable job. With each purchase, Soapbox Soaps donates a bar of soap and proper hygiene education to someone in need. The proceeds also go toward research and development in reducing trachoma infections, an infection in the eye that could lead to blindness. Today, more than 3 million lives have been impacted through Soapbox Soap’s mission and over 6,000 lessons on hygiene have been taught. Soapbox Soaps is just one of the five soap brands that give back and partner with Sundara Fund.
  4. B.A.R.E. Soaps
    Another soap brand that partners with Sundara Fund is B.A.R.E or Bringing Antiseptic Resources to Everyone Soaps. This is a volunteer, all-natural and socially conscious company. All of the profits are either reinvested back into B.A.R.E Soaps or non-profits. In 2012, B.A.R.E Soaps partnered with Children’s Hopechest & Point Community Church to supply children with soap and vitamins in Kaberamaido, Uganda. When the Hepatitis B outbreak hit, B.A.R.E Soaps quickly diverted funds to support vaccinations. In 2016, B.A.R.E. Soaps funded a local research center where they could donate sanitary products. That same year, B.A.R.E Soaps partnered with Sundara Fund in Kalwa Slum, India. Every month, 500 school children living in the slums receive a bar of soap and basic health care and hygiene training.
  5. Lush
    Lush is known for its bright and colorful bath bombs and sweet-smelling shampoo bars. Using the freshest ingredients, Lush lives by six core philosophies to fight against animal testing. 100 percent of their products are vegetarian and more than 80 percent are vegan. All of its products are handmade and sold “naked” or without packaging to reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Lush advocates for those without a voice. Through their body lotion, Charity Pot, Lush donates all of the proceeds to “small grassroots organizations working in the areas of human rights, animal protection and environmental justice”. Since 2007, Charity Pot has helped Lush donate more than $33 million to over 2,450 grassroots charities in 42 countries. In 2010, the Sustainable Lush Fund was created. Since then, over 44 projects in 21 countries have been created.

These five soap brands that give back, are more than just charitable. They have given many people healthier and cleaner lives. Despite how simplistic a bar of soap can be, many people lack access to hygiene products and even clean water. Even the smallest gift can cleanse generations of detrimental conditions.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation and Hygiene in India
There is a restricted amount of water, sanitation and hygiene in India on a daily basis. Therefore, the lack of these resources leads to disease and death.

Diseases, Defecation and Lack of Sanitation Facilities

India is one of the world’s most heavily populated countries with more than half residing in suburban neighborhoods. Due to the country’s vast population growth and its limited accessibility to water, people have limited access to sanitation and hygiene in India.

  • Nearly half of Indians defecate into the environment, which pollutes water and leads to the number one cause of diarrhea-associated deaths in children. Yearly, 117,000 children younger than five pass away due to diarrhea as a result of unsanitary environments and contaminated water.
  • Research indicates that a little over half of India’s population washes their hands after defecation. Only 38 percent of people wash their hands before eating and as little as 30 percent wash their hands prior to handling food. Young children are most susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections; yet, using soap to wash hands can reduce the likelihood of contracting these illnesses.
  • Nearly 600 million people do not use toilets, and as a result, their waste enters the environment which leads to a higher likelihood of water contamination and diarrhea. Children who suffer from diarrhea are more susceptible to malnutrition and other illnesses, such as pneumonia. Malnutrition afflicts nearly 50 percent of children.
  • Nearly 10 percent of countryside households discard waste properly, while people leave more than half of the waste out in the environment or put it into the trash. As little as six percent of children under the age of five use sanitation facilities.
  • For adolescent females, it is necessary to provide the essential facilities, products and education to allow for proper menstrual hygiene. Many girls are likely to not attend school due to the lack of seclusion in the sanitation facilities. Other times, females feel discomfort when there is no facility available at home.

The Water Crisis

Nearly 200,000 Indians pass away each year as a result of insufficient accessibility to consumable water, while 600 million people are water-stressed due to the limited availability of 1,700 cubic meters of water yearly.

Research published in June 2018 predicts that India will undergo an acute lack of availability to water within two decades. The report approximates that the need for water will duplicate the obtainable supply by 2030.

The Government’s Partnerships to End Open Defecation and Increase Sanitation Efforts

In 2014, India’s Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, began advocating to enhance cleanliness efforts by October 2019. Since he announced this objective, there has been significant progress in making clean water and hygiene amenities available.

In 2014, the amount of people living in agricultural areas who defecate openly has decreased from 550 million to 320 million. Overall, clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal have improved from 39 percent in October 2014 to over 90 percent in August 2018.

UNICEF Action endorses the federal and local governments in providing water, sanitation and hygiene in India. UNICEF’s Child’s Environment Programme advocates for the government’s Total Sanitation Campaign, which has the goal to enhance the availability and utilization of sanitation facilities. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme works to implement clean water to each and every family in India; the Child’s Environment program collaborates with Integrated Child Development Services to ensure that proper hygiene facilities are present in schools.

USAID collaborates with India’s government to implement healthful towns by growing access to safe water and cleanliness. Together, USAID and the Government of India assess and distinguish various models to enable consumable water and toilets, which they can put into effect for various localities.

In order to eliminate defecation by 2019, India began the five-year Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission to cease open defecation. USAID promotes the commission by educating others about these matters and initiating action from the people and government officials.

The overall goal of USAID is to implement techniques to have safe, clean water access that is inexpensive. The organization also collaborates with civilians to compose sanitation facilities as well as encouraging hand washing along with refraining from defecating in the environment.

In 2017, 300,000 citizens had access to water, sanitation and hygiene in their homes. As a result of the community efforts, 25,000 communities have stopped defecating in the environment, while 175,000 people are able to obtain clean, consumable water.

– Diana Dopheide

Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia
Globally, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is on the rise, especially in South Asia. According to UNICEF, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, the percentage of people practicing open defecation—a leading cause of child malnutrition, disease and death—fell from 65 percent to 34 percent. While these WASH initiatives have seen success, they often neglect one important aspect of hygiene that pertains to women, menstruation. The ability for women to menstruate hygienically and with dignity is vital to their empowerment. Here are five facts about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.

5 Facts About Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia

  1. There is a culture of silence around menstruation; discussing it is often treated as taboo. Females on their periods are often excluded from society because they are seen as impure. One study in Nepal found that 89 percent of respondents practiced some form of exclusion or restriction during a menstrual cycle. However, organizations such as WaterAid are working to break the silence through female-led self-help groups. When just a few women came forward to speak, it inspired others to share their experiences and start breaking the taboo.
  2. Many girls do not understand their periods. Because the topic is taboo, it is often ignored in schools. As such, 10 percent of girls in India thought menstruation was a disease, and 66 percent of girls in South Asia do not know anything about periods before their first menstruation. A study of 160 girls in West Bengal found that, though 67.5 percent knew what a period was before their first, 97.5 percent did not know where menstrual bleeding comes from. While schools often neglect to teach about reproductive health, this is beginning to change. UK Aid is creating audiobooks for girls dispelling myths and teaching them about their periods, and non-government organizations are creating extracurricular activities that teach about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.
  3. Menstrual hygiene in South Asia is vital for keeping girls in schools. According to WaterAid, a study done in South India found half the girls in school were pulled out at the time of their first period, often to be married. The girls who stayed in school beyond their first period reported poor performance due to anxiety that the boys in the class would find out they were menstruating.
  4. Access to feminine hygiene products is expensive. According to WaterAid, in a West Bengal study, only 11.25 percent of girls used disposable feminine hygiene products. The most common obstacles to obtaining them are a lack of awareness about them, the high cost, the lack of availability and the need for disposal facilities. Focus group discussions indicated that girls would prefer sanitary pads because they were more comfortable, discreet, and easier to use and carry. WaterAid is working to make low cost disposable sanitary pads as well as facilities to dispose of them. In the meantime, most women and girls rely on reusable cloth, which comes with its own problems.
  5. Maintaining menstrual hygiene in South Asia requires improved sanitation. One of the biggest obstacles to menstrual health is a lack of sanitation practices and infrastructure. Most South Asian women and girls rely on reusable cloth. To sanitize them though, they need to wash them in clean water and dry them in sunlight. However, cultural taboos around menstruation often pressure women and girls to try to dry them in dark places, potentially leading to infection. For those who might have access to disposable sanitary pads, they often lack the facilities to get rid of them. This is especially a problem for girls in schools. However, WaterAid and its partners are working on implementing WASH facilities that are lockable and gender-separated, with at least one toilet or washroom with an opening leading to an incinerator or dustbin for feminine hygiene products.

While countries in the region are making great strides in sanitation, there is still much to be done to improve menstrual hygiene in South Asia. It is vital they do so because the ability for women and girls to menstruate with privacy and dignity empowers them to pursue work, education and gives them the opportunity to have a voice in society.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in AfghanistanAfter suffering through an extreme drought for months, Afghanistan now faces a new crisis: severe flash floods. As many as 112,000 people have been affected by the flooding in Afghanistan and entire homes or villages have been swept away. In light of both droughts and conflict, the U.N. has estimated that 6.3 million people will need humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan in 2019. The country has faced extreme adversity and is in desperate need of crucial and life-saving aid.

Drought and Flooding

The extreme drought the country has been facing has made it more difficult for the soil to absorb water, which makes flooding more likely. The El Niño weather phenomenon is also largely responsible for the extreme amounts of rainfall experienced by Afghanistan. Some forecasters have predicted that due to this chaotic weather pattern, rainfall could increase by 40 to 50 percent through May. These chaotic changes in weather have had disastrous effects on Afghanistan and its neighbors. Although the rain has stopped, many in Afghanistan fear that even worse flooding is yet to come. The region is often hit by flash floods due to its rocky terrain, but many claim this is the worst flooding the country has seen in years.

Humanitarian Aid

The International Federation of the Red Cross requested an emergency appeal of 7 million Swiss francs, which they mean to use to support up to 650,000 people affected by the flooding in Afghanistan who need immediate relief. The IFRC wants to use this money to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society, in providing shelter, health care, water and sanitation to those affected by both extreme drought and flooding. Recently, USAID with support of the Department of Defense airlifted over 200 metric tons of relief items regions in Afghanistan. The U.S. also announced that they would be providing an additional $61 million in aid relief funds to provide food assistance, hygiene and safe water.

World Disaster Report

Every year the IFRC conducts a World Disaster Report in order to provide more insight into the causes and effects of disaster situations. The IFRC, in partnership with ARC, launched a campaign last year to research natural disasters in Afghanistan. The report’s findings found that not enough money was being invested in risk prevention and a majority of financial aid was being spent after disasters rather than before. It concluded that building resilience and preparedness within communities before disaster strikes is one of the most important factors in reducing the effects of natural disasters.

Extreme drought and severe flooding in Afghanistan have left its people in a state of emergency. The flooding has also begun to hit Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, and is causing the same kind of destruction and displacement. Thousands have been displaced and even more are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Both U.N. organizations and IFRC are providing crucial aid to combat the aftermath of the flooding in Afghanistan.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr