help women in poverty Across the globe, poverty comes in different forms. Over the years, individuals and companies have developed products to help those in poverty. Since poverty disproportionately impacts women, several companies are inventing products that address the specific tribulations of women. Flo, Hemafuse, Embrace and fashionable iodine dots are inventions that aim to help impoverished women across the globe.

4 Empowering Inventions to Help Impoverished Women

  1. Flo: The Reusable Menstrual Kit. Flo is an inexpensive, reusable menstrual kit designed by Mariko Higaki Iwai. The discreet kit allows girls to “wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads.” In developing nations such as Kenya, female students miss about five days of education a month due to a lack of access to menstrual products to properly manage their periods. The Flo kit aims to reduce the risk of infections due to inadequate menstrual hygiene and address period poverty to keep girls in school. With girls able to consistently attend school, they are able to acquire the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.
  2. Hemafuse: The Blood Recycler. Hemafuse is an affordable syringe-like device that collects and filters blood that can then be used in a blood transfusion. Since developing nations lack a “reliable blood supply” for emergency blood transfusions, Hemafuse serves to reduce preventable deaths due to blood loss. Hemafuse is particularly valuable in “ruptured ectopic pregnancies,” a common occurrence in the developing world. During ectopic pregnancies, a woman “can lose half of her blood volume,” necessitating an emergency blood transfusion that Hemafuse can help facilitate in countries with limited resources. In this way, Hemafuse can save the lives of millions of impoverished women in lower-income countries.
  3. Embrace: The Portable Incubator. One of the leading causes of newborn death is unregulated body temperature, which can lead to a newborn death every 10 seconds. Incubators are designed to address this issue, however, high costs make incubators inaccessible to hospitals that cannot afford the technology. Embrace is an affordable, portable incubator that serves as an alternative to this necessity. The inexpensive incubator is reusable and “does not require stable electricity,” making it ideal for impoverished and remote hospitals with limited resources. The design also “allows for close mother-child interaction” as a mother can hold the newborn instead of placing the baby in a conventional incubator. Embrace has saved the lives of more than 350,000 babies and aims to continue this trend with the goal of saving “one million babies by 2026.” Overall, Embrace reduces mortality rates among children of impoverished women.
  4. Life-Saving Dots: Fashionable Iodine. In India, many women face iodine deficiencies due to a lack of trust in foreign medicine. As a result, “pregnancy complications and fibrocystic breast disease” are not uncommon. The life-saving dot functions not only as a source of iodine for women but also as a bindi. Without having to take medication, women can wear these iodine dots on their foreheads to supplement the nutrients they need to maintain good health.

Overall, these four innovations provide significant support for women in poverty. Through creative and innovative solutions, the world can see more progress in reducing global poverty.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

Oral hygienePeople are often taught to brush and floss their teeth twice a day to prevent cavities or other oral diseases. Some estimates suggest that roughly 60-90% of children around the world and 100% of adults have cavities or another type of dental carie. These seemingly high rates of poor oral hygiene are present almost everywhere. The lack of market infrastructure and limited transportation can make acquiring seemingly simple items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste difficult or impossible in many countries. However, Sweet Bites, the first chewing gum made entirely of xylitol, was created for the sole purpose of providing an easy and affordable way for children and adults to protect their smiles from the debilitating problems associated with tooth decay.

Effects of Poor Oral Hygiene

The term “oral hygiene” can often be misleading. Oral hygiene is not limited to mouth diseases but can negatively affect people’s overall well-being. Potential short-term effects include a buildup of dental plaque, bad breath, breakouts and skin infections. Meanwhile, potential long-term effects include a risk of serious oral inflammation and a depressed immune system as well as tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and tooth loss.

The Science Behind Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that can be harvested from plants and is known to reduce plaque. This would also subsequently decrease the probability of tooth decay. Sweet Bites claims that “chewing xylitol-sweetened gum for five minutes after every meal can protect a person’s mouth from tooth decay, caries and all of the consequences that follow, including increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”

Five students from the University of Pennsylvania are the visionaries behind Sweet Bites. Although the health benefits of xylitol are not a new discovery, the young entrepreneurs’ three-pronged plan to help those suffering from tooth decay is admirable.

Sweet Bites Changes Lives

Sweet Bites’ mission is to “Fight Tooth Decay. Educate Children. Empower Students.” The entrepreneurs’ plan to address oral hygiene by selling their pure xylitol gum in stores throughout India’s most impoverished areas. The organization also has representatives traveling to schools, businesses and community events to educate the people of India on the importance of oral hygiene. This includes “health messaging on the wrapper, so each piece reinforces important behaviors, like brushing twice a day.” Lastly, Sweet Bites provides part-time work to local students. This ensures the chewing gum remains distributed by members of the community who understand the magnitude of the issue.

Currently, Sweet Bites is running various funding campaigns and applying for grants to bring their life-saving gum to the people of India at an affordable price. The Sweet Bites health initiative remains limited to India. However, the company’s CEOs are working to secure factory space so that their product can reach people around the world.

Sweet Bites’ Legacy

Sweet Bites has not just created a product but has also created a lifestyle. The company provides people with a product that will keep consumers happy and healthy. The product also teaches people about good oral hygiene habits and their effect on overall well-being. With several major global issues, it is often difficult to recognize seemingly minor issues that can spiral out of control when left unaddressed. Nevertheless, Sweet Bites creates a way to help those in need, which is truly the definition of giving back.

– Sara Jordan Ruttert
Photo: Flickr

Eco-Technology Initiatives Combating Global Poverty
There are more than seven billion people worldwide, and approximately two billion are without sanitation methods or a proper toilet. Many of these people have to defecate in open areas, including gutters and water sources. As a result, 10% of the world’s population may consume wastewater through their food’s irrigation. Thankfully, initiatives in eco-technology are working to help rid communities of disease and, most importantly, poverty.

Eco-technology Initiatives

Without access to a clean bathroom or sanitation necessities, millions of people are at risk of contracting deadly diseases and polluting their environment. Organizations worldwide have prioritized supplying those in need with the right education and tools to keep themselves safe. The United Nations estimates that if communities have access to clean water, proper hygiene and regulated sanitation methods, more than 840,000 people per year will live more safely. The work of eco-technology groups is necessary now more than ever. Here are three of these initiatives.

OXFAM Teaches Hygiene

OXFAM is a global initiative that aims to eradicate poverty. It works with local groups and governments worldwide to provide sustainable eco-technology for community sanitation needs. The OXFAM team specifically focuses on providing clean water and restrooms and teaching hygiene to communities facing crises. OXFAM works with locals groups and the government to find the best and most affordable way to implement sustainable hygiene.

In Bangladesh, OXFAM has built sewage treatment systems to handle the waste of approximately 150,00 people a month. In addition to waste management, OXFAM visits schools and communities to promote and distribute hygiene kits. These kits often include a clean bucket and cover, soap, sanitary pads, diapers and more. The group mobilizes volunteers and resources globally. OXFAM reached approximately 20 million people in 2018-2019, more than half being women. The organization seeks to implement long-term strategies and humanitarian assistance through its efforts.

Toilet Twinning Gives Communities A Choice

Toilet Twinning is a highly innovative international initiative. For approximately $80, buyers can “twin” their toilet with an impoverished family in any country they like. Upon buying their toilet, customers receive a certificate and photo with map coordinates of their twin toilet’s location. Buyers’ donations go straight to providing clean water, sanitation basics and proper hygiene education. The initiative’s partners take the time to talk with and understand communities’ immediate needs to choose the best toilet setup.

Toilet Twinning eco-technology toilets come in various designs. The simple pit latrine is the most basic setup and the cheapest form of “improved sanitation.” The pit is 1.5 meters deep with a cover for use in any weather. Once the pit is full, it is topped with soil, and a new pit is dug. Another option is the ventilated improved pit latrine, containing a simple pit latrine with a vertical ventilation pipe for odors. It has a mesh cover for the hole so that air may flow freely and flies are kept out.

The choice to put in these systems is often the first chance villagers have to decide something in their lives. Therefore, the organization encourages the locals to have input on the design, materials and to help build the latrine. Toilet Twinning currently has partners in more than 35 countries, more than 140,000 toilet twins and more than 800,000 changed lives.

ECOLOO Makes Improvement Affordable

ECOLOO is a company focused on creating and distributing green eco-technology to communities in need. Accordingly, the company has developed a new way to treat waste while also providing eco-friendly toilets. The science behind the company’s waste management is relatively simple. The waste is broken down into ashes while urine turns into a pathogen-free liquid fertilizer. ECOLOO makes a point to use safe bacteria to treat the waste and turn it into fertilizer for agriculture in the local community.

Meanwhile, the latrine system is waterless, odorless, chemical-free and low-maintenance. The setup is a stand-apart toilet made up of a two-tier box. One box is for urine, waste, bacteria and an organic filter. The other is below, where the waste is treated and undergoes nitrification to transform into safe and organic fertilizer.

What makes this company stand out above the rest is its comfortable design, waterless needs and affordable cost. When a user buys the setup, they only have to pay 40% upfront with the rest in installments. This payment model makes it far more affordable for communities to access sanitation stations. Through its efforts, ECOLOO has provided more than 1,200 eco-technology toilets, created a job market and changed thousands of lives.

Moving Forward

These eco-technology initiatives, along with others around the world, change lives by providing sustainable bathroom basics and consequently fighting poverty. Moving forward, it is essential that these organizations and others continue to prioritize improving sanitation around the world.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

How the Hygiene Bank is Addressing Sanitation and Wellness in the UKSince its conception in August 2018, the Hygiene Bank has upheld its mission statement: To tackle hygiene poverty by providing essential products to those in need. Founded by Lizzy Hall, the grassroots organization prides itself on building a local community involved in both volunteering and donating.

Hygiene Poverty

The Hygiene Bank defines hygiene poverty as a constant battle between whether or not to spend money on other essentials or on hygienic products. According to the Trussel Trust, people first stop buying toiletries for a substantial time before entering a food bank. This evidence suggests that those who cannot afford bathing or cleaning products, toothpaste and similar items do not seek help immediately to address it. Instead, due to other priorities or possibly shame, they go without these essential products for longer than necessary. By not having this accessibility, several challenges can arise. These include sharing toothbrushes, not being able to properly launder clothes, skipping deodorant, infrequently changing a baby’s diaper, using dish soap as body soap and other circumstances that people may not usually think about.

Addressing hygiene poverty not only means sanitation provisions but also caring for impoverished communities’ well-being. While nonprofit organizations typically focus on broader needs, such as shelter, medical care and access to clean drinking water, general hygiene is also extremely important.

In the U.K., one-fifth of the population lives in poverty. Though this figure does not account for the homeless population, two-thirds of those living in poverty work in a conventional society that still struggles financially. Due to low incomes or other circumstances, a majority of people sacrifice basic hygienic needs for other necessities, such as heat, rent or food.

Advances Through Partnerships

By realizing this, founder Lizzy Hall aims to spark a conversation around hygiene poverty and its seemingly unknown prevalence. Through her initiative, she plans to instill a general acceptance of the unseen struggles many impoverished communities face.

In partnership with Boots, the largest pharmacy chain in the U.K., the Hygiene Bank has placed donation collection bins throughout the nation. This physical and visual reminder has shown to increase donations and overall awareness.

From March 2020 to June 2020, the Hygiene Bank also collaborated with beauty brand, Soap & Glory. This partnership entailed that, for every 50 products sold, Soap & Glory donated one full-size bottle of their shower gel to the organization. As a result, the company donated over 19,000 bottles.

Through this partnership, the Hygiene Bank was able to provide a necessary product to those in need and spread its message to a wider audience. This initiative proved especially useful in light of COVID-19’s impact on job security and the overall importance of sanitation practices during this time.

Going Forward

In understanding that feeling clean should not be a luxury or privilege but a fundamental human right, the Hygiene Bank continues to fight to end hygiene poverty and accomplish its mission.

To date, the organization has established 749 drop-off locations, donated 332,981 kg of new and in-date products and supported 1,172 nonprofits. Through their simple process of collecting donations, hiring volunteers and distributing the products to other organizations specializing in helping the impoverished, the Hygiene Bank has made significant contributions toward ending hygiene poverty in the U.K.

– Samantha Acevedo-Hernandez
Photo: Flickr

Period poverty in ChinaThe monthly cost of purchasing menstrual sanitary products is not a small amount for females worldwide. “Period Poverty” refers to the inability to afford access to pads, tampons, or liners to manage menstrual bleeding. A campaign in China, is working on addressing period poverty for its girls and women. However, it still remains a women’s rights issue globally.

The General Problem

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) reports that around 10% of young women around the world are now unable to afford period protection. FIGO also found that 12% of women have to improvise with devices that are potentially ineffective and unsafe. According to UNICEF, there are more than 500 million females that lack a proper place to change their sanitary protection during their period. Period poverty causes long-term impacts of health and hygiene for girls and women. Time management, the chance of receiving education and employment are also affected by period poverty. All of these factors influence a woman’s lifelong development and wellbeing.

Period Poverty in China

The situation of period poverty in China is not much different. Many women and young girls, especially in rural areas, cannot afford feminine hygiene products. Instead of sanitary pads, impoverished women have to use toilet paper or old cloth. Any available yet unsafe materials on hand — even bark for some women in extreme poverty — are substituted to get through the period. Unfortunately, the lack of basic menstrual knowledge and the common menstruation taboo in China only worsen the situation. It is difficult and embarrassing to practice optimal hygiene with dignity in China. As a result, many girls in rural China skip classes or even leave school once they start menstruating.

Campaign for a lower tampon tax

In recent years, the Chinese public is growing more aware of period poverty in China. They are calling for more affordable sanitary products. Additionally, the public advocates for more humanitarian public health policies that take women’s biological needs into accounts. As of 2020, the Chinese government regulates a 13% sales tax on feminine sanitary products. That is 4% higher than the 9% tax for essential daily necessities such as grain, water and contraceptives.

Many other countries, including India and Malaysia, have either exempted or reduced the tax on sanitary products. They have done so for the sake of gender equality. In response, a couple of online campaigns emerged in China in the past few years. The campaigns appeal for a lower tampon tax in the country.

The “Stand by Her” Project

Before the national public health policy can ameliorate, some philanthropists and social organizations have jumped to the cause. They have stood up first to help the low-income women in underdeveloped regions. So far, the “Stand by Her” is one of the most well-known and large-scale projects that deal with period poverty in China.

Liang Yu Stacey, a 24-year-old Chinese feminist activist, initiated the “Reassurance for Sisters Fighting the Virus” online campaign in early 2020. She aimed to raise money to provide feminine sanitary products for the health care workers fighting against COVID-19. The project then extended to a broader scale and evolved into “Stand by Her.”

“Stand by Her” is a voluntary foundation that coordinates donation, procurement and distribution of hygiene products to under-age girls in impoverished provinces. The foundation regularly sends sanitary pads to women around China. In addition, the project also hands out brochures and holds lectures in middle schools to popularize menstruation and sex education. In the first phase of 2020-2021, the team continues to plan to help more than 6,000 girls from 33 schools across China. Within 3 days of opening the donation portals, “Stand by Her” raised 368,700 RMB (54,500 USD).

The online conversations, campaigns and donations display some positive signals in the area of menstruation. Feminine hygiene is gradually breaking away from the conventional social taboo. Reducing tax on women’s menstrual products would be a win for women’s rights in China.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Access to Showers
Many people consider showering to be a basic human right – and the United Nations General Assembly certainly agrees. In 2010, the assembly classified The Human Right to Water and Sanitation as a human right. Yet not everyone has equal access to showers and sanitation; individuals who are part of marginalized groups, such as the homeless, often have limited access to showers. Ensuring that all individuals have access to forms of sanitation such as showering is essential to creating a more equal society.

The Importance of Showers

According to a 2017 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, access to sanitation methods such as showering is necessary for good health and hygiene. Individuals who do not have access to showers and thus shower only occasionally are at risk for diseases and infections such as ectoparasite infestations like lice. A study of homeless populations in Europe who took infrequent showers showed that they had a higher risk of developing these infestations, which included scabies, fleas and head lice. In Mexico, a homeless man named Fernando told El Universal that he had not “had a proper shower in 14 years,” saying that he and other homeless individuals near Puente Negro only had access to the unclean, pungent waters of the Tijuana canal in which to bathe themselves.

Though many homeless individuals adamantly seek out showers and other forms of maintaining hygiene, individuals who sleep outdoors or participate in substance use are at greater risk of being unable to regularly access showers and sanitation. In Boston, Massachusetts, homeless individuals who were able to shower regularly usually gained access to showers through a family member’s or friend’s home (20% reported this) or a day shelter (another 20% reported this). Yet those who do not have family or friends whom they can turn to or those who sleep on the streets may have a more difficult time gaining access to showers.

Mobile Showers: A Growing Industry

In June 2014, a nonprofit organization called Lava Mae emerged. Lava Mae founder Doniece Sandoval created mobile showers and toilets for the homeless population of San Francisco out of a retired bus, saying that if food could be delivered through mobile means, “why not showers…?” Since then, Lava Mae has built a “worldwide support network,” and 163 global communities have formed 190 mobile hygiene programs after receiving training and inspiration from Lava Mae.

By 2020, Lava Mae has provided 32,000 homeless people in California with 78,000 showers. Those who receive mobile showers receive shampoo, a towel, soap and socks – and they maintain privacy in a shower stall. Lava Mae has even created a hygiene toolkit that anyone can download if they wish to start their own mobile hygiene service in a community.

Iglesia Ancla (Anchor Church)

Other organizations are providing the homeless with mobile showers as well. In Tijuana, Mexico, a church called Iglesia Ancla (Anchor Church) started a mobile shower service in August 2018 to help homeless individuals have access to showers. Members of the church took an old cargo van and renovated it to contain three bathrooms with a shower, mirror, toilet and sink. This van travels to areas where homeless populations concentrate two times a week and provides them with shampoo, soap, a towel and a change of clothes.

Puente Negro Mexico News Daily reported that one homeless man in Puente Negro experienced shock at hearing that he would be able to take a shower through the church’s mobile shower program, saying that he might be able to “get a job” and that he almost fainted in the heat.

Orange Sky Laundry

Similarly, another organization, Orange Sky Laundry, is working in Australia and New Zealand to give mobile showers to the homeless. With a setup of 21 vans in Australia, the organization, founded in 2014 by Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, is currently managing 15-20 loads of washing and showers daily. About 116,000 Australians are homeless, and in Auckland, New Zealand, where the vans have set up, about 1,000 people sleep outside – a factor that, as mentioned previously, limits people from access to showers and increases the risk of infection.

Next, Orange Sky Laundry plans to expand its operation. Orange Sky Laundry plans to expand its organization to serve the homeless in the U.S., the U.K. and Greece. Marchesi and Pratchett, who have already powered through several hurdles – including broken laundry machines – to successfully deliver mobile showers, hope that their “homeless friends (can) transition back into being connected into the community again.”

Concluding Notes

These mobile shower organizations are imperative in helping the homeless, particularly those who live and sleep on the streets. Increased access to showers links to lower rates of infectious diseases – and helping the homeless around the world is necessary for achieving a greater form of equality. Many homeless individuals, including military veterans, use mobile laundry services such as Lava Mae to shower on a regular basis. Staying clean on the streets is not always possible or easy, as one veteran, Silas Borden, mentioned in Reader’s Digest. Therefore, these mobile laundry services can bring benefits to many communities around the world.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr

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