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

 

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

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

Promises and Progress

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

The Facts

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

The Good News

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

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

Education and Employment

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

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

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

–  Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

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

9 Facts about Cholera in Burundi

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

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

Kaylee Seddio, PhD
Photo: Iwacu