Every day, 1,440 children under the age of five die from water-based diseases. In Ethiopia alone, 58 percent do not have access to clean water. These numbers are gradually increasing as the Horn of Africa faces water shortages and poor sanitation. Arturo Vittori and Andreas Vogler, both architects, recently devised a solution to alleviate Ethiopia’s sanitation and water crisis.

Six hours each day is the estimated duration of a woman and child’s journey to collect water. This process endangers children by exposing them to harsh climates and removing them from school. Every day a child goes to collect water is a day taken away from school, guaranteeing that the poverty cycle repeats.

Vittori and Vogler’s solution, named WarkaWater, is a bamboo structure that harvests potable water. This revolutionary device collects condensation droplets, which flow through micro-tunnels that lead to a basin at the bottom of the WarkaWater tower. An estimated 25 gallons of potable water can be gathered by the towers each day.

“WarkaWater is designed to provide clean water as well as ensure long-term environmental, financial and social sustainability,” Vittori said.

WarkaWater towers are not made using industrial materials. Vittori believes that locally produced materials will contribute to a better success rate of the WarkaWater towers. These 30-foot tall towers are constructed from local bamboo, rope, wire and fabric. “Once locals have the necessary know how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the WarkaWater towers.”

“Rather than giving money, we want to inspire people to create their own visions and make them reality,” Vogler said. “We believe the fastest way to do this is to build and test an idea fairly quickly and at a low cost.”

WarkaWater towers will eliminate the time Ethiopians spend on retrieving water. This time can be used to improve Ethiopia’s prosperity, ultimately eliminating poverty in this area.

– Natarsha Towner

Sources: Inhabitat, Smithsonian Magazine, UNICEF
Photo: Techno Crazed

Some would say that Swapnil Chaturvedi was living the American dream. A graduate from Northwestern University, he held a software engineering job and lived comfortably in America with his wife and daughter.

Then in 2007, he returned to his native India where he realized his true purpose in life was to help the country’s poor. On his trip he witnessed and questioned the enormous income disparity and the lifestyle discrepancies between the poor and the rich. He was appalled by India’s lack of basic sanitation.

Almost 626 million of the 1.2 billion individuals in India do not have access to a working toilet. Defecating in the open can create extremely unsanitary conditions, leading to diseases and malnutrition. Even when there are working toilets, women and girls choose to not use them because those communal restrooms often leave them exposed to harassment and attacks by men.

“What does GDP mean for a woman who has to spend over an hour to find a place to defecate?” asked Chaturvedi. “Who is responsible for providing the most basic services to the urban poor?”

The locals of Pune, India, call Chaturvedi the Poop Guy. In 2011, he founded Samagra Sanitation, a company based in Pune that provides sanitation services to the urban poor. The company increases ventilation, availability and overall cleanliness of the existing communal toilets and encourages locals to improve their hygiene routines. It currently services three slums in Pune and provides cleaner toilets to more than 3,300 individuals on a daily basis.

With a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Chaturvedi also developed a toilet that converts human waste into electricity and fertilizer. However, because of a lack in funding and incentives, the project will not  reach many people.

Wanting to reach more Indians, Chaturvedi turned to India’s cell phone usage for help by connecting two seemingly unrelated figures. While only 626 million out of 1.2 billion individuals in India have access to working toilets, 800 million Indians have cellphones. He created Poop Rewards, a startup that “creates an incentive program using cell phone talk minutes and other prizes to convince Indians that don’t have easy access to toilets to use designated public toilets in their area.” This system motivates individuals by adding rewards programs along with improved sanitation services.

Chaturvedi explains his motivation for creating better sanitary conditions in India; “There is only one reason: for a woman’s dignity. It goes back to me being a father of a girl child…when I look at my daughter and I think about her future, this is the kind of service I would like her to have.”

Chaturvedi’s efforts are changing sanitary habits among India’s poor. While there is still a long way to go, his ideas are facing the problems caused by extreme poverty and a lack of access to sanitation services head on. Although India’s economy is growing rapidly, millions of its citizens are stuck in poverty. Chaturvedi recognized that although he alone could not change that fact, he could contribute his services and his determination to alleviate the effects of poverty on India’s urban poor.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: Huffington Post, Gigom, The Kids Should See This, Mental Floss
Photo: Business Outlook India

tooth brushing
UNICEF signs Tendulkar as Goodwill Ambassador: “Thanks for allowing me to start this wonderful second innings of my life. I’m looking forward to being an ambassador for UNICEF and serve to the best of my ability. This is an innings that is really important to me, so I will try my best,” – Tendulkar.

Recently, the well-known Cricket star Sachin Tendulkar (AKA Master Blaster) and UNICEF joined forces. Tendulkar is now the UNICEF Ambassador for South Asia and will focus primarily on hygiene and sanitation needs.

“I humbly accept the responsibility for being Ambassador for UNICEF in South Asia. I look forward to working with children and communities in the region, urging them to use toilets and wash their hands. Following simple practices can contribute to a hygienic lifestyle which is important for the good health of children and women across the world,” stated Tendulkar during a signing ceremony in November.

UNICEF hopes that Tendulkar will be able to raise an incredible amount of awareness for these issues through his successful career as a Cricket star. Tendulkar is newly retired from India’s team but not before he was able to become the first cricket player to ever bat a double hundred in a one a day international.

With his far reaching reputation as being the greatest cricketer pushing South Asians toward better sanitation practices should have a large impact. South Asia is number two when it comes to the highest number of underage five deaths. It is also an area where the largest amounts of people do not have access to toilets.

There is definitely a connection between these issues and child mortality rates.  Besides Tendulkar’s newest partnership with UNICEF, in past years he has made many contributions to the well-being of others. Tendulkar has definitely offered his share of good deeds throughout his career, although the deeds have been kept mostly out of the public eye until now. Starting next year Tendulkar will begin his journey with UNICEF by visiting several countries to spread the word about Sanitation.

Amy Robinson

Sources: UNICEF
Photo: Giphy.com

A new World Health Organization report “A universal truth: No health without a workforce” recently revealed that the world is currently short of 7.2 million global health workers. By 2035, the number could nearly double to 12.9 million.

This could have a devastating effect on countries in development where medical education and training are not readily available. For example, the report cites that in the 47 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, only 168 medical schools exist. 11 of those countries have no medical schools and 24 countries have no more than one medical school.

The recent shortage in the global health workforce is attributed to an aging, retiring generation of health workers with the younger generation disinterested in the field, dropping out of the study or not receiving proper training.

The WHO provided strategies to ameliorate the shortage from growing:

1. Increased political and technical leadership in countries to support long-term human resource development efforts.

2. Collection of reliable data and strengthening human resource for health databases.

3. Maximizing the role of mid-level and community health workers to make frontline health services more accessible and acceptable.

4. Retention of health workers in countries where the deficits are most acute and improving the balance of the distribution of health workers geographically.

5. Providing mechanisms for the voice, rights and responsibilities of health workers in the development and implementation of policies and strategies towards universal health coverage.

The demand for global health workers eclipses the current numbers and interest that exists now. Doctors are not the only personnel needed; there is a dire need for health technicians and nurses. A career in global health is the perfect combination of the health sciences, the passion for humanitarianism, a concern for social inequality and a genuine interest and respect for hundreds of cultures around the world. United States universities would do well to market and promote the global health major and programs alongside pre-medical and other pre-health tracks.

Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: WHO, BMJ
Photo: Kateholt

The loo, can, John, privy, water closet or bathroom – no matter what it is called, the toilet is a universally valued sanitation need.  That said, this year marked the first official celebration of World Toilet Day. While the day has been informally recognized by sanitation advocacy groups for 13 years, the United Nations officially declared November 19 World Toilet Day this year.

“To have it inscribed as a U.N. official day,” says World Toilet Organization founder Jack Sim, “means we now have the … legitimacy to engage at country and local levels to generate awareness down to where it matters most. We’ve finally broken the taboo on sanitation.”

Lack of proper sanitation poses a threat to many developing nations around the world. In fact, more than 2.5 billion people lack proper sanitation, states Devex, and are at an increased risk for waterborne illnesses. Five years ago in Harare, Zimbabwe, more than 400,000 were killed and 100,000 sickened by cholera, states the Huffington Post.

The densely populated city still faces health and sanitation risks today.  A new report titled “Troubled Water: Burst Pipes, Contaminated Wells, and Open Defecation in Zimbabwe’s Capital” captures the dangerous living conditions of many of the nation’s citizens.  The lack of proper filtration, sanitation and clean water violate fundamental human rights, the report claims.

Zimbabwe has not always lacked proper sanitation systems, however.  Until the 1980s the country had a functioning sewage system, but governmental neglect and corruption has allowed the system to deteriorate and cause public hazards.

“The government’s inability to maintain the water system and its practice of disconnecting those unable to pay,” Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Tiseke Kasambala says,” forces people to drink water from contaminated taps or from unprotected wells.” Sewage lines the streets of many communities where inhabitants also lack clean water for bathing and drinking.

The situation is not much better in Haiti and according to Devex, only one-third of the Caribbean nation has access to toilets. More than 680,00 people have contracted cholera, with nearly 8,400 dying from the disease in the last three years. Researchers, however, are using defecation as an opportunity to develop sustainable energy practices.

Professors from the University of Maryland and Biobolsa of Mexico have designed a technology that utilizes anaerobic digesters to break down organic matter and transform it into methane.  The methane biogas can then be used to generate electricity and heat homes.

The researchers and technicians have high hopes for the project. “We hope this project can be used to bring together these WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] communities through the sharing of our rigorous evaluation data, survey results and workshop materials,” University of Maryland’s Stephanie Lansing said, “so the sanitation model implemented here in Haiti can be replicated throughout the development community.”

Though improper sanitation and hygiene practices threaten many developing nations, work is underway to flush these public health hazards down the drain and transform them into sustainable development opportunities.

– Mallory Thayer

Sources: Devex: Learning to love the loo, The Huffington Post, Devex: Haiti
Photo: New Times

The first official UN World Toilet Day was on November 19. This day is meant to raise awareness of the billions of people who lack access to sanitation and toilets.

Why so much importance on sanitation?

Currently, more than 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to toilets. This breaks down to one in every three people in the world. Additionally, one billion people practice open defecation- going outside without using a toilet. This lack of resources and education results in harm to infants and stunts the growth of young bodies and minds.

In India for instance, where open defecation is widely practiced, children are significantly shorter than children in Africa, who are much poorer.

According to the World Bank, open defecation practices threaten the human capital of developing countries. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Therefore, a sanitation program in India was introduced. The results of the program demonstrate sanitation services support cognitive functioning in children. Specifically, six-year-olds who had been exposed to the program during their first year of life were more likely to recognize letters and simple numbers on learning tests than those who were not.

Lack to access of sanitation and toilets also results in diarrheal diseases, which are currently the second most common cause of death in young children in developing countries.

Preventable diarrheal diseases kill more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Furthermore, lack of sanitation and toilets also threatens the welfare of women and girls. Without access to private and safe toilets, girls stay home during menstruation, causing them to fall behind in school and at times drop out altogether.  Additionally, women are most vulnerable to being sexually assaulted when they go to the restroom. Without access to a nearby private toilet, women’s vulnerability is only increased when they go outdoors or in a public space, often late at night and away from people.

Due to the unglamorous nature of the subject matter, toilets tend to take the back seat when it comes to awareness and fundraising. “We must break the taboos and make sanitation for all a global development priority,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.

World Toilet Day aims to change both behavior and policy on issues ranging from enhancing water management to ending open-air defecation.

Caressa Kruth
Sources: Trust, CNN, UN
Photo English Forum

Water is Life founder Ken Surritte was on a well-drilling trip to Africa in 2007 when he realized the limitations of using this method of providing clean water alone. After building a well for an orphanage outside of Kisumu, Kenya, Surritte was surprised to find that kids were still getting sick. The culprit was a “drinking fountain” at the local school which was actually a stagnant pond. Surritte wondered what he could give kids to take to school with them, and the idea for a portable filtration straw was born.

884 million people around the world do not have access to clean water, resulting in 6,500 deaths from waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, dysentery, E-coli, guinea worms, and diarrhea every day.  Children under five are at the greatest risk. In fact, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among this age group in the world, and a child dies every 21 seconds from this preventable disease.

Water is Life is a nonprofit that works to distribute its WiL filtration straws to communities in need across the world. The straws, which are made of a hard plastic and measure ten inches long and one inch in diameter, come on a lanyard for easy transport. The straws use a combination of membrane filters, iodine crystals, and charcoal filters to purify water, filtering out harmful waterborne illnesses and particles as small as 15 microns. The WiL straws work just like an ordinary straw: users place the straw in a water source and suck, drawing water through the filtration components until clean water reaches the mouth. They can clean a minimum of 800 liters of water, and on average, a straw will last one person a year. The straws clog internally when no longer effective. These life saving devices cost only ten dollars each.

The WiL straw is just the first part of a comprehensive plan to provide sustainable clean-water solutions to communities around the world, and is meant to provide immediate relief to communities while longer-term solutions are sought. After straws are distributed by Water is Life teams on the ground, the teams get to work evaluating and developing a plan to provide a sustainable, pure water source within one year, using technologies like wells and point-of-use filters. Teams also provide hygiene and sanitation education in community centers and village schools. This unique “crawl, walk, run” approach allows for immediate intervention and long-term prevention of waterborne illnesses, saving lives now and in the future.

Water is Life has been hugely successful in the four short years since it began distribution of straws and implementation of its sanitation programs. The non-profit has worked in North and South America, Asia, and the Middle East, distributing over 60,000 straws in 32 countries, and has plans to grow the program.

For those looking to get involved, Water is Life provides many volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, ranging from speaking at schools to get students involved with campaigns, to repackaging filters at the organization’s Oklahoma office, to traveling to help distribute WiL straws and other life-saving materials on the ground. Have the money, but not the time? Just ten dollars provides someone in need with immediate and long-term access to clean drinking water. Check out waterislife.com for more ways to help.

– Sarah Morrison
Sources: Water is Life, Oklahoma City News
Photo: Seasons for Life

The holidays are all about giving. Well, H&M, the young adult-geared clothing line plans to do just that.

According to H&M’s holiday mission statement:

“Water is a key resource for H&M and essential throughout our value chain. In our work and partnership with WaterAid, the focal point is to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH) in countries where H&M operates. WaterAid is an international non-governmental organization focused on improving access to these basic human rights in developing countries”.

H&M’s support for WaterAid has been constant since 2002, and has helped over 180,000 of the poorest people in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan gain long-term access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities.

H&M customers can now help contribute to efforts for clean water. H&M plans to contribute to efforts to fund clean water projects through H&M’s specially designed gift cards. According to H&M executives, each gift card purchase helps fund WaterAid’s work in clean water projects.

For every 10 euros added to a gift card, the HM Conscious Foundation “will through WaterAid make a donation to help poor communities in Bangladesh gain long-term access to life’s most basic needs: clean water, sanitation and good hygiene”.

This year’s clean water campaign will mainly help Bangladesh. According to H&M executives Bangladesh is facing a water crisis. They have also explained that the crisis is not caused by a lack of water. Instead, “climate change and groundwater quality are posing greater challenges to Bangladesh’s access to safe water”. In addition, the objectives include:

Specific objectives include:

·        Delivering sanitation services which transforms low income, commuter and floating population.

·        Building public awareness across Dhaka of hygienic behavior, and the right to access public water and sanitation.

·        Advocating greater accountability from the authorities to ensure Dhaka’s population has access to suitable public water and sanitation services.

H&M executives are hopeful for this year’s turnout. If you or a loved one are seeking a perfect holiday gift, visit H&M and take part in the clean water initiative H&M supports.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: 3 BL Media
Photo: Become Gorgeous

Action Against Hunger Foundation
Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi (Indian People’s Party) made headlines last month with a controversial statement: “Toilets first, temples later.”  A concern addressing the fact that almost 50 percent of households in India have no toilet facilities and defecate in the open.  Opposition to Modi’s statement ensued, however, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party calling it “an insult to Hindu society.”

Regardless of the reasons behind Modi’s statement or whether it was in poor taste or not, it brings to light the important issue of hygiene and access to sanitation in the developing world.  After all, India is not the only nation facing this problem.

A staggering statistic indicates that among the world’s seven billion people, six billion own mobile phones.  When it comes to sanitation, however, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population lacks access to a toilet, denying 2.6 billion people a basic human right.  Open defecation is still practiced by 1.1 billion people, with 80 percent coming from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.  Diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation have killed more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.  The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate that 1 million children susceptible to diarrheal diseases could be saved with improved sanitation.

In 2001, a non-profit organization known as the World Toilet Organization was set up to eliminate “the toilet taboo” and deliver sustainable sanitation to those in need.  The organization declared November 19 as World Toilet Day “to raise global awareness of the struggle 2.6 billion face every day without access to proper, clean sanitation,” and bring to light “the health, emotional and psychological consequences the poor endure as a result of inadequate sanitation.”

There is also an advocacy campaign called the Sanitation Drive to 2015, which was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly and the World Bank’s Sanitation and Water for All initiative.  The campaign works to meet the Millennium Development Goal sanitation target by engaging community leaders and institutions, with support from governments and international organizations, to take action on the issue of proper sanitation.  They are calling on communities to keep sanitation at the forefront of development discussions, increase awareness about the importance of sustainable sanitation, and promote informed decision-making about funding for such programs.

On its website, the Sanitation Drive lists five key reasons why access to proper sanitation is critical for all:  “(1) sanitation is a human right; (2) sanitation is vital for good health; (3) sanitation brings dignity, equality and safety; (4) sanitation is a good economic investment; and (5) sanitation sustains clean environments.”

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: AlJazeera, Arunachal Times, Sanitation Drive to 2015, World Toilet Day, Indian Express

Tayler Demontigny is not your average 6-year-old. Instead of sitting at home playing with toys or hanging out with friends, Tayler spends his time fundraising for clean water in Africa. According to thewaterproject.org, Tayler’s master plan for clean water in African countries happened over a bowl of cereal. One morning, Tayler asked his parents to save watermelon seeds so he could plant them in his garden.

However, his mom told him that he needed to live somewhere hot to plant the watermelon seeds. With quick wit, Tayler asked his parents to send all the watermelon seeds to Africa so that people in African villages could have watermelons. However, Tayler’s mom responded by telling him that Africa lacks clean water, therefore people there won’t be able to plant watermelons. The little boy then decided to come up with a plan to help African nations gain access to clean water.

His initial plan was to ship bottles and jugs of clean water to nations and areas that needed it the most. However, he then came up with a better idea to raise awareness. He proposed that everyone in his family walk around with clean water jugs on their heads in order to teach people about their project and gain more support. “It will teach people how hard it is!” Taylor said. With help from his parents, Tayler set up a website through The Water Project. He has also started a door-to-door campaign. Tayler hopes that the door-to-door campaign will help him raise enough money to build a well in Africa.

Thanks to Tayler’s efforts, 50 students and staff at Lasalle Secondary School now support the cause. The secondary students helped collect funds for the Walk for Water project. The students marched alongside Tayler, carrying large water jugs of water down Lasalle Boulevard and Barrydowne Road on October 18.

Because of his quick thinking, this not-so-average 6-year-old is now spearheading a fundraiser under the Clean Water Project. Tayler’s clean water profile summarizes his goals. According to it, Tayler hopes to “help raise funds to provide clean, safe drinking water to people who suffer needlessly without it in the developing world”. He has now raised over $7,000 for the cause.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Northern Life, The Water Project