Period Poverty Challenges Period poverty challenges women worldwide because many women cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products. Whether in the United States, Ireland, Great Britain or South Africa, many women struggle with period poverty and need resources to properly manage their menstruation.

Period Poverty Challenges in Africa

According to ActionAid, one in 10 girls in Africa do not attend school because they lack access to menstrual products or private hygiene facilities at school. Moreover, 50% of schoolgirls in Kenya do not have access to menstrual products. In addition, community stigmas and taboos about menstruation lead to girls experiencing emotional and mental problems. Girls and women in these situations often feel the need to hide their periods because of the shame associated with menstruation. Understanding the anthropological impacts and possible solutions to period poverty reveals beneficial changes that could help women.

Anthropological Perspective

According to the anthropological perspective of menstruation, menstruation is the biological experience of young girls that notifies them of their body’s transition to womanhood. In a world with more than 300 million women menstruating per day, menstruation is still not openly discussed. In places where menstruation is considered taboo or dirty, women tend to have negative perceptions of themselves. This encourages secrecy and shame. Research suggests that menstruation as a topic of private discussion is universal. Women and girls are expected to deal with their menstruation in silence and invisibility.

Period Poverty Interventions

Sophia Bay, researcher of “Moving Toward a Holistic Menstrual Hygiene Management: An Anthropological Analysis of Menstruation and Practices in Western and Non-Western Societies,” proposes interventions that go beyond the issue of accessing menstrual products. Bay addresses the social stigma and shame as well. The first intervention recognizes the issue of access to menstrual products and the second addresses efforts to destigmatize the topic of menstruation.

When girls in lower-income areas have access to period products regularly, their risk of anxiety and fear is drastically reduced. Additionally, access to sanitation such as handwashing facilities and clean toilets is important to improve hygiene. Increasing privacy is also vital to sanitation as this will prevent young girls from improperly discarding used menstrual products. Lastly, puberty education needs to be prioritized. Many women do not know enough about menstruation. A lack of education about biological changes negatively impacts how girls see themselves and menstruation.

Qrate Workshops

Individuals and organizations are working to change the stigma surrounding periods and address period poverty challenges. Candice Chirwa, the founder of the organization Qrate, currently works with communities in parts of South Africa to educate people about menstruation. She is a passionate menstruation activist, speaker and scholar who uses artistic techniques to encourage conversation about periods and period poverty. Visual art, dancing and acting offer an opportunity for communities to discuss a usually challenging topic in a light-hearted way.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Chirwa explains that the girls play games to become more confident in themselves during the workshops. For example, one of these games requires the girls to pretend to explain different menstrual products to an alien. This helps them learn more about the products and become more comfortable talking about menstruation. Chirwa explains that the game also lets her know whether the girls are gaining the menstrual knowledge they need.

Ending Period Poverty

Facilitating workshops for young girls in South Africa has shown promise. Furthermore, understanding period poverty from an anthropological perspective offers explanations for the negative cultural stigma around periods. Using the work of researchers, making period products accessible, ensuring menstrual education and taking action to combat the stigma work hand-in-hand to alleviate period poverty.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Zimbabwe
Poverty stretches beyond lack of food and water, as period poverty is one of the biggest challenges Zimbabwean women face. With more than 3 million girls in Zimbabwe menstruating, there is high demand for feminine products. Those most likely to experience period poverty in Zimbabwe are underprivileged girls whose parents or guardians cannot afford to buy tampons, pads or menstrual cups. A lack of access to feminine products results in the unhygienic use of rags and cow dung. This not only affects the girls’ health but also strips them of confidence and dignity.

Many girls in Zimbabwe are at risk of developing infections and suffering the embarrassment of leakages and discomfort. Sanitary products are overpriced, so families have to choose between purchasing feminine products or buying food, with most settling on the latter. As a result, period poverty in Zimbabwe has risen to unimaginable heights and incited the government and many nonprofit organizations to work tirelessly to mitigate this problem.

7 Facts About Period Poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Clean period underwear for girls and women in Zimbabwe is in high demand. Many homeless and rural girls do not own a pair of underwear, and underwear is very expensive to buy. The price of underwear is very high, and many consider it a luxury to own a clean pair. Individual projects and nonprofit organizations, like Hope for a Child in Christ, try to meet some of these needs, but the demand remains high.
  2. Some girls and women experience menstrual cramps and also require pain relievers. However, many pharmacies sell their medication in foreign currency that is inaccessible to the majority of low-income families. Some girls resort to unhealthy solutions, such as sniffing glue, to intoxicate themselves and relieve the pain of period cramps. This causes many to end up addicted to these inhalants that result in long-term effects like nulling brain function and heart failure.
  3. Zimbabwe’s protracted economic crisis has severely damaged the country’s economic potential. Basic needs like food and water are scarce which significantly lowers the standard of living. Girls and women must eat healthily and wash, especially during their menstrual cycle. However, some have little to no access to clean water, most commonly in rural areas, so they risk getting yeast infections and other health issues.
  4. There is also a lack of female-friendly toilets. Privacy is an issue, with some toilet cubicles having no doors or sanitary bins, which results in the girls throwing their sanitary wear on the floor or flushing it down the toilet. This increases the risk of diseases developing in various communities and harms the environment. Local ministers have sought funding from the government and work with nonprofit organizations, like Dutch, to build more female-friendly public toilets at schools and shopping centers.
  5. A study by SNV Zimbabwe states that 72% of menstruating schoolgirls do not use sanitary pads because they cannot afford them. Sanitary wear production is low in Zimbabwe, so the women rely on the importation of the products. Many women activists have voiced their concerns in the hope to raise awareness and shift the government’s mind to provide young women and girls sanitary wear at a more affordable price or better yet, at no cost at all. In December 2018, the government removed the value-added tax, which lowered the price of sanitary wear.
  6. With period poverty comes a plethora of other problems, including period shaming and bullying. When young girls and women resort to the use of rags and other unsustainable solutions with little absorbency, leakages occur and stain the young girls’ clothing or school uniform. Girls are then embarrassed and fear being around certain family members and peers. This disadvantages their education and mental well-being. As a result, many talented young girls give up their dreams and settle for early child marriages.
  7. Education about menstrual hygiene and how to use different sanitary products is a requirement for girls. Volunteer teachers and nonprofit organizations, like Talia Women’s Network, make an effort to close the period poverty gap by providing workshops and demonstrations on how a girl should care for herself during her cycle.

A conducive environment is a requirement for young girls and women. An environment where period stigmatization is low to nonexistent gives girls a better chance to be confident and driven. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make reducing period poverty in Zimbabwe a priority.

Pamela Patsanza
Photo: Flickr

Inadequate Sanitation In IndonesiaCommunities throughout Indonesia are receiving help with sustainable and clean water access. Sanitation poses a significant threat to the health and safety of people in Indonesia. USAID reports that 2.4 billion people worldwide have inconsistent access to sanitation. The organization predicts that nearly 40% of the world does not use safe toilets. This can significantly increase the spread of infection and disease.

Proper sanitation is crucial in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, which are more severe to those living in poverty without access to adequate healthcare. The primary cause of child mortality in Indonesia is diarrhea. Typhoid is also a leading threat to the health of Indonesians. Both diarrhea and typhoid are amplified by inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene and limited water supply.

Water Contamination Spreads Disease

According to USAID, “In Indonesia, one in three people does not have access to a flush toilet, latrine or septic system.” Instead, many Indonesians defecate in the streets, which further compromises the health and safety of people living in those communities. Rivers, streams and runoff are often the only water source for residents of rural areas. Without proper resources for treatment, water can carry diseases that are harmful and even deadly to those who consume it.

Only about 7% of wastewater in Indonesia is treated. As a result, many communal water access areas have contaminated water. In impoverished areas, it is not sustainable for communities to continually purchase bottled water. In the capital city, Jakarta, pollution can be found in 96% of the water. There is also a widespread disconnect from infrastructure in residential areas, leaving hundreds of families without consistent access to sanitation.

With the new challenge of the pandemic, Indonesia is facing the highest fatality rate in Asia as a result of inadequate access to sanitation, which is necessary to fight the spread of the disease. When families are struggling to meet their basic needs for consumption and hygiene, regular hand washing and adequate sanitization practices are not a priority.

Educational and Financial Support

Organizations like UNICEF are supporting the government of Indonesia. They help provide more frequent and safe access to sanitation and drinking water. In emphasizing education and health literacy during primary school, UNICEF aims to get ahead of the problem. “Over the past 25 years, the rate of access to sanitation facilities has nearly doubled across the country, increasing from 35% in 1990 to 61% in 2015,” reported USAID. USAID has also greatly contributed to this cause. In 2015, the organization helped more than 2.2 million Indonesians improve their water supply and provided better sanitation to 250,000 people.

The IKEA Foundation is also fighting the issue by providing microfinance loans to Jakarta for the introduction of pipelines and water access to rural residential areas. Families living in low-income areas are spending a lot of money to purchase water. With the installation of pipelines and clean well systems, sanitary water is becoming more accessible and affordable to those who need it most.

Ally Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Health in Bangladesh
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG founded the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) in 1972. The nonprofit began as a localized program in northeastern Bangladesh to promote agricultural reform and educational training. BRAC now influences over 11 countries in both Asia and Africa. It hones in on projects that work to improve social lives, social enterprises, national investments and university opportunities. The organization’s main accomplishments pertain to improving health in Bangladesh. Desiring the collaboration activists, BRAC enhances the abilities of individuals to gain work experience, especially with an environment that supports their physical and mental health.

Healthcare Issues in Bangladesh

Out-of-pocket spending on healthcare in Bangladesh is around 64.3% of total health spending. Bangladesh spends approximately $1.49 billion annually on situations concerning one’s health. This is concerning as average income households spend 7.5% of their total earnings on healthcare, with the least financially stable citizens, comprising the poorest 20%, spending 13.5%. The need to spend a large amount of income on healthcare puts a strain on Bangladesh families, especially since a little over 20% of the population lives below the national poverty line. Around 10% are employed for under $1.90 a day.

Money is not the only factor affecting people in Bangladesh. Only 34.6% of the population has access to purified drinking water as the country has the largest amount of citizens infected by arsenic-filled water. This dangerous chemical still contaminates nearly 10% of the water supply. Furthermore, 28.3% of the population drinks water infiltrated with various diseases that further damage physical health. Of further concern is the fact that sanitation only improves by 1.1% annually, not growing fast enough to better the environment that many citizens live in. Over 40% of latrines are unimproved, with the sewage waste even running into waterways due to a lack of sanitation programs. This exemplifies the necessity to improve individual health in Bangladesh.

Health and Nutrition

High annual healthcare costs are driving 5 million Bangladesh civilians into poverty. As a result, BRAC has deployed many healthcare workers to directly work with citizens in Bangladesh. They ensure citizens have access to quality, affordable health services. Establishing Essential Health Care (EHC), the nonprofit works to improve the immune systems of individuals. The EHC assures that people are not as easily susceptible to various diseases in the environment or water supplies. In addition to providing healthcare services for mothers and children, it also works on basic treatments to counteract the negative effects of acute respiratory infections at an affordable price. This specific program partnered with government agencies in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and now offers healthcare opportunities to more than 120 million people in the 64 districts of Bangladesh.

With the sub-section of the Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction – Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP) program, BRAC designs special needs for the 8% of the Bangladesh population that suffers from extreme poverty. Moreover, it created its Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program to provide supplementary foods to both mothers and children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Not only does this program support those suffering from malnutrition, but it eases the pain that mothers have to go through when breastfeeding and lack of vitamin intake. This enabled the education of 2 million women regarding healthy diets and the benefits of breastfeeding.

The WASH Program

The WASH program works toward improving water, sanitation and hygiene in Bangladesh and to create more hygienic practices. It has started its journey in the country by focusing on education. Many do not learn about the necessity of cleanliness. Through BRAC, however, 5,700 secondary schools have now included hygiene discussions in their curriculums. The organization is also working to ensure that local research facilities provide affordable opportunities to test every district’s water supplies.

Additionally, the nonprofit partnered with Jamalpur municipality to operate a waste plant. This effort counteracts the intrusion of waste into clean waterways. Volunteers and BRAC workers work through the WASH program to ensure health in Bangladesh. They especially focus on Rohingya refugee camps and areas that experience the effect of floods. Every dollar that goes to the program results in $4 towards sanitation improvements in Bangladesh.

BRAC wants to increase the professionalism of frontline services and introduce a strong variety of for-profit products and programs. It continues affordable programs to improve Bangladesh citizens’ health and focuses on cleaning the water supply, like introducing hanging latrines and counteracting the malnutrition that mothers and children suffer from. The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee strives specifically to reform the healthcare system in this South Asian country through such actions. Its achievements include giving 2.52 million people access to safe drinking water with the aid of technological advancements. Through its various accomplishments, this nonprofit continues to achieve more every year even after nearly 50 years of service.

Sylvia Vivian Boguniecki
Photo: Flickr

Failed Humanitarian AidSeveral failed humanitarian efforts can be attributed to the fact that some programs developed with good intentions fail to take into account the local context in which they are implemented. Others are simply poorly executed. But, no matter the type of failure, failed humanitarian aid projects teach valuable lessons. If heeded, these lessons can ensure the success of future programs.

Unanswered Calls to a GBV Hotline in Kenya

Research shows that domestic violence affects 35% of women worldwide. Additionally, male partners are responsible for 38% of the murders of women.

Furthermore, gender-based violence across the globe perpetuates poverty. For example, violence and the fear of violence, affect the performance of girls and women in their educational pursuits as well as employment. It often results in girls dropping out of school and women leaving their jobs, thereby limiting their independence.

In 2015, NGOs like Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee implemented a toll-free hotline in Kenya. The hotline intended to make it easier to file reports of gender-based violence (GBV) and speed up criminal investigations and litigation.

Investigative reporting revealed that for parts of 2018, the gender violence hotline was out of order. When it was working, sometimes the experts manning the hotline were not escalating reports to the police. In addition, there were other staffing and technical issues. Also, several police officers were not aware that such a hotline existed.

Abandoned Cookstoves in India

Indoor air pollution is a leading risk factor for premature deaths globally. Global data reveals that death rates from indoor air pollution are highest in low-income countries.

In 2010, former U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves initiative. The U.N. backed the $400 million initiative with the intention of reducing indoor air pollution in India.

Most of the clean cookstoves built were abandoned four years later, despite initial success. There are several reasons for the abandonment. Research found that the clean cookstoves required people to pay closer attention while cooking and necessitated longer cooking times. The stoves would also break down and then went unrepaired. Households also found it restrictive that the stoves could not be moved outside.

Repurposed Public Restrooms in Kenya

One in three people worldwide do not have access to improved sanitation and 15% of the world resort to open defecation. Lack of proper sanitation increases the risk of infectious diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. It is important to acknowledge that unsafe sanitation accounts for 5% of deaths in low-income countries.

On World Toilet Day in 2014, the Ministry of Devolution launched a program to construct 180 public toilets in the Kibera slum. The arm of government involved in construction built the toilets and sewer lines that would connect to the main sewage line. Local youth groups managed the restrooms. Water shortages and sewer lines in disrepair quickly decommissioned multiple toilets. The youth groups did not have the resources to address these issues so they then decided to rent out the restroom spaces for other purposes.

Focusing on the Lessons

These failed humanitarian aid projects were well-intentioned and there are key lessons to learn from each case.

The failed hotline in Kenya demonstrates the importance of program monitoring and investment follow-through. Efforts to foster awareness had little impact and staffing and technical issues went unaddressed.

The unused cookstoves in India show the importance of understanding the day-to-day needs of the people the program intends to help. The desire to cook outside while avoiding extended cooking times swayed people away from using the stoves.

The restrooms in Kenya lacked sufficient monitoring once handed over to youth groups. The youth groups also did not have the necessary support or resources to address the challenges that quickly became insurmountable financial obstacles for the groups.

By taking these lessons forward to new projects, people can leverage the understanding of failed humanitarian aid projects of the past as a way to promote future success.

Amy Perkins
Photo: pixabay

Environmental Sustainability in Croatia
By way of investing in environmental sustainability in Croatia, hotels like Villa Dvor are serving Croatia’s poor beyond job creation. Some efforts include the creation of urban gardens as well as improved sanitation, among other factors of aid. As a result, hotels and NGOs are driving eco-friendly innovations that make for a healthier Croatia, from delivering affordable, healthy food to impoverished communities to preventing pollution within neighborhoods.

Urban Gardens for Hotels

As towns turn into tourist hotspots, hotels are moving toward increased environmental sustainability in Croatia. A nearly century-old castle-turned hotel in Omiš, Croatia, is now home to some of the newest advancements in environmental technology. Complete from water flow reducers to solar-powered thermal panels, the Villa Dvor has committed to an eco-friendly operation that is now benefitting the Adriatic coastline and beyond.

Upon its 2013 entrance to the European Union, the city of Zagreb, Croatia, announced a piece of legislation planning to reserve 2,000 land plots in 10 locations for urban gardening that encompasses several of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since then, the number of urban gardens in the city has steadily increased. The practice of urban gardens has become so successful a waitlist is needed specifically for these gardening-related plot allotments.

Facilitating sizable monthly savings on healthy food products makes urban gardens of particular benefit to the poor. Eight pounds of tomatoes at the supermarket cost about $20.48. However, when one sources them from a single home-grown tomato plant, that cost comes to just $4. According to Energy Cities, the European government network, disadvantaged groups are now some of the primary beneficiaries of the project and in turn, receive priority access.

Gardening and Nonprofit Organizations

In regards to education on seasonal and harvesting techniques, nonprofit organizations such as Udruga Oaza are here to help. The nonprofit educates children and youth on environmental sustainability in Croatia via school gardening programs. In 2017, it started the “Oasis for Kids” initiative. Mile Drača, head of Udruga Oaza, told The Borgen Project that while cooking workshops on veganism and vegetarianism have slowly, they surely incorporate healthier options into school lunches.

Irena Burba, the president of NGO Zelena Istra, emphasized urban gardening’s potential to assist the poor in her own district. “Our local community is also a tourist center and food prices are very high. Markets are becoming inaccessible to poor citizens. Even fish, an important source of protein, although we are at sea, is too expensive for many citizens because they are tourist prices,” explained Burba. “In times of crisis, communities need to find quick and efficient solutions, so urban gardens are certainly one of them.” With limited food availability due to the novel coronavirus, more citizens are vouching for the establishment of urban gardening areas.

Improved Sanitation

With urban gardens uniquely serving each community, they have the ability to promote environmental sustainability in Croatia via contribution to nationwide improvements in sanitation. Attracting some 21,000,000 tourists in 2019 alone, Croatia has experienced rapid development of its tourism industry and subsequent sanitation. Thus, industrial developments are also growing, such as hotel complexes which have increasingly aroused alarm as they continue to proliferate.

For instance, in the summer of 2019, protests regarding mayor Milan Bandić’s Urban Development Plan largely characterized Zagreb. It sought to double or triple the cost of waste collection. Additionally, Croatia’s easternmost region encountered issues surrounding illegal landfills, which nearly always tops the list of concerns, reported Burba.

Despite being the second most sought-after tourist destination, the Splitsko-dalmatinska counties remain home to the highest percentage of Croatia’s poor. When analyzing the effects of pollution in Croatia, the burgeoning tourist industry constantly hits low-income districts the hardest. This includes access to commercial fish. Overfishing and pollution have led to a substantial decrease in commercially important fish species like the Surmullet, further hurting the prospects of local fishermen who are a mainly self-employed group. They are two to three times more likely to experience “in-work poverty.”

Certifications for Eco-Friendly Hotels

Evaluating these statistics prepared another NGO, Sunce Dalmacija (“Sun Dalmatia”), for one of its most well-known projects yet: certifications for eco-friendly hotels. With the name “Dalmatia Green” diplomas, Sunce Dalmacija issues these certifications to incentivize hotel owners’ adoption of environmental sustainability in Croatia via techniques like energy-saving lights.

E.U. funds generally upheld eco-friendly practices. The Croatian Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection was able to chip away at its 2007-2015 Waste Management Plan, which saw the centralization of waste management in national facilities. Whether these practices undergo enforcement on the individual level is a different matter, Mile Drača reported. Although institutions like Hrvatske Vode have facilitated a stricter public oversight of environmental sustainability in Croatia, privatization of the coastline by large hotel chains remains a glaring concern to NGOs like Zelena Istra.

Moving Forward

Numerous challenges related to balancing tourism with environmental sustainability in Croatia exist. However, despite these obstacles, the E.U.’s newest member continues to make progress with its urban gardening and waste management initiatives. Moving forward, “broad, quality public debate,” together with transparency, has the power to develop quality solutions to this age-long struggle, said Burba.

She concluded that “Citizens are ready to unite and jointly respond to the problem in their local community through actions, petitions and protests. We, as an association, provide them with support and help with our knowledge and experience.”

– Petra Dujmic
Photo: Flickr

Water Solutions in Tanzania
Every country should have access to sanitary water. Clean water provides nourishment, prevents diseases, kills toxins and is essential for agriculture. About 2.5 billion people in the world do not have adequate access to water. Additionally, 80% of illnesses that arise in developing nations are due to a lack of clean water. Having proper water solutions for developing nations is essential in fighting global poverty. This article will examine water solutions in Tanzania specifically.

About the Water Situation in Tanzania

Five million people endure serious water shortages in sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, 4 million people do not have access to clean water. As a result, women and children spend a lot of time traveling to find water. Additionally, people traveling to Tanzania receive advisories to bring their own water. Tanzania and others have put substantial efforts into finding clean water solutions in Tanzania. However, there is still much to do.

WaterAid in Tanzania

WaterAid is an NGO that aims to aid countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Central America. Its goal is to provide water, sanitation and education to impoverished areas. WaterAid has been able to provide clean water to 17.5 million people. Furthermore, it has been able to improve sanitary conditions for 12.9 million people.

In Tanzania, this organization has successfully supplied 1.5 million people with water solutions and 97,000 people with better sanitation. Additionally, WaterAid focuses on delivery and advocacy. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of rallying support for policies that aid those living without sanitary water or sanitation services. This NGO’s goal is to provide water solutions for vulnerable communities in Tanzania by creating low-cost, sustainable projects.

Nonprofit Organizations that are Making a Difference

LifeWater is a nonprofit organization that strives to create water solutions and better sanitary conditions for struggling communities. The organization builds safe water sources and tests and maintains sanitation to keep impoverished nations safe. Furthermore, Lifewater has many goals for its 2021 water projects.

LifeWater identifies communities with a high need for clean water, sanitary conditions and better health. Then, staff who are familiar with the culture and language help instill sanitation regulations within these communities. These impoverished areas are able to obtain clean water and LifeWater is able to follow up with their progress.

Additionally, Water.org is another nonprofit organization that aims to bring clean water and sanitary conditions to everyone. It operates in countries within Asia and Latin America. This organization’s low-cost, accessible water solutions have positively impacted 31 million lives.

Water.org provides small, affordable loans to impoverished nations through its WaterCredit initiative. This initiative provides access to “affordable financing and resources for household toilet and water solutions.” This nonprofit continues to impact lower-income communities by providing water solutions in Tanzania.

Success Story in Tanzanian School

Water from wells in Bagamoyo became undrinkable due to seawater intrusion. As a result, students were unable to study because they spent most of their time fetching water. Students at Kingani school had to choose between drinking unsanitary water or having none at all.

With the United Nations Environment’s and its partners’ support in the rainwater harvesting project, living conditions improved. The project involves rooftop guttering and collecting large tanks that can store 147,000 liters of water. Thus, these tanks store rainwater for students to use for drinking, cooking and washing. Fortunately, this new project has generated a boost in attendance, health and motivation.

Organizations, projects and loans are beneficial in aiding impoverished communities. Providing water solutions improves nourishment and prevents illnesses. Furthermore, when women and children do not have to travel long distances to retrieve water, they are able to attend school, go to work and take care of their families.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Nigeria
Settled on the western coast of Africa is the country of Nigeria. Despite being Africa’s wealthiest country, Nigeria is home to nearly 83 million people living in poverty. With half the country’s population comprising of people under the age of 15, poverty in Nigeria disproportionately affects children. Extreme poverty has disturbed nearly every aspect of child development including education, nutrition, safety and hygiene. These five facts about child poverty in Nigeria offer insight into the struggles that plague children living in poverty and highlight the humanitarian efforts to come in 2021.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Nigeria

  1. The majority of children in Nigeria live in poverty. According to the Harmonized Nigeria Living Standard Survey (HNLSS) in 2010, 70.3% of Nigerian children lived in poverty while 23.2% lived in extreme poverty. Those living in poverty live under the national poverty line. In Nigeria, the poverty line sits at just $381.75 USD. Despite living on such a small income, people living in poverty often still have access to government facilities for shelter, food and hygiene needs. Children living in extreme poverty, on the other hand, are not able to satisfy basic human needs like food, shelter and safety.
  2.  Only 26.5% of the country uses improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities. Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene are extremely necessary elements to life, as they directly affect one’s health and safety. Nigeria’s small amount of sanitation facilities are predominantly located in urban areas, making them accessible to a limited amount of people. Most Nigerians live in rural areas and do not have access to these government facilities. Like most poverty-related issues, this disproportionately affects children and their health. Contaminated drinking water and unsanitary living conditions are the prime contributors to the 70,000 annual deaths of children under the age of 5 due to waterborne illnesses.
  3. Nigerian children have poor access to education. Despite a national mandate for compulsory education, 10.5 million children do not receive formal schooling. Many children do not attend school because they work to support their families. Meanwhile, other children do not go to school because armed conflict has severely affected or destroyed their schools. Poor funding, lack of teachers and long commutes are among other reasons so many children do not attend school in Nigeria. Out of the 10 million mentioned, 60% of those without access to education are girls. This, unfortunately, frequently subjects young girls to child marriage, poverty and gendered roles that limit their potential as citizens.
  4. Millions are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In 2020, UNICEF estimated that 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition, making 32% of children under 5 stunted or severely impaired. Currently, only about two out of every 10 malnourished children receive medical treatment.
  5. Only 16% of children in rural areas have full immunizations. Routine immunization continues to be a struggle for the children of Nigeria, specifically in inaccessible rural areas. Immunization efforts have decreased significantly over the years, and unfortunately, diseases that had previously undergone eradication have returned to the country.

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal

With the COVID-19 pandemic devastating developing countries like Nigeria, the child poverty rates are only increasing. In response to this worsening crisis, UNICEF has created a comprehensive plan of humanitarian efforts in Nigeria and a list of goals for 2021.

Malnutrition and Disease

Malnutrition continues to be one of the leading causes of death for children in Nigeria. Food insecurity plagues rural regions of the country where government facilities are not accessible. To combat this crisis, by the end of 2021, UNICEF plans to admit 386,926 children under the age of 5 to UNICEF health facilities for severe acute malnutrition treatment.

Due to the worsening disease rates, UNICEF will be working with the Nigerian government to implement routine immunization efforts. These efforts will focus on rural areas as these are the regions that have the lowest percentage of vaccinations and see the least amount of service aid from the government. UNICEF projects this plan will result in 385,196 children receiving vaccinations against measles.

Sanitation

Contaminated water and unsanitary living conditions have been major contributors to child deaths in Nigeria. In 2021, UNICEF will focus on improving sanitary conditions and access to clean water in rural areas. UNICEF plans to focus these efforts on gender and disability sensitivity. In 2021, an estimated 850,000 people will receive access to clean water and sanitation facilities that are gender-specific and disability-friendly. In more rural, inaccessible areas, an additional 1.9 million people will obtain education on hygiene practices and receive hygiene tools and/or money for hygiene tools.

Education

As for education, UNICEF’s 2021 action plan accounts for access to formal or non-formal schooling for 1,345,145 children. In addition, 1,000 schools will implement infection prevention protocols and almost 700,000 children will receive individual learning materials. Education is vital to the UNICEF plan as it is the greatest resource for long-term progress and gives children the greatest chance to leave poverty later in life.

This comprehensive plan has the potential to bring essential humanitarian aid to 4.3 million people, including over 2 million Nigerian children that until now, have seen little to no aid due to the region where they live.

– Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

Access to Water and Sanitation
The U.S. investments that have been working toward improving access to water and sanitation have been particularly focussed on building a more water-secure world during the coronavirus pandemic. So far, the pandemic has affected the lives of billions all over the world and the most vulnerable in particular, already struggling with health and sanitation challenges. According to the OECD, before COVID-19, the African continent had already faced a slowdown in growth and poverty reduction. The organization added that “the current crisis could erase years of development gains.”

The pandemic could impact people already struggling with hunger and poverty. Several international organizations estimated that the number of starving people could have increased to 132 billion by the end of 2020.

To support countries struggling with water and sanitation access during the global pandemic, USAID re-configurated the priorities the Water for World Act of 2014 listed.

How does the global pandemic challenge water security and, in turn, how does USAID respond to these challenges? Before tackling these two questions, this article will give a brief background on the Water for World Act of 2014 and discuss its reconfiguration in light of the recent events regarding sanitation.

The 2014 Water for World Act and WASH Programs

The Water for World Act of 2014 is a reform bill that emerged from the 2005 Water for the Poor Act which made water, sanitation and hygiene – conveniently called WASH – top priorities in the federal foreign aid plan. In an attempt to make data more transparent, optimize aid strategies and improve water support, Congress voted for the Water for World Act in 2014. However, in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the need for global access to water and sanitation.

To address this concern, USAID re-designated 18 high-priority countries according to criteria such as lack of access to water, inadequate sanitation conditions and opportunities to make progress in these areas. Some of the high-priority countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Kenya and South Sudan. In doing so, USAID intended to leverage WASH programs and enable vulnerable populations to have continual access to clean water during this critical period.

Current Challenges to Water Security

Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right and the current pandemic underscored the emergency to settle this right in the most vulnerable countries. Populations receive daily reminders to wash their hands and keep a healthy diet to prevent the propagation of the virus and save lives. However, the lack of clean, drinkable water is not only amplifying the already precarious living conditions of vulnerable populations, but it is also making it harder for these countries to stop virus transmission.

COVID-19 tends to affect vulnerable populations the most: poor communities, minorities and people living in crowded areas. According to UN-Habitat, it is clear that the pandemic affects the world’s most vulnerable populations the hardest because they lack sustainable access to water and sanitation.

For instance, India is the second-leading country in the world for most cases of COVID-19. It had almost 11 million cases on February 21, 2021. This number directly links to the country’s crowded rural areas and the lack of access to running water. At the end of 2020, more than 21% of the Indian population showed evidence of exposure to the virus. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees living in a refugee camp are crowded with a population density four to seven times more than New York City, putting them in high-risk situations.

How WASH Programs Help

WASH programs helped high-priority countries respond to the pandemic in 2020. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID and the World Bank financed WASH campaigns to improve the population’s handwashing behaviors.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, they collaborated with the local authorities to improve access to water and sanitation in health care facilities. In Haiti, WASH services included purchasing chlorine to clean water and installing water supply in markets, health centers, orphanages and prisons. According to the World Bank report, ensuring that these countries have safe access to water and sanitation is a necessary medium-term response to the pandemic.

US Investments and Improving Access to Water and Sanitation

U.S. investments aim to provide financial support for water service providers. For instance, in June 2020, USAID partnered with UNICEF in Mozambique to provide subsidies covering the cost of private water providers.

USAID also financed programs that relay information about handwashing. In April 2020, U.S. investments financed radio campaigns in Burkina Faso promoting a new handwashing system expanding access to hygiene in more areas. Data has shown that these programs made a difference in terms of transmission. In fact, transmission levels went down in both Mozambique and Burkina Faso from June to December 2020.

USAID also focused on health care facilities and on supporting health care workers in priority countries by training and protecting them. WASH programs trained more than 16,000 workers in diverse locations such as Senegal, India, Bangladesh, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. USAID support in Senegal was one of many successes: 447 officers and 549 health workers received training while the programs also resulted in the installation of 497 public handwashing stands in health facilities and high-risk places. They also distributed 2,423 handwashing kits to families with COVID-19.

Looking Ahead

Despite the crises of the past year, one can spot at least one positive outcome: global leaders have had to rethink access to water and sanitation. The pandemic increased global awareness about the importance of water and sanitation security, all over the world. U.S. investments to improve water and sanitation accessibility under the Water for World Act provide help during sanitary and water emergencies, even during these challenging times. The recent update about the high-priority status for designated countries is not the only positive news on the horizon. USAID administrator John Barsa has also signed the Sanitation and Water for all World Leaders call to action. His signature confirms what many have come to realize over the past year; international collaboration is key to fight the pandemic and secure better living conditions for all.

– Soizic Lecocq
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