Worst Humanitarian Crises
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) ranks the world’s top 20 countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises annually in order to identify and aid the countries that need it most. For the 2020 Watchlist, the top five countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises are Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela. All five were also in the top 10 countries in 2018’s watchlist.

Top 5 Countries Experiencing the Worst Humanitarian Crises

  1. Yemen: For the second year in a row, Yemen is at the top of the list as the worst humanitarian crisis. Most of Yemen’s troubles are due to the civil war that began in 2015. With failed peace talks and a shaky government, the Houthi insurgents, who began the civil war over high fuel prices and a corrupt government, and the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf forces continue to fight. The ongoing conflict has greatly destabilized the country, its infrastructure and its ability to provide services to its people. Around 80% of Yemen’s population (more than 24 million people) need humanitarian assistance. Attacks on infrastructure have further weakened the ability to provide healthcare, education, food, fuel, clean water and sanitation. More than 1.2 million Yemenis face severe food insecurity and around 68% of Yemenis do not have access to healthcare. In 2019, cholera began to spread through Yemen, placing even more pressure on the extremely limited and unprepared healthcare system. The outbreak eventually killed more than 3,700 people.
  2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: The DRC has been in a state of crisis for nearly 30 years. It began with conflict and corruption fueling under-development and instability in the country. This lead to 17% of the population needing humanitarian aid. Fighting between the military and different ethnic militias is common. Most recently the fighting has been in the East and Central DRC. These internal conflicts have displaced 4.5 million Congolese. These people had to flee their homes and agricultural livelihoods, which also drives up food insecurity. Around 15.6 million Congolese are experiencing severe food insecurity. In 2019, the DRC had both the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history and a measles outbreak. Measles alone has killed more than 4,000 people.
  3. Syria: The home to the largest displacement crisis in the world, Syria has been at war since 2015. As a result, 65% of the Syrian population requires aid. The complex civil war has dilapidated the infrastructure, leaving 54% of health facilities and 50% of sewage systems are non-functional. The conflict has displaced more than 12.7 million Syrians. More than 6 million people are internally displaced and around 5.7 million Syrians are refugees in Europe or neighboring countries.
  4. Nigeria: Nigeria faces internal conflicts in the north, a cholera outbreak and high levels of food insecurity. Around 7.7 million Nigerians need aid, mainly from the northern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. There is a significant difference between the developed areas, like the cities of Lagos and Abuja, and the less developed areas in the north. The north has experienced conflict with Boko Haram, a terrorist group, and its splinter faction, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). Operating in Nigeria’s North-East region since 2009, Boko Haram and ISWAP present a dangerous threat to Nigeria’s military. As a result, local militias and vigilantes responded against these groups. Due to the conflicts between the terrorist groups and the militias, 540,000 Nigerians are internally displaced and 41,000 people traveled north into Niger. On top of the ongoing fighting, endemic diseases, such as cholera and Lassa fever, are spreading throughout the country.
  5. Venezuela: Due to the near-collapse of Venezuela’s economy and the continued political turmoil, basic systems that provide food, clean water and medicine are in short supply. Hyperinflation drove up the prices of basic goods and services, leaving households without enough money to purchase food. At least 80% of Venezuelans are experiencing food insecurity. Additionally, only 18% of people have consistent access to clean water. Without healthcare, people are unguarded against disease. With 94% of households in poverty, Venezuelans are compelled to leave the country. By the end of 2020, the IRC estimates that 5.5 million Venezuelans will emigrate. This will cause the largest internal displacement in Latin America and the second-largest refugee crisis in the world behind Syria.

Help on the Ground

There are many NGOs working to alleviate the situation in these countries. Organizations like the Red Cross, IRC and Doctors Without Borders among many others, have been working for years in conflict-heavy countries. For example, Doctors Without Borders set up mobile health clinics to provide maternal health, vaccinations and treat non-communicable diseases in Syria. The International Committee of the Red Cross increased its budget to $24.6 million in 2019 to ramp up efforts to improve “health, water and sanitation” in Venezuela. The International Rescue Committee brought health, safety and education to 2.7 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo 2019. It provided healthcare, supplies and sanitation aid to the area.

David Miliband, the president and CEO of IRC, stated, “It’s vital that we do not abandon these countries when they need us most, and that governments around the world step up funding to these anticipated crises before more lives are lost — and the bill for humanitarian catastrophe rises.” These five worst humanitarian crises in 2020 show the world that there is much work still needed. With continued aid and funding from all governments, the U.N. and its agencies and NGOs, millions of people can receive the help that they so desperately need.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

WASH in Serbia
Water pollution in Serbia is primarily caused by the inadequate discharge of wastewater. Unequal practices of waste removal disproportionately impact rural and Roma communities, as these groups tend to rely on wells and local waterways that are often exposed to industrial contamination. In fact, 22% of the Roma population does not have access to improved water sources, making them especially susceptible to waterborne diseases. Although there is still much work needed to ensure that everyone in Serbia has access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), the situation is far from stagnant. Here are nine facts about how WASH in Serbia is improving.

9 Facts About WASH in Serbia

  1. The OM Christian church started a non-governmental organization in 2014 to assist vulnerable populations in Serbia and other Mediterranean countries. As part of its religious beliefs, the church has enacted a variety of humanitarian work, including establishing adequate sanitation facilities.
  2. The Serbian government has implemented a national program dedicated to the improvement of WASH. Furthermore, the Republic of Serbia now recognizes WASH as a fundamental human right. Through their national program, the government implemented a variety of initiatives promoting hygiene in schools and health facilities. The government has also implemented long-term initiatives dedicated to the sustainability of water supplies.
  3. The United Nations Developmental Agency (UNDP) implemented the Protocol on Water and Health in 2013, which is currently active in 170 countries, including Serbia. Through this program, the organization aims to establish a variety of sustainable development goals in Serbia by 2030. Specifically, goal 6 of the program aims to provide clean water and improved sanitation facilities for all Serbians.
  4. In 2019, the European Investment Bank (EIB) gave a 35 million Euro loan to the Serbian city of Belgrade to fund improved sanitation and a wastewater treatment plant. The EIB has been supporting Serbia by loaning money for WASH development projects since 2000. This latest donation is expected to improve the living conditions of more than 170,000 people in the region.
  5. The KFW Development Bank is working to assist Serbia in funding a variety of infrastructural projects. Through their Financial Corporation, the bank is providing improved WASH facilities for 20 Serbian towns, which sustain a collective population of more than 1.3 million people. In early 2020, Belgrade constructed a water treatment plant through the KFW Development Bank’s funding.
  6. The European Union’s Water Framework Directive is working to improve water quality and ensure the proportionate distribution of water from the Tisza River, a major tributary of the Danube and one of the primary water sources for Serbia and four other European countries. The organization aims to carry out this project through a three-step initiative. These steps include traditional water resources planning, structured participation and collaborative computer modeling.
  7. USAID has been present in Serbia since 2001. In 2014, the organization donated $20 million to create a new reservoir in Preševo, which helped provide water to residents of this region.
  8. Serbia has been a member of the Open Government Partnership since 2012. The country has committed itself to be more transparent about its environmental information and budget allocations, which will promote accountability for the government to improve its water and sanitation facilities.
  9. Ecumenical Humanitarian, a Christian organization, has been assisting the Roma people, Serbia’s most vulnerable population, since 2007. The NGO has been working to build sustainable housing and sanitation units for this marginalized group.

Although there is still much progress to be made, the initiatives and improvements implemented over the past years demonstrate that there is hope for improved WASH in Serbia. Moving forward, these organizations must continue to make water and sanitation in the nation a priority.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in East TimorEast Timor is a Southeast Asian country that is located on the eastern half of the island of Timor. Detrimental health and sanitation in the country, alongside the household effects of unsanitary water management, have notably impacted East Timor’s agricultural-based economy. Sanitation in East Timor has thus become vital to national rehabilitation projects.

East Timor has a long history of colonial and other foreign occupation; however, the nation has been independent since 2002. From the point of liberation in 2002 until 2008, the country experienced violent policing and political upheaval. This came as a result of unrest regarding national security. Instability led to the involvement of an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). These peacekeeping forces remained active in East Timor until 2008 when rebels within the country lost power. Since 2008, the country has experienced steadiness in national security, presidential guidance and rebuilding of important infrastructure like sanitation.

10 Facts About Sanitation in East Timor

  1. The stabilization of governance within East Timor has enabled rectification of sanitation infrastructure. After East Timor gained independence in 2002, economic destabilization had a lasting impact on the country’s ability to invest in renovating sanitation infrastructure. Oil revenue in the country, along with agricultural revenue, has struggled to increase over the past 15 years. In addition to governmental stabilization, aid from multiple international programs supports sanitation development in East Timor.
  2. East Timor’s governmental efforts to address water sanitation have stabilized urban access to clean drinking water. Of the 1.18 million people living in East Timor, 30% of the population lives in urban centers. The 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation in East Timor was set at 75% improved access to water sources and 55% improved sanitation. In terms of the urban population, just 9% live without access to improved water sources; 27% live without access to improved sanitation. As of 2015, sanitation in East Timor’s urban areas had reached MDG targets.
  3. Sanitation in East Timor’s rural regions is a work in progress. While urban water sanitation initiatives to reach MDG targets have successfully brought clean drinking water and waste management to urban cities, the remaining 70% of the population of the country is often without reliable access. Data shows that 40% of the rural population remains without access to clean water sources and 70% without improved sanitation. Because MDG goals were not met in rural East Timor, governmental plans for extending access to sanitary water into rural parts of the country have been implemented with the goal of completion by 2030.
  4. Reconfiguration of irrigation infrastructure is key to increased crop output from rural workers. Stabilization of irrigation consists of routing water from the river weirs to crop fields. In addition, it also includes the management of crop flooding as a result of natural disasters within the country. The importance of an updated irrigation system is central to the stabilization of the agro-based rural economy of East Timor.
  5. Rural agricultural workers have experienced personal benefits from the restoration of sanitation infrastructure. Because 70% of the population lives in rural regions of East Timor, agricultural-based livelihoods dominate the workforce. Nearly 42% of rural farmers live in poverty and rely on independent subsistence practices for food. Not only does crop output better the independent livelihood of agricultural workers, but it also provides a source of sustainable local subsistence.
  6. While education represents 10% of the overall GDP expenditure in East Timor, many schools continue to lack access to sanitary water. According to UNICEF, 60% of primary schools and middle schools have access to improved water sources, though 30% do not have access to functioning waste facilities. UNICEF is implementing a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program in order to create sustainable community habits of maintaining waste facilities. This initiative is expected to increase community sanitary habits, health and enrollment rates throughout the country.
  7. Bringing a sanitary water supply to health outposts in rural East Timor has been a focus of the country’s health administrators. Around 50% of rural health centers are without access to clean water. In response, the WASH program from UNICEF is working locally to improve sanitation in health centers. WaterAid is working with local health facilities to improve maternal health outcomes by providing resources for sanitary reproduction.
  8. The Ministry of Health in East Timor has set a goal to entirely alleviate the issue of open defecation across the country by the end of 2020. UNICEF statistics show that around 170 communities, along with a 21,000-household municipality, have been open-defecation free with the organization’s support.
  9. Diarrhea-related deaths have decreased as a result of improved water sanitation in East Timor. Data shows that diarrhea-related deaths decreased by 30.7% between 2007 and 2017. With UNICEF’s WASH program, the incidence of chronic diarrhea will decrease as poor water sanitation is resolved. UNICEF is focused on alleviating poor quality drinking water in five rural municipalities in particular.
  10. Childhood malnutrition rates related to water sanitation in East Timor decreased by 1%. World Bank data from 2013 claims that just over 50% of children in East Timor were stunted in growth as a result of malnutrition; in 2014, reports showed that 49.2% of children had signs of stunted growth. In a single year, steady improvement to water sanitation within the country decreased rates of childhood malnutrition.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Guam
Guam is a U.S. island territory in the Western Pacific with a population of slightly less than 170,000 people. There are multiple U.S. military bases on the island, which many consider critically important bases for U.S. strategic interests in the Pacific. The bases also provide the island with its principal source of income. Aside from being one of the military’s crown jewels, Guam has a rich indigenous (Chamorro) culture and beautiful coral reefs surround it. While not as beautiful but still impressive, Guam has a relatively robust system of sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Guam.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Guam

  1. Widespread Access to Safe Drinking Water: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 100% of people in Guam have access to a safe source of drinkable tap water. However, international travelers have only scored Guam’s drinking water as “moderate” in the categories of quality, pollution and accessibility.
  2. The EPA Funding Water Projects: In 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committing more than $10 million to improve Guam’s drinking water. This money is going toward upgrading infrastructure, treatment systems and distribution facilities. Plans are also in place to promote water re-use and to develop methods of recycling the large amounts of stormwater that Guam receives.
  3. Improved Sanitation Facilities: Nine out of 10 people in Guam have access to an improved sanitation facility. This is a good sign for Guam’s population and its efforts to promote a sanitary society.
  4. Trash Collection: Guam Solid Waste Authority (GSWA) provides a trash collection service essentially identical to the service found in the vast majority of continental United States cities. Paying customers (~16,000) receive rollable trash bins which they place outside their homes on a specified day. Trucks collect this garbage and then dump it in a landfill. Non-paying customers can also bring their trash to a local servicing station.
  5. Recycling: Customers of GSWA also receive recycling carts for paper products, aluminum/metal cans and certain plastics. GSWA collects recycling twice a month. Similar to trash collection, non-paying customers can recycle at local “residential transfer stations.” These stations also have facilities for recycling glass and cardboard.
  6. Coastal Cleanup: Guam holds an annual coastal cleanup day every September. Thousands of volunteers partner with NGOs and governmental organizations to keep Guam’s beaches clean. This is one way that local people prioritize their island’s sanitation.
  7. COVID-19 Risk Due to Bases: One might consider that Guam should be able to combat COVID-19 easily because of its remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, however, the presence of two major military bases heightens the risk of disease spread on the island. In fact, U.S. military bases are often COVID-19 hotspots. With 35 airmen testing positive for the disease at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam is no exception.
  8. COVID-19 Measures: Guam has declared a state of emergency due to the global pandemic. The government requires that citizens wear a face mask when using public transportation, and they strongly recommend that people wear a mask whenever in public. Stores are taking extra precautions through increased sanitation, and most restaurants have closed for dine-in services, but many are preparing to re-open.
  9. Grocery Delivery: A village mayor in Guam has partnered with a local Pay-Less supermarket to provide a grocery delivery service to all village residents. The service is called Grocery to Go and provides a safe way for citizens to obtain food during the global health emergency.
  10. Mask Donations: GTA Teleguam, the largest telecommunications company in Guam, is donating 10,000 masks to healthcare clinics and nonprofits on the island. This is a massive boon for families struggling financially, as they will not have to worry about purchasing these critical sanitation items.

As these 10 facts about sanitation in Guam show, the island has a solid foundation of water, sanitation and trash systems. The massive coastal cleanup and the community-driven efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 clearly demonstrate the commitment of the islanders to their home. Although the pandemic is putting Guam’s sanitation and health facilities to the test, individual citizens and organizations are rising to the challenge.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Department of Defense

Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan
With a population of just over six million people, Kyrgyzstan is a small, mostly rural country in Central Asia, nestled between the fertile Fergana valley and some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Today, much of Kyrgyzstan’s population does not have access to proper sanitation facilities. However, with a rise in international support, Kyrgyzstan is making hopeful strides towards better health and sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kyrgyzstan. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan

  1. Geographic Issues: Dotted with hundreds of mountainous peaks, Kyrgyzstan’s geography makes it one of the most difficult countries to navigate in the world. With 65% of the population living in rural areas and steep terrain making travel between remote communities difficult, providing comprehensive access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan has been a persistent challenge.
  2. Limited Sanitation Facilities: Kyrgyzstan has a large number of rivers running throughout the country, many originating from alpine glaciers. These include many tributaries of the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia’s longest rivers. Despite the presence of water resources, Kyrgyzstan lacks facilities that allow for national access to water and ensure water quality. As a result, many people in rural areas use irrigation water for sanitation and household purposes.
  3. Sanitation in Schools: According to UNICEF, more than 36% of schools in Kyrgyzstan have no water supply and many have not been renovated since the Soviet era. This lack of adequate sanitation facilities, along with an absence of menstrual hygiene supplies, has resulted in many female students dropping out of school.
  4. Waterborne Diseases: An estimated 88% of cases of infectious diseases in Kyrgyzstan are due to poor water quality. With limited wastewater treatment and a lack of supervision over water quality, waterborne diseases are highly prevalent in Kyrgyzstan. As of 2017, rules for water quality at supply facilities were only recommended and not actively enforced.
  5. Aging Water Facilities and Systems: A significant issue facing sanitation facilities in Kyrgyzstan is the deteriorating conditions of existing water systems. According to the WHO, 40% of water pipes are out of operation because they exceeded their terms of use. Now, more than 4,000 standpipes remain out of service. Although the Kyrgyz Department for Development of Water Supply and Sanitation bears the responsibility of repairing these pipes, the department has not yet implemented a plan.
  6. Urban and Rural Disparities: Access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan is heavily dependent on economic conditions and location. In urban areas, wastewater management, water supply and water quality are all higher quality than in rural regions. According to the U.N., 42% of the capital has access to piped sewage, compared to only 3% of the predominantly rural Batken region.
  7. World Bank Efforts: Founded in 2016 by the World Bank, the Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Development Project has invested more than $36 million in providing water to rural communities in Kyrgyzstan. The project has already provided water access to more than 250 remote villages and is expected to benefit 200,000 people.
  8. WASH: Partnering with the Kyrgyz government, UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Program has supported the construction of sanitation facilities in schools and hospitals. The program also involves awareness campaigns to educate the public on proper hygiene practices. According to UNICEF, WASH has been implemented in more than 100 schools in Kyrgyzstan. From 2006 to 2014, the proportion of the population using appropriately treated water increased from 35% to more than 77%.
  9. Asian Development Bank Funding: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has made significant contributions toward addressing sanitation in the rural Naryn region. These contributions include a $27.4 million financial package that aims to provide water to 64,000 people in the province. ADB’s program plans to increase access to safe water to 90% and sanitation facilities to 70% by the year 2026. 
  10. Improved Water Facilities: Funded by the government of Finland and created by U.N. Women, the Livelihoods through Participation and Equal Access Program collaborates with local governments, schools, and water associations to establish improved water facilities across the country. By 2018, the program had increased access to irrigation water for over 20,000 people in rural Kyrgyzstan. It had also helped conduct advocacy campaigns to 30,000 people on the efficient use of natural resources.

While sanitation in Kyrgyzstan remains one of the country’s most pressing issues, it is clear that progress is being made. With continued support, Kyrgyzstan may soon overcome one of its most critical issues, enabling people across the nation to transform their lives for the better.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr

Improving Access to Clean Water and Sanitation in ZimbabweAccess to adequate clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe continues to be an issue, especially for those living in rural areas. While many organizations have been working together to improve these issues, inadequate access threatens to worsen the spread of COVID-19. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe has increased funding for “resilience-building” in the country.

Clean Water and Sanitation in Zimbabwe

UNICEF reported that only about 35% of Zimbabwe’s population has access to adequate improved sanitation in Zimbabwe. This mainly impacts rural areas. In addition, CARE reported that 67% of people living in rural Zimbabwe don’t have access to safe drinking water. Inadequate access to sanitation and clean drinking water has a great impact on low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 827,000 people in those countries die every year from a lack of access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene.

In 2015, the U.N. released a report by WaterAid on the impacts of improved water, sanitation and hygiene on poverty. Additionally, the report stated that improving access to clean water and sanitation could help increase incomes for people living in poverty. It could also decrease the strain on healthcare systems and the impacts of malnutrition and disease, which would improve health outcomes for the poorest people.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH Program)

Many organizations, including UNICEF, have been working to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene through the WASH program. The program provides education and builde things like handwashing stations. In addition, the WASH program provides people with access to clean water. Since June 18, 2020, the program has helped 1,859 people in Zimbabwe access adequate sanitation. Also, it helped 3,781 people gain access to clean water. Moreover, a total of 2.1 million people in Zimbabwe has been reached by the program so far.

Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic

In a press release on June 4, 2020, Sweden’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Åsa Pehrson said that COVID-19 has increased the need for access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. This need is not specific to rural areas. Additionally, Human Rights Watch reported that people living in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, and the surrounding metropolitan area are struggling to access adequate sanitation services and clean drinking water. More than 2 million people are in need of access. People who have to wait in long lines to access wells with clean water.

“Resilience Building” in Zimbabwe

In June 2020, The Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe announced that it is putting 15 million Swedish Kroner ($1.6 million) towards helping those in need of access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. The embassy is increasing an already existing investment in “resilience-building” for Zimbabweans. In addition, the Swedish Embassy plans to put the money toward strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene activities. These activities are implemented under the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund. Furthermore, the program will focus on water sources that already exist and aims to rehabilitate them. One part of the investment focuses on clean water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Another part will be dedicated to agriculture and livestock water sources in order to protect the food supply.

Zimbabweans continue to struggle to gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation, especially those living in rural areas. The WASH program has helped improve these conditions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to endanger those who still lack safe drinking water and sanitation. People living in big cities without access may be at risk while waiting in lines for wells with clean water. To help alleviate these problems, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe is increasing an existing investment in the country. They are putting money toward both improving access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, as well as protecting water sources for livestock and agriculture.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Afghanistan’s population of 36 million has suffered violent conflict in recent history. According to the UN, the scarcity of water in Afghanistan remains the greatest obstacle blocking its path to national stability. Here are five things to know about water in Afghanistan.

5 Things to Know About Water in Afghanistan

  1. Afghanistan’s instability has brought more than war to the people who live there. According to the United Nations, the worst result of the political unrest and lack of sound government in Afghanistan is lack of water accessibility. A reported 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces currently suffer from drought. Only 67% of people have access to safe drinking water.
  2. Most people in Afghanistan do not have access to proper sanitation. Only 43% of people in Afghanistan have access to safely managed sanitation, meaning citizens must be separated from contact with human waste. Diarrhoeal diseases, caused by poor sanitation, are the second most frequent cause of death for children under five years old, with a mortality rate of six out of 1,000 live births.
  3. Afghanistan has enough water for all of its people. The nation’s five prominent basins have the potential to provide around 3,063 cubic meters of water per capita. Therefore, the problem lies not with water availability but the government’s capacity to distribute it to the people. The government uses less than 60% of the water in four out of those five basins. The constant and destructive war seen recently in Afghanistan has largely destroyed the country’s water management system.
  4. Glacial depletion has contributed greatly to these problems. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush mountain range have long provided the majority of Afghanistan’s water. Due to rising average temperatures, however, these glaciers face depletion. Estimates predict that the Hindu Kush glaciers will lose 36% of their mass by the year 2100, initially causing destructive flooding and eventually leading to further drought. Afghanistan has also recently seen a 62% drop in precipitation. The Ministry of Water and Energy has identified glacier depletion as the cause of its troubles.
  5. Despite these challenges, organizations are stepping in to help. UNICEF has named open defecation and a severe lack of water distribution in impoverished regions as major contributors to Afghanistan’s sanitation problem. The organization aims to eliminate open defecation by 2025 through public education about building and using latrines to keep people healthy. UNICEF has also helped the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development implement a water supply project to reconstruct the nation’s water systems. USAID has stepped in as well to impact the situation. With the help of USAID, 1.5 million people received drinking water access between 2008 and 2017 and 200,000 people received improved sanitation between 2008 and 2017.

While access to water and sanitation remains a major issue in Afghanistan, the situation is improving. UNICEF reports that in 2017, almost 300,000 people in Afghanistan gained clean water access. The percentage of people in Afghanistan practicing open defecation dropped from 26.2% to 12.74% between 2000 and 2017. Since then, the efforts of organizations such as UNICEF and USAID continue to make a positive impact on sanitation and water in Afghanistan. 

– Will Sikich
Photo: Flickr

WASH in HaitiPost-colonial social, political and economic insecurity, coupled with Haiti’s susceptibility to extreme weather events, has led to inadequate access to potable water and proper sanitation in the country. Consequently, 80% of rural Haitians lack direct access to sanitation facilities. In addition, only 40% have access to an improved water source. This has left many people living in Haiti vulnerable to a variety of waterborne illnesses such as typhoid, cholera and chronic diarrhea. It is estimated that one in six Haitian children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea. While access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), is still a substantial issue, the good news is that many efforts are being made in recent years to improve WASH in Haiti.

5 Organizations That Are Working to Improve WASH in Haiti:

  1. Promises for Haiti aims to “demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ” by empowering Haitian governmental leaders to effect change for vulnerable populations. Founded in 1981, the organization works to improve WASH in Haiti specifically through their agronomy program to eliminate Haitian citizens’ susceptibility to waterborne illnesses. Accomplishing this action involves allowing people further access to WASH facilities. The organization partnered with Comite Bienfaisance de Pignon (CBP) to maintain over 2,000 wells in and around the Pignon area. Additionally, they have built wells in each of the nine Christian schools founded in the region. The organization sustains its agronomy program through online donations by visitors to the website that are passionate about the cause.
  2. Founders, Dick and Barb, established Friends of the Children of Haiti (FOTCOH) after taking a medical mission trip to Haiti. The organization, founded in the 1970s, completed its first clinic in Cyadier, Haiti, in 2000. Through their program, FOTCOH WASH, it aims to teach the importance of maintaining hygiene and the proper methods of storing water. This program enacts an array of activities dedicated to the betterment of WASH in Haiti. This includes building latrines, testing household water quality and distributing hygiene and personal care kits. Through their education clinics, FOTCOH demonstrates that the key to creating change in WASH is education coupled with actionable initiatives. The clinic treats over 15,000 patients a year
  3. Haiti National Clean Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy (HANWASH) is a national initiative in Haiti. It is a collaboration between multiple organizations: The Haiti National WASH, DINEPA and other non-governmental organizations. The organization’s main objective is to obtain sustainable WASH for all Haitian citizens by 2030 through a systemic approach. This means establishing efficient infrastructure and ensuring that community leaders have the means to sustain these facilities in the long-term. Fulfilling the objective requires promoting accountability and establishing clear lines of authority. Although the program is still in the pilot stages, they aim to establish their second $300,000 grant through rotary and pledge donations.
  4. Hope for Haiti projects that, in the face of adversity, there is hope for improvement through resilience, empowerment, accountability and collaboration. Since its founding in 1990, the organization has implemented WASH programs in 24 communities. These programs work to provide clean water to Haitian citizens and conduct public health sessions to educate on the merits of basic hygiene practices and methods to avoid waterborne illnesses. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has been working ceaselessly to respond to Haiti’s needs. To date, they have distributed $10 million in medical supplies and 5,450 Sawyer Water Filtration Systems. These actions allow for safe drinking water. Their goal in the coming months is to distribute 7,300 more hygiene kits and 550 Sawyer Water Filtration Systems.
  5. Following the example of Mother Teresa, Health Equity International founded St. Boniface Hospital in 1983. St. Boniface Hospital is now the largest and only tertiary care center in southern Haiti. Their main efforts are to maintain the hospital’s access to clean drinking water while working in the surrounding Fond des Blancs community and to provide water tablets and hygiene education to prevent waterborne illnesses. The organization also recognizes the importance of tackling future issues as evidenced by their coronavirus response. Over the last three months of COVID-19, they have provided the Triage and Treatment Center and handwashing stations.

 There is still much work to be done in order to ensure that everyone in Haiti has access to adequate water and sanitation facilities. However, these organizations demonstrate that there is hope for WASH in Haiti through passionate humanitarian efforts.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

7 Facts about Sanitation in Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a country located on the western coast of Central Africa. Corruption in politics has culminated in a small elite group receiving money and success. Around 44% of the population still lives under the poverty line. Here are seven facts about sanitation in Equatorial Guinea.

7 Facts About Sanitation in Equatorial Guinea

  1. Basic Sanitation Services: In 2017, around 66% of the population of Equatorial Guinea were using basic sanitation services. This refers to access to facilities that properly dispose of human excrement. These services are mostly available in the two major cities in Equatorial Guinea, Malabo and Bata. Even though this number has increased since 2000 when the recorded percentage was around 50, it is still low. To put it in perspective, 99.97% of people in the United States had access to basic sanitation services. Moreover, the term “improved sanitation” refers to the use of basic sanitation services at a household level. In 2015, 74% of the population had improved sanitation.
  2. Water Quality: Less than half of the population has access to clean water. Thankfully, UNICEF has been installing rainwater collectors on the roofs of school buildings since 2007, which give students access to clean water all year round. In 2017, 65% of the population had access to basic drinking water services.
  3. Malaria: Experts consider good hygiene to be one of the best ways to prevent infectious diseases. While malaria is a vector-borne disease, poor sanitation conditions often correlate with an increase in malaria cases. In 2015, the National Malaria Control Program completed several tests in Equatorial Guinea to decrease the effects and cases of malaria in the country. The results showed that the prevalence of malaria in rural settings was higher (closer to 60%) than in an urban setting, where it was only 33.9%. The findings of the National Malaria Control Program’s tests and studies will assist in planning preventative initiatives in both rural and urban Equatorial Guinea.
  4. Developmental Assistance: In 2002, Equatorial Guinea received more than $6 million in water and sanitation-related developmental assistance disbursements from the United Nations U.N.-Water program. This money went toward hydroelectric power, drinking water supply, wastewater treatment and more.
  5. Health Care: With the boom of oil in the 1990s, Equatorial Guinea had a great opportunity to improve sanitation and strengthen its public healthcare. However, instead of investing in these facets, the government spent 82% of its budget in 2011 on large-scale infrastructure projects. In comparison to other countries with similar GDP, Equatorial Guinea is failing at providing health care and sanitation for its citizens. Sadly, the government has not stopped this skewed way of budgeting. However, hopefully, criticism from the IMF and the World Bank will initiate change in the next few years.
  6. Sewage Systems: In 2010, the government completed a new network of sewage and rainwater in the city of Malabo. The intention of this project was to serve over 100,000 residents. Consequently, it provides residents with potable running water and better sanitary conditions.
  7. Waterborne Diseases: The quality of water causes waterborne diseases in Equatorial Guinea. In fact, two out of 10 children die before the age of 5. Death is often from diarrhea and other diseases due to poor water quality, like Hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Moreover, typhoid more commonly occurs in rural areas where people lack basic sanitation and have limited access to clean water.

Sanitation in Equatorial Guinea has improved tremendously throughout the years even if it seems like the country still has a long way to go. It has not helped that Equatorial Guinea’s government has not always been supportive of sanitation legislation. Thankfully, outside organizations like U.N.-Water and UNICEF are providing aid.

– Bailey Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Billions of people around the globe lack consistent access to a safe water supply. Currently, over 40% of the world population struggles with water scarcity, and experts predict the situation will only worsen due to population growth and climate issues.  Water scarcity not only impacts a community’s sanitation and health, but also its economy and the education of its people.  Recognizing the gravity of this global issue, organizations like the PepsiCo Foundation have committed themselves to improving the situation.

The PepsiCo Foundation was created in 1962 as the philanthropic branch of PepsiCo. The foundation partners with various nonprofits to invest “in the essential elements of a sustainable food system” in vulnerable regions.  One of the company’s biggest priorities has been addressing water scarcity.  In 2006, the PepsiCo Foundation announced its mission to provide clean water access to 25 million people by 2025.  Already exceeding this goal, the organization is now hoping to extend its efforts to aid 100 million people by 2030.

Partnerships

One of the main ways the PepsiCo Foundation improves global access to water is through financial aid to organizations that do the groundwork in the areas most affected by water scarcity.  Since 2008, the PepsiCo Foundation has given roughly $34 million in grant aid to clean water access programs around the world.  Grant recipients include Water.org, the Safe Water Network, and the Inter-American Development Bank’s AquaFund. PepsiCo’s most notable partnership has been with WaterAid, an international nonprofit that has worked to bring clean water to 25.8 million people since 1981. In 2018, PepsiCo gave $4.2 million to WaterAid.

WaterAid welcomed the partnership saying, “[s]trong public-private partnerships drive scalable and lasting impact, and we are proud to work with PepsiCo to bring clean water to hundreds of thousands of people in need.”

With this grant, WaterAid predicted the PepsiCo Foundation would help to bring clean water access to more than 200,000. Since then, PepsiCo has continued its partnership with WaterAid as the organization pursues projects in Southern India.

Impact in India

India is one of 16 countries that are considered to have extremely high water risk.  Of these countries, India has the highest population. The PepsiCo Foundation and WaterAid have concentrated the clean water initiatives in India to the rural villages that are plagued by water shortages, hoping to make the greatest impact possible.  In 2019 the organizations worked in three towns—Palakkad, Nelamangala and Sri City—to improve water storage and access.

Since 2016, Palakkad has experienced extreme water shortages, impacting the economy and health of the region.  By August 2019, PepsiCo and WaterAid successfully brought clean water access to the village by building a clean water storage tank.  The partnership also brought 24-hour water access to many families by installing water tap systems into 32 homes.  Similarly, the organizations were able to build 21 tap stands in Sri City.

The PepsiCo Foundation and WaterAid were able to make a tremendous impact in Nelamangala, India, by bringing water to households and schools.  In addition to installing water storing tanks and tap systems, PepsiCo and WaterAid built rainwater collection systems on several rooftops in the village.  This project brought clean water to 49 families in the Nelamangala. PepsiCo and WaterAid also made clean water supply systems in 18 schools, bringing easy water access to over 5,000 students in the region.

Continued Commitment to Clean Water Access

Through the company’s many projects and grants, PepsiCo has made it clear that the company regards clean water access as one of the most urgent issues the world faces today.  The organization’s renewed goal is to provide 100 million people with clean water supply by 2030. With this goal, it looks like the PepsiCo Foundation will remain committed to improving water access around the world for years to come.

– Mary Kate Langan
Photo: Flickr