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

9 Facts about Cholera in Burundi

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

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

Kaylee Seddio, PhD
Photo: Iwacu

How Everest is Affecting NepalThe country of Nepal is often an afterthought to Mt. Everest, the mountaineering mecca of the world and the tallest peak. Unfortunately, tourism to Mt. Everest is affecting Nepal through the unstable economy it brings and sanitation concerns. The environment and the permanent residents of the mountain must be considered.

Tourism-based Economy

Throughout most of the cold war, Mt. Everest was closed on the Tibetan side and highly restricted within Nepal. Only climbers who were accompanied by scientists could climb. However, in 1993, the government relaxed the rules and regulations surrounding the mountain. Travel and adventure agencies began to crop up. They sell the dream, the ultimate bucket list item of summiting Everest.

Now, more than 7 percent of Nepal’s economy depends on the three months of March, April and May when people come from across the globe to take their shot at summiting one of the world’s seven wonders.  People from all across the world come to the region of Khumbu, located at the base of the mountain and home to the indigenous Sherpas. Between tourists and Nepali people coming from other areas to work, the population climbs from 40,000 to a staggering 700,000 people. However, this tourism-based economy is unstable and leaves many Nepali excluded from the enterprise.

Impact on Nepali People

Though this tourism boom has helped the Nepali government, its impact on the Nepali people is very isolated. The main benefactors are those connected to the few popular tourist attractions in the country, mainly Kathmandu and Everest. Tourism to Everest is Affecting Nepal. It is having a negative impact on sanitation in Khumbu. Climbers leave heaps of trash at camps, which becomes increasingly more difficult to remove as elevation rises. As the ice melts on the mountain, it washes the trash and human waste down into the villages bellow, creating an unsanitary environment and physical destruction from flooding.

However, despite these health and safety risks, the Nepali government has declined to stop tourism for any given time. While they have made some clean-up efforts throughout the past few years, sanitation continues to be an issue on the mountain and in the villages below.

Keeping the Mountain Clean

To help mitigate some of the impact made by tourists, organizations like KEEP (Kathmandu Environmental Education Program) have made efforts to educate both the Nepali people and tourists on how they can better care for the mountain and minimize their footprint. KEEP is a non-profit organization that works to conserve the mountains of Nepal. It has started programs in Eco-tourism, environmental awareness and rural community development.

In August of 2019, Nepal announced a ban of single-use plastics on the mountain, which will significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste that will be left behind by climbers. Additionally, in 2019 the country released the decision to make getting a climbing permit more difficult.

Economy or Environment?

The Nepali government is trying to decide what should and can be done about conserving Everest and other mountains in the country. If they limit the number of climbing permits allotted, it would improve the health of the mountain. However, it would take away money and a significant number of jobs from the Nepali people. Money from Everest has allowed people from one of the poorest countries in the world to send their children to secondary schools outside of the country. It has allowed people to create their own businesses. Also, it has fostered incomes for the Sherpas that far exceeds that of the average Nepali person.

Tourism-based income is unstable in the long run because it only provides a steady income for a short period of time. However, in the short term, it provides people with better living. Everest is affecting Nepal negatively in many ways, but the positives it brings cannot be ignored. It is difficult to know what to do about the issues tourism to Everest is causing when its short-term benefits have such a strong impact on the people of Nepal. Work is being done, but just like the trek to summiting Everest, this will be a long and challenging road for the Nepali people and government.

Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Yemen
Yemen is currently embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. More than two-thirds of the country’s population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid or support, and food insecurity continues to affect large numbers of its citizens. Ultimately, only peace will quell the ongoing crisis in Yemen because humanitarian aid can only go so far.

Despite this, many organizations are still making active efforts to help the state and brainstorm new, innovative efforts to address the crisis in Yemen. As the crisis seems to grow in scope and severity, it appears that various organizations worldwide are becoming more dedicated to both helping the Yemeni people and searching for potential solutions. Here is a list of the organizations aiding those in crisis in Yemen.

Organizations Addressing the Crisis in Yemen

  • The International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee is currently calling upon U.N. Security Council members to encourage diplomacy and peace negotiations between warring groups contributing to the crisis in Yemen. The committee helps more than 21,000 people obtain nutrition services and health care weekly.
  • Save the Children: The Save the Children organization has set up temporary learning facilities and child-friendly spaces in order to foster learning and growth for children that the crisis in Yemen has displaced. So far, the organization has supported over a million children by providing essential training in schools and distributing food to children and pregnant mothers.
  • Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger recently joined together with various other organizations in calling on governments to end hostilities in the region and suspend the supply of arms and other weaponry. The crisis in Yemen continuously worsens due to the supply of arms from various sources.
  • Creative Generation: Some Yemeni women have come together to form an organization with technological innovations to aid the crisis in Yemen. The organization is Creative Generation and aims to harness solar power as a guaranteed source of energy in the hopes of combating rising fuel prices and scarce availability.
  • The World Bank: The World Bank currently reports that the solar sector within Yemen is booming and remains promising. Additionally, solar energy systems currently reach up to 50 percent of Yemeni households in rural areas and 75 percent in other urban areas.
  • The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project: The World Bank approved a $50 million IDA-funded grant for The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project in April 2018. The program aims to expand access to electricity through the distribution of solar energy systems with a particular focus on rural areas that the crisis in Yemen heavily affected. Estimates determine that 20 to 30 percent of this investment will create jobs and help boost the country’s economy.
  • UNICEF: UNICEF covers over 75 percent of all water, sanitation and hygienic solutions to the cholera epidemic stemming from the crisis in Yemen. The organization’s recent solar-powered water project has immensely helped the northern governorates Al Jawf and Sa’ada. This project has given these Yemeni communities access to safe drinking water in their own homes.

In spite of the overwhelming crisis in Yemen, it seems that the international community and various aid organizations are managing to not only see the brighter side of things but also put forth innovative efforts to address multiple issues. Some of these efforts are to encourage peacemaking processes, and others have directly impacted Yemeni lives positively by providing life-saving care and aid. The future can still be optimistic; behind-the-scenes talks resembling peace negotiations have recently occurred in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

The country still has divisions with different groups holding control over various areas, so the organizations providing aid must continue in their efforts and mobilize others to do the same. As peace negotiations hopefully proceed and bring an end to the seemingly endless war, the international community must remain ready to help citizens following the crisis in Yemen. The Yemeni people’s resilience and innovation are admirable to a remarkable degree, but the country cannot pull itself out of crisis alone.

– Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

6 Facts About Water Quality in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe top concerns with water quality in Africa include lack of access to water for drinking, sanitation and agriculture, the cleanliness of the water and the burden of water retrieval. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals have tracked the improvement of access to water in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most challenged and inequitable region. Sub-Saharan Africa’s water system is the most chronically overburdened and stressed area in Africa. This is due to a lack of economic investment, social challenges and environmental factors. Here are six facts about water quality in sub-Saharan Africa.

6 Facts About Water Quality in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Many areas in Africa have partially achieved the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals on Water. Before 2015, North Africa had achieved a 92 percent improved source of drinking water for its people. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, had only achieved 61 percent and was not on track to meet its 75 percent goal. Investment in infrastructure systems such as dams would improve public health and increase economic stability while achieving water access targets.
  2. In sub-Saharan Africa water access is inequitable. In urban areas, 90 percent of the wealthy households have access to improved water sources with piped water in more than 60 percent of the homes. In rural settings, fewer than 50 percent of people access improved water sources with the poorest 40 percent of homes having no in-home water access. Only 16 percent of Sub-Saharan residents have access to a water tap in their home or yard.
  3. The burden of water retrieval falls on girls and women. The time and labor-intensive chore of carrying water home from a distance prevents girls and women from pursuing income-generating work and education. It also puts them at risk of violence on long journeys for water. Approximately 13.5 million women in sub-Saharan Africa travel more than 30 minutes each day to collect water. They carry repurposed cans that hold five gallons of water and weigh 40 pounds when full. The women may have to take several trips in a day depending on the size of their family.
  4. Water scarcity and lack of sanitation threaten public health. Poor sanitation and limited water lead to outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery, which can contaminate the limited stores of fresh water. When people store water in their homes, this creates a breeding ground for mosquitos, which leads to an increase in malaria and dengue fever. Other diseases connected to water scarcity include trachoma, plague and typhus. Prioritizing water quantity over quality can lead to bacterial diseases causing diarrhea, dehydration and death, especially in children.
  5. In sub-Saharan Africa, 95 percent of crops are dependent on rainfall. Increased water storage capacity will increase resiliency to water shortages resulting from droughts. Dependency on rainfall for crops is limiting. Small-scale but efficient usage of ponds, tanks, and wells can improve agricultural output. The implementation of various methods of watering crops can reduce water stress and improve food security. Farmers could use drip irrigation, pumps and shallow wells to reduce reliance on rainwater.
  6. Sustainable agricultural development will lead to sustainable water sources and reduced stress. An example of a sustainable agricultural method may be aquaponics, which requires no soil and little water.

Continued innovation, education and infrastructure development are necessary for Africa to improve access to safe and clean drinking water. While much progress is underway, these 6 facts about water quality in sub-Saharan Africa show that the continent will continue to face climate, political and economic barriers in meeting these goals.

Susan Niz
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts about Sanitation in EthiopiaEthiopia is Africa’s second-most populated country with more than 109 million people. It is also its fastest-growing economy even though it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Sanitation in Ethiopia is one of the factors proving to be a challenge when it comes to sustaining or improving on the country’s growth and development. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Ethiopia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia is considered water-stressed because the rapid population growth over the last decade has put a strain on its abundant water sources. Despite estimations showing that 13.5 to 28 billion cubic meters of renewable annual groundwater is available per year, only 2.6 billion cubic meters is usable.
  2. Ethiopia is a country of two extremes. Some parts of the country are plagued by constant flooding while other parts experience water scarcity, degraded water quality and food insecurity because of recurring droughts.
  3. The majority of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on subsistence farming; therefore, a lot of water is used for agriculture. The global average for water withdrawals for agricultural use is 70 percent. Ethiopia uses 93 percent for agricultural.
  4. According to the WHO, 43 percent of Ethiopia’s population lacks access to an improved water source. Only around 28 percent of people nationwide have access to improved sanitation. While this is astoundingly low, it is an improvement from 3 percent in 1990.
  5. Women and girls bear the brunt of Ethiopia’s water and sanitation problem as they have to travel long distances daily to fetch water. Consequently, they are often unable to fully participate in community life or go to school.
  6. Open defecation is a daily part of life in 32 percent of Ethiopia’s rural homes and 7 percent of its urban population. Twenty-three million people practice open defecation due to a lack of access to improved sanitation.
  7. UNICEF attributes between “60 to 80 percent of communicable diseases in Ethiopia” to “limited access to safe water and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.” Diarrhea, for example, accounts for 23 percent of all deaths for children under the age of five. Another report also shows that about 32 percent of health facilities in Ethiopia have access to safe water.
  8. The good news is that change is happening and has been happening. A joint report by WHO and UNICEF shows that Ethiopia has improved its water supply by 97 percent in urban areas and 42 percent in rural areas. Ethiopia achieved its Millenium Development Goal (MDG) target of providing 57 percent of the population with access to safe drinking water. This reduced the number of people without access to clean drinking water since 1990 by half.
  9. The government plans to further improve sanitation in Ethiopia under the One WASH National Program. It hopes to increase access to safe water to 98 percent for rural areas and 100 percent for urban areas. Under the program, all Ethiopians will also be provided with access to basic sanitation.
  10. There are also many international organizations aiding the government to improve sanitation in Ethiopia. Water.org has been working in Ethiopia since 2004 and has reached 243,000 people so far. Others, such as UNICEF and USAID, are supporting the One WASH program in various capacities.

The government and other partners need to continue improving sanitation in Ethiopia if the economy is to continue to grow. Aspects of development like life expectancy, improved opportunities for women and girls to participate in society and food production are dependent on sanitation. It is only by dealing with this that the government can hope for continued growth and development as well as poverty reduction.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

Facts About Freshwater and Sanitation in Bahrain
Bahrain’s name comes from the Arabic al-bahrayn, which means two seas. Two kinds of water surround the country, sweet water and salty water. Meanwhile, Bahrain is located in the Arabian Gulf – one of the largest oil-producing regions of the world.

Despite the surrounding countries’ high oil supply levels, Bahrain has small stores of oil. Instead of oil drilling, the country imports crude oil from its surrounding countries. The country processes crude oil and exports the refined product.

Bahrain has gained increasing wealth from its refined oil exports. This wealth attracts migrants to come and settle in Bahrain as well as other Gulf Cooperation Council states including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. The level of migration resulted in a 48 percent migrant population and the growing population is increasing strains on the country’s freshwater and other sanitation resources.

Despite the struggle to keep pace with migration, Bahrain’s government says it is making strides toward improving, upgrading and expanding sanitation facilities for its growing population. Below are 10 facts about freshwater and sanitation in Bahrain.

10 Facts About Freshwater and Sanitation in Bahrain

  1. Improving Sanitation: Ninety-five percent of Bahrain’s populace connects to a central sewage network. This is because the country adopted sanitation facilities before many of the other countries in the region. Bahrain’s sewage system structure is old with sanitation facilities dating to the 1970s and making the facilities for wastewater treatment inadequate. To combat this inadequacy, Bahrain added new treatment plants and expanded existing ones. Bahrain plans to construct a deep gravity sewer project to cover large areas of the country. Gulf Construction online stated that the country is making progress with its sewage treatment plant in Muharraq and that it was in the commissioning phase as of 2014.
  2. Oil Pollution: Bahrain developed its oil industry without concern for its fertile land. This lack of concern resulted in the oil pollution of natural groundwater reservoirs. Pollution from this oil development increased during the Persian Gulf War, which resulted in damage to oil facilities in the Gulf Region.
  3. Freshwater: Bahrain contains the lowest endowments of freshwater resources in the world, which affects its freshwater availability. Bahrain’s average annual rainfall hovers around 80 mm and its evapotranspiration hovers around 1850 mm. There are no rivers, continuously flowing streams or lakes. The country obtains groundwater from the lateral underflow of the Dammam aquifer. Freshwater share among Bahrain’s populace is in decline. The share went from 525 m3 per year in 1970 to 100 m3 per year in 2001, placing the country’s freshwater share less than the 500 m3 per year capita water poverty line. These levels are likely to further decline and even halve due to the country’s continual population increase.
  4. Water Salination: Bahrain’s groundwater suffers from degradation in quantity and quality from over-extraction, seawater invasion, oil spills and other industrial discharges. The over-utilization of the Dammam aquifer by Bahrain’s agricultural and domestic sectors causes water salination. As a result, desalination provides at least 60 percent of Bahrain’s freshwater.
  5. Desalination: Desalination plants pose a threat to the environment. The seawater used contains high quantities of boron and bromide. The process used to desalinate removes calcium and other essential minerals. The salt leftover from desalination goes into the ocean increasing the salinity of the water. The increased salinity causes harm to the environment and is among the costliest ways to produce water because of the high amount of energy required. Therefore, higher water and energy costs can also pose a challenge to the people who need it.
  6. Basic and Improved Sanitation Availability: Ninety-nine percent of Bahrain’s population uses basic sanitation resources. Bahrain’s government claims 100 percent of its population is using improved and safe drinking water sources, 100 percent of the population benefit from improved sanitation services and 100 percent of the wastewater receives safe treatment. The CIA said Bahrain improved sanitation access for 99 percent of its population. Index Mundi claimed that the country’s freshwater access improved from 94 percent of the country having access in 1990 to 100 percent having access in 2015.
  7. Unequal Freshwater Access: The Bahraini people’s access to freshwater is unequal. The cleanliness of the water is dependent upon how close or far away the water sources are from the Alkalifa family, the ruling family of Bahrain. East Riffe, the location of the Alkalifa family palace, contains cleaner water than Sitra, Ma’ameer, Duraz and Bani Jamra. These are areas where the Baharna community, a community that has faced a long history of discrimination in the region, live. When the people of these areas drink the water there is a high chance of contracting long-term diseases and other health-related problems.
  8. Water Scarcity and The Green Climate Fund: Since Bahrain is located in an arid environment, estimates determine that water scarcity will increase as the temperature of the planet increases due to sea-level rise. Sea-level rise causes surrounding seawater to intermix with the ground freshwater, which decreases freshwater availability. Bahrain applied to the Green Climate Fund – a fund within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to assist developing countries to take steps to prevent climate change – to address the problems that climate change poses.
  9. Rising Population: Bahrain contains one of the highest population densities in the world and its population is increasing. Eighty-nine percent of Bahrain’s population lives in urban areas. The population level and the continual population increase created a demand for freshwater that exceeds the country’s natural resources.
  10. Waste Generation and Government Initiatives: Bahrain generates above 1.2 million tons of solid waste per year making the country one of the world’s leading per capita solid waste generators. Estimates determine that daily garbage production exceeds 4,500 tons. Waste accumulation increases at a rapid pace. The waste is likely to affect the quality of air, soil and groundwater in Bahrain. Bahrain’s government launched recycling initiatives, a waste-to-energy project and a public awareness campaign in response to combat waste accumulation.

While the rising population and aging sewage system strain the availability of resources, Bahrain’s government is making efforts to address a number of the 10 facts about freshwater and sanitation in Bahrain. Bahrain’s works ministry invited companies to bid for a contract to build new sewage treatment plants in the country in 2014. U.S. companies could also help build effective waste management facilities by bringing ideas on how to improve each of the 10 facts about freshwater and sanitation of Bahrain.

– Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Afghanistan
Following decades of civil war and negligence, Afghanistan has been experiencing a crisis regarding clean water and sanitation. The lack of an internal plan and a water infrastructure deficit had elicited urgent consequences such as various waterborne diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. Many organizations such as UNICEF took notice and decided to address this issue at its core. By providing funding and necessary resources, there has been evident progress within Afghanistan towards clean water and better sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Sanitation in Afghanistan

  1. Limited Sanitation: According to the State of the World’s Toilets 2007 report, about 92 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 26.6 million population did not have access to proper sanitation. Meanwhile, the number reduced to 61 percent by 2017. With this being said, poor sanitation exposes people, mainly children and elders, to life-threatening diseases. This issue also affects women and girls, putting them at risk for both physical and psychological damage. It affects menstrual, pregnancy and postnatal periods and creates an unsafe environment when in these periods.

  2. Turmoil: One can see the increasing number of cases surrounding poor sanitation as a direct consequence of the damage inflicted by years of war. Beginning in 1992, constant fighting between different mujahidin groups left cities such as Kabul in ruins, further damaging the water infrastructure. Following in 1996, the Taliban took over but did little to nothing to improve the already damaged water infrastructure, including necessary water pumps. Afghanistan, to this day, is still in turmoil, leaving no priority for local governments to improve sanitation and increase access to clean water.

  3. Lack of Reservoirs, Canals and Infrastructure: One major aspect as to why Afghanistan has a difficult time accessing clean water is the evident lack of water infrastructure. Geographically, Afghanistan is a landlocked nation that automatically creates a difficult landscape to receive clean water; therefore, Afghanistan depends on the natural flow of the snow runoff coming from the mountains. There are reservoirs to collect this water, but it is just not enough. Because of the lack of proper water infrastructure, only 30 percent of the water derived from the runoff stays in Afghanistan. Investment towards improving infrastructure is also scarce as the government does not see it as a prominent issue.

  4. Open Defecation: Open defecation is an issue that many countries face on a daily basis; however, it has been an astonishingly prevalent issue in Afganistan. It places many of the individuals and families leaving near waterways in much danger as human waste spreads disease quickly. To combat this issue, UNICEF alongside the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health and Education have partnered to end open defecation by 2025. They are pushing for the Community-Led Total Sanitation approach which advocates for people to build and use their own latrines.

  5. Increase Water Supply: In addition to implementing a plan against open defecation, UNICEF and the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health, and Education have been working to increase water supply to impoverished communities. They aim to steer the public to get clean water through the reliance of rivers, streams, wells, etc. Also, UNICEF aims to increase the government’s capacity to construct local water supply systems. Because of this new agenda, more than 300,000 new people living in Afghanistan received clean water in 2017.

  6. Water Systems: UNICEF is prioritizing gravity-fed piped drinking water systems or systems with solar pumps instead of regular boreholes with handpumps. These methods should provide more water, easy maintenance and close proximity even though they are slightly more expensive. Right now, most of the water comes from the five major rivers in Afghanistan, but this system brings water in an efficient and sustainable way.

  7. Action Within Schools: An important place to advocate for proper sanitation would be in the school environment, and UNICEF has done just that. Working with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF has aimed to create clean school environments and provide proper hygiene information in Afghanistan. This plan includes providing clean water, separate bathrooms and new handwashing stations in schools. This program is growing and is starting to enter more schools.

  8. Sanitation Efforts Aimed at Women: Some have also taken action towards improving sanitation conditions within schools and workplace settings for women and girls. By installing separate bathrooms for males and females, it provides women the opportunity to manage menstruation in a clean environment. Also, the ongoing introduction of curricula surrounding menstrual hygiene promotes rehabilitation and helps girls all around Afghanistan.

  9. Proper Sanitation in Emergencies: Launched in 2005, UNICEF created the WASH emergency center in Afghanistan. This group of various organizations respond during emergencies and help provide clean water, hygiene education and sanitation facilities to the people. For example, they gave hygiene kits to displaced families in the village of Kamalpoor. The kits included soap, detergent, towels, sanitary pads and a plastic bucket to collect water.

  10. Health Centres: Most importantly, UNICEF has aimed to make sure that hospitals and health centers are in proper condition to treat patients. The WASH program implemented focused on improving infection programs and patient safety. It is important to pay attention to the health of patients and to decrease as many cases of disease and death as possible, especially in the case of women and children.

Although Afghanistan still has some way to go, it has made tremendous improvements to its sanitation systems. With continued aid from organizations like UNICEF, it should only continue its progression towards clean water and sanitation for all.

–  Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia
In many developing Southeast Asian countries, governments seldom prioritize sanitation when there is a limited spending budget. However, over the past decade or so, many countries in the area have experienced steady economic growth which has led to gradual improvements in sanitary conditions for the people. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia

  1. Increased Coverage for Improved Sanitation: As of 2018, 95.5 percent of Southeast Asia’s urban population and 85.6 percent of its rural population had access to improved drinking water. This marked a 2.4 percent increase in access for urban locations and an 8.9 percent increase for rural areas since 2005. Approximately 80.8 percent of people living in urban areas and 64.3 percent living in rural areas had access to improved sanitation such as flush toilets and piped sewer systems in 2018. Access to improved sanitation is also increasing at greater rates than improved water in most countries.
  2. Improved Health Due to Better Conditions: Around 0.71 percent of all deaths in Southeast Asia in 2017 was the result of unsafe sanitation conditions. This percentage has dropped 2.3 percent since 1990 and is lower than the world average of 1.38 percent. Cases of infectious diseases, diarrhea, malnutrition and other negative health effects that open defecation caused have also gone down as the share of the population practicing such actions decreased. As for countries where substantial toilet infrastructure is still lacking, such as Cambodia, Timor, Laos and Indonesia, scientists are working to design and install new flush toilets. One team at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok has received a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund such a project.
  3. Creating Comprehensive National Policies: Certain developing Southeast Asian countries lack comprehensive regulations regarding the design and construction of sewers and other sanitation systems. Existing regulations often fail to take variations in local conditions into consideration and people do not always strictly enforce these regulations. Some also neglect to assign the responsibility of management to an institution.
  4. Establishing Institutional Management: Limited ability to implement sanitary systems and unclear institutional division of responsibility has caused gaps in service provision, resulting in low-quality infrastructure, delayed constructions and miscommunications. Multiple international committees have called for government officials to receive training in all essential aspects of sanitation management.
  5. Raising Awareness Among Policymakers: Internationally, the U.S. Agency for International Development recommended that local policymakers become aware of the benefits improved sanitation systems have regarding health, environment and economy through regional research collaborations and water operator partnerships. The intergovernmental Association of Southeast Asian Nations has also come together to discuss Indonesia’s progress in delivering improved water and sanitation to its people. Locally, increasing media coverage and discussions about sanitation are also helping the subject gain focus.
  6. Raising Awareness Among Local Community: Many locals are unaware of the dangers that lie in unsanitary defecation and do not understand the purposes of an improved sewer system. In Indonesia, Water.org has held media sessions to encourage dialogue and awareness regarding sanitation. Similarly, many community health centers and international organizations are working to educate locals on the benefits of improved sanitation, as well as to inform them of the services and financial support available.
  7. Community-led Sanitation Installations: Community-led total sanitation efforts have drastically improved conditions in many Southeast Asian countries as self-respect became the driving force behind the movement. With help and guidance from local authorities, community households can get the financial and institutional support necessary to connect to the more improved sanitation systems.
  8. Financing On-Site Sanitation Installations: Government sanitation funding often focuses on the large-scale municipal infrastructure like waste treatment plants, tending to overlook the construction of supporting connection infrastructure necessary for on-site household sanitation systems. As a result, people have turned to local banks and other financial institutions for loans that would enable them to build the necessary infrastructure necessary to access improved water on a daily basis.
  9. Local Programs Improve Water Sanitation: There are several local efforts that are working to preserve Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap, so as to improve the lives of approximately 100,000 locals living in the surrounding area. The Cambodian enterprise Wetlands Work is selling innovative technologies, such as water purifying system HandyPod that uses bacteria to turn raw sewage into grey water. Meanwhile, the NGO Live & Learn Cambodia is in the process of testing new toilet innovations.
  10. Water Privatization Limits Accessibility: The privatization of water is a common phenomenon in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, for example, European companies Thames Water and Suez have 25-year contracts with the local government in 1997 to provide water for the country’s capital, Jakarta. With the goal of ensuring piped water coverage for 97 percent of the popular by 2017, the actual number came up to only 59.4 percent. However, in Surabaya, another Indonesian city, the government provided water publicly through the government and coverage reached 95.5 percent in 2016. Calculations determine that average water prices in the city are one-third of that in Jakarta.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia show how these countries are making consistent progress in procuring improved sanitation for their population. With the assistance of intergovernmental organizations and nonprofits, more people are now living under safe and sanitary conditions.

– Kiera Yu
Photo: Flickr

UNICEF’s WASH Program
According to a joint report from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four of the world’s health care facilities does not have adequate access to clean water and sanitation services, including sewer access. This means that about 2 billion people face a lack of clean water in their communities globally. Luckily, UNICEF’s WASH Program is in place to help remedy this.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

In 17 out of 69 impoverished countries, at least 20 percent of medical facilities had no water service at all in 2016. Therefore, by going to these facilities, there is a risk of further infection. Ironically, the condition the facility is attempting to remedy could worsen. In developing countries, people often have a concern that they could become sicker after visiting a hospital. UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program aims to bring water and means of sanitation to these at-risk health care facilities to create immediate benefits and establish an element of trust between medical facilities and the general population of impoverished countries. By doing so, projections determine that poor communities should increasingly report to medical professionals when they have a health concern, and many poverty-linked, poor-sanitation-caused diseases will receive better treatment and be better controlled.

UNICEF’s WASH program promotes education, fixing systemic issues and training. However, it mainly goes about achieving these goals by addressing issues on the ground level. Simply put, impoverished communities typically do not have easy access to sanitation measures and fresh water. Therefore, WASH has set out to directly fix the issue by installing facilities that can directly bring free, clean water to people in need. In certain areas that especially need better sanitation and water access, the program goes so far as to build physical water facilities.

How it Works

The facilities consist of a solar-powered borehole well that pumps clean groundwater from within the earth into 24-liter storage tanks above ground. These tanks keep the water clean and usable for whenever communities need it. There are no restrictions on the use of WASH facilities. Those who need it can use it to wash their hands, fill up bathtubs and draw water from their households, etc. In addition to supplying usable water to these communities, the WASH program also installs latrines. The latrines make use of the newly-supplied groundwater to reduce the amount of open defecation in impoverished communities.

WASH in Nigeria

A WASH facility in north-central Nigeria has seen exceptional progress after its installation. Like many poor Nigerian communities, there was little to no health care coverage. Further, the water was dirty and soil-transmitted helminths infected the area due to unsanitary defecation. Even the schools were a breeding ground for disease. Just by bringing clean water, WASH brought the rural community from an unsanitary village to an “open defecation-free” location. In doing so, they also slashed the prevalence of poverty-linked diseases.

UNICEF’s WASH program operates in coordination with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Two out of the 17 SDGs directly apply to WASH’s mission. First, ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Second, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. By making direct, measurable progress towards these goals, the U.N. can garner further support. Therefore, the world will be able to meet more SDGs, making the world a better place for everyone in the very near future.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

 

Sanitation in Rohingya Refugee CampsMass persecution and forced deportation of the stateless Rohingya people in Myanmar have created over 1 million homeless refugees in Southeastern Asia. Historically facing discrimination, the Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in western Myanmar (formerly Burma). They have been regarded as stateless, meaning without citizenship or any rights associated with it, since 1982, and the recent Buddhist nationalist movement has led to increased religious tension. They have mainly fled to Bangladesh, many of them have no choice but to leave Myanmar and enter Bangladesh illegally. This is partly due to their lack of freedom under the Myanmarese government’s labeling of stateless.

Sanitation and Water Issues

The largest refugee camp area in Bangladesh is Cox’s Bazar, where over 900,000 Rohingya people have taken up residence across 27 different locations. The area, not designed to hold this many people for so long, faces extreme overcrowding. The overcrowding is so dire, Bangladesh has been searching for ways to send back the refugees. It has been difficult for many to have adequate sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps. There has even been a worry that existing wells have been constructed too close to the latrines. If this is the case, mass disease outbreaks could occur without sanitation improvements. However, organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Oxfam have been working to improve these conditions.

Cox’s Bazar is very susceptible to long dry seasons, from November to April or even May. Long dry seasons lead to the main water reservoirs that the refugees use for their water drying up. Shallow tube wells that some organizations have constructed are also very susceptible to drying. The dry season has been much worse recently due to the climate changes associated with El Niño. To make matters worse, the rain has come only in dramatic cyclones. To ensure sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps, including clean water access and improve sanitation, organizations developed and implemented deep-well tubes.

Deep tube wells penetrate the ground past surface-level aquifers and reach the more stable water table beneath. These wells allow for more consistent water access. The water is then piped up to above-ground tanks with solar energy, where it can be monitored and the quality of water can be maintained at safe levels. Constructed in many strategically placed areas of Cox’s Bazar, there are over 20,000 shallow and deep tube wells in place. With the rapid construction of these wells, the UNHCR and Bangladeshi government have reached the goal of 20 liters per person every day.

Rohingya Women and Issues of Safety

The issue of proper latrine construction and maintenance has also been an issue that plagues the Rohingya refugees, particularly women. Many women and girls do not feel safe using the latrines, or even walking to them. They are typically in very difficult-to-reach areas of the camps. Refugees often must walk down steep, muddy slopes to reach the toilets and showers. Other than the trek, the latrines typically have no roofs or doors, and sometimes have little to no walls. In an area with hundreds of thousands of people, a third of Rohingya women did not feel safe taking a shower or using the toilet, according to a study conducted by Oxfam in 2018.

Refugee women need to feel safe and comfortable. Oxfam has been working with the women to design new latrines. These efforts also help women become more involved in the decision-making processes in the camps. The newly designed latrines have a full four walls, as well as a door, a sink and a stall. By involving more women in infrastructure projects such as these, they become more empowered and eager to participate in decision-making processes. This creates a lasting effect, especially in the younger Rohingya generations, that ensures greater stability among gender equalities in a place where women are largely left out of critical decision discussions.

The Future of Rohingya Refugees

The number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is higher than ever. But these refugees have seen major improvements through the engaging and effective efforts from many humanitarian organizations, both governmental and non-governmental. While there are still challenges to overcome, continued improvements in water access means improved sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps and clean water for refugees. Oxfam works to provide upgraded latrines and toilet sanitation for better privacy and safety for women and children. In addition, the construction of thousands of deep-tube wells ensures that no disease outbreaks will take place on account of contamination from the toilets.

While the situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh remains tumultuous, those affected experience rapid developments in their living conditions. More refugees are likely to enter Cox’s Bazar, but sustained support from the international community ensures that more refugees than ever are able to have improved sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Wikimedia Commons