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

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Nigeria

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

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal

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

Malnutrition and Disease

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

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

Sanitation

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

Education

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

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

– Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

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

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

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

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

The 2014 Water for World Act and WASH Programs

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

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

Current Challenges to Water Security

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

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

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

How WASH Programs Help

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

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

US Investments and Improving Access to Water and Sanitation

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Eco-Technology Initiatives Combating Global Poverty
There are more than seven billion people worldwide, and approximately two billion are without sanitation methods or a proper toilet. Many of these people have to defecate in open areas, including gutters and water sources. As a result, 10% of the world’s population may consume wastewater through their food’s irrigation. Thankfully, initiatives in eco-technology are working to help rid communities of disease and, most importantly, poverty.

Eco-technology Initiatives

Without access to a clean bathroom or sanitation necessities, millions of people are at risk of contracting deadly diseases and polluting their environment. Organizations worldwide have prioritized supplying those in need with the right education and tools to keep themselves safe. The United Nations estimates that if communities have access to clean water, proper hygiene and regulated sanitation methods, more than 840,000 people per year will live more safely. The work of eco-technology groups is necessary now more than ever. Here are three of these initiatives.

OXFAM Teaches Hygiene

OXFAM is a global initiative that aims to eradicate poverty. It works with local groups and governments worldwide to provide sustainable eco-technology for community sanitation needs. The OXFAM team specifically focuses on providing clean water and restrooms and teaching hygiene to communities facing crises. OXFAM works with locals groups and the government to find the best and most affordable way to implement sustainable hygiene.

In Bangladesh, OXFAM has built sewage treatment systems to handle the waste of approximately 150,00 people a month. In addition to waste management, OXFAM visits schools and communities to promote and distribute hygiene kits. These kits often include a clean bucket and cover, soap, sanitary pads, diapers and more. The group mobilizes volunteers and resources globally. OXFAM reached approximately 20 million people in 2018-2019, more than half being women. The organization seeks to implement long-term strategies and humanitarian assistance through its efforts.

Toilet Twinning Gives Communities A Choice

Toilet Twinning is a highly innovative international initiative. For approximately $80, buyers can “twin” their toilet with an impoverished family in any country they like. Upon buying their toilet, customers receive a certificate and photo with map coordinates of their twin toilet’s location. Buyers’ donations go straight to providing clean water, sanitation basics and proper hygiene education. The initiative’s partners take the time to talk with and understand communities’ immediate needs to choose the best toilet setup.

Toilet Twinning eco-technology toilets come in various designs. The simple pit latrine is the most basic setup and the cheapest form of “improved sanitation.” The pit is 1.5 meters deep with a cover for use in any weather. Once the pit is full, it is topped with soil, and a new pit is dug. Another option is the ventilated improved pit latrine, containing a simple pit latrine with a vertical ventilation pipe for odors. It has a mesh cover for the hole so that air may flow freely and flies are kept out.

The choice to put in these systems is often the first chance villagers have to decide something in their lives. Therefore, the organization encourages the locals to have input on the design, materials and to help build the latrine. Toilet Twinning currently has partners in more than 35 countries, more than 140,000 toilet twins and more than 800,000 changed lives.

ECOLOO Makes Improvement Affordable

ECOLOO is a company focused on creating and distributing green eco-technology to communities in need. Accordingly, the company has developed a new way to treat waste while also providing eco-friendly toilets. The science behind the company’s waste management is relatively simple. The waste is broken down into ashes while urine turns into a pathogen-free liquid fertilizer. ECOLOO makes a point to use safe bacteria to treat the waste and turn it into fertilizer for agriculture in the local community.

Meanwhile, the latrine system is waterless, odorless, chemical-free and low-maintenance. The setup is a stand-apart toilet made up of a two-tier box. One box is for urine, waste, bacteria and an organic filter. The other is below, where the waste is treated and undergoes nitrification to transform into safe and organic fertilizer.

What makes this company stand out above the rest is its comfortable design, waterless needs and affordable cost. When a user buys the setup, they only have to pay 40% upfront with the rest in installments. This payment model makes it far more affordable for communities to access sanitation stations. Through its efforts, ECOLOO has provided more than 1,200 eco-technology toilets, created a job market and changed thousands of lives.

Moving Forward

These eco-technology initiatives, along with others around the world, change lives by providing sustainable bathroom basics and consequently fighting poverty. Moving forward, it is essential that these organizations and others continue to prioritize improving sanitation around the world.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cape Verde
Cape Verde is a country comprising a group of islands near Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. In Cape Verde, almost half of the population does not have access to clean water. As a result, the government founded initiatives to improve its water, sanitation and hygiene processes for everyone. Here are 10 facts about the water and sanitation situation in Cape Verde.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cape Verde

  1. Cape Verde Compact II was a project that reached completion in 2017. The project cost $41.1 million and aimed to improve the services that delivered water to Cape Verde houses. The project also increased access to piped water and sanitation, creating a new water utility. The project creation started with a theory that increasing access to piped water would increase household productivity, especially for low-income families.
  2. A significant number of people in Cape Verde do not have access to sanitation systems. To expand, 54% of people in the country’s rural areas and 16% in urban areas do not have access to flushing toilets or other sanitation improvements. Moreover, the government does not have enough money to assure everyone has access to clean water. In Cape Verde, 20% of the population does not have access to a shower, meaning they have to use rivers and lakes to take baths.
  3. The shortcomings of the water and sanitation sector affects women. Women typically have the task of bringing home clean water. The United Nations Children’s Fund found that women in underdeveloped countries spend more than 200 million hours daily collecting water to provide for their families. Because women have to focus on bringing water to their families, they are more likely than men to stop receiving an education. If the country created new institutions that could provide water without having to walk miles to get it, women would have the same opportunities as men to get an education.
  4. There have been many improvements in the water and sanitation sector over the last two decades in Cape Verde. But Cape Verde still faces significant challenges in overcoming its water and sanitation crisis. Cape Verde relies on the energy-intensive process of desalinization for clean water. Only 59% of people have access to clean water in their homes or on their property. Just 20% of the population has access to a sewer, and 27% of the population has to resort to open defecation.
  5. In 2012, the government of Cape Verde started making reforms in the sanitation sector. The government created a Social Access Fund to help families access clean water more easily. The Social Access Fund has provided more than 3,000 new connections to the water network and more than 2,000 sanitation facilities. The government believes that more than 600,000 people would benefit from this program. The government also believes that if the country keeps making progress in the next 20 years, more than 80% of the population would have access to clean water.
  6. The government launched a National Agency for Water and Sanitation with the Office of Environment and Gender and Social Integration. The office works with departments to support data to improve access to clean water and affordability. The new department started working in 2013, and since then, the country has made a lot of progress.
  7. Aguas de Santiago, a corporation installed on the island of Santiago in 2017, is alleviating the country’s sanitation issue. Almost half of Cabo Verde’s population lives on the island of Santiago. With this new corporation, the Office of Information, Education and Communication has the data they need to know the number of families that do not have access to clean water. With this new corporation, the government is receiving real data and making changes in the country’s sanitation program.
  8. Sal is the driest inhabited island in Cape Verde. Sal receives less than 9 inches of rain on average each year. The island does not have enough water for the whole population, and it depends heavily on the desalinization process. The process is costing the island a lot of money, and the government is unsure of how long they will be able to afford it.
  9. Carlos Jorge Santos, the director-general of Oasis Atlantic Group’s hotel operations in Cape Verde, hopes that sooner than later, Cape Verde’s beaches will earn the prestigious Blue Flag certification. The Blue Flag is essential because it gives the country reputation so tourists would visit the country more. The Blue Flag means that all the beaches are safe and clean, improving Cape Verde’s tourism sector, local economies and its sanitation programs. Additionally, through this certification, the government would be able to build more water fountains and deposits so the whole country has greater access to clean water.
  10. Water consumption was deficient in the city of Santiago. In 2018, the average family in Santiago consumed 40 liters per person per day. Low-income families, who are less likely to have a connection to the piped water network, consumed less water than non-impoverished households at 24 liters per person per day. In Cape Verde, 30% of the population lives in poverty, meaning the families’ majority consume 24 liters per day.

Cape Verde is making a lot of progress in providing clean water to the population, but there is a lot that the country needs to do. Currently, more than half of the people do not have access to clean water in their homes and have to walk miles to gather clean water. Nevertheless, these 10 facts about sanitation in Cape Verde show improvement.

– Ainhoa Maqueda Castillejo
Photo: Flickr

SDG 6 in Kenya
Water and sanitation in Kenya have been lacking, but the country is improving them through the introduction of new inventions and initiatives. The UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. It is a blueprint for how to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to reduce poverty and improve sustainability. Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to ensure that everyone has available clean water and sanitation. Here are some initiatives that are helping SDG 6 in Kenya come to fruition through sustainable development.

Water Pans

Water pans are able to provide people with water in arid areas. Building them involves building a dam before covering it with a dam liner. This container collects runoff rainwater in order to hold it until the next rain season.

Without water pans, residents would have to walk long distances to water facilities. These water facilities have a history of corruption. They are also especially dangerous for women who are at risk of undergoing sexual extortion for water or experiencing sexual assault on the walk.

The water pans provide accessible water, which allows farmers to feed their animals and water crops easily. As a result, farmers are able to grow more because they can spend more time farming rather than water collection. Water pans are more than just a solution for water insecurity but also a solution for hunger.

Water pans are a solution to the lack of water in warmer climates. They are becoming more popular on farms across Kenya. The installation of water pans for residents could help reach SDG 6 in Kenya.

Fresh Life Toilets

Sanergy is a startup that builds fresh life toilets, an affordable alternative to sewage systems. A fresh life toilet separates solid waste in order to make fertilizer. This means that there is no need for a sewage system and that people can reuse waste sustainably.

Fresh life toilets are a solution to pit latrines, which do not last as long and can have an unsanitary emptying process. Communities sometimes lack accessible designated areas to dispose of waste and can end up emptying the waste into drainages and waterways. By using the waste for organic fertilizer, communities can also avoid polluting waterways.

These units include handwashing stations, soap, water and feminine hygiene disposal. Sanergy has built over 3,379 fresh life toilets in Nairobi’s urban slums.

Entrepreneurship for Women

Maji Mamas is a nonprofit that trains women in Kenya to become entrepreneurs in the water industry. The organization focuses on women because, in the developing world, women are frequently in charge of the collection and cleaning of water, as well as caring for the sick.

The organization believes that women in these communities have the knowledge and experience to tackle water and sanitation issues. Maji Mamas thinks that just building infrastructure is not a sustainable solution to the clean water crisis and that by training women to come up with solutions and create their own businesses, the women can go on to provide clean water to their communities.

The nonprofit trains women in the production of Stabilized Soil Blocks (ISSBs), building water tanks and the logistics of running their own businesses. It also provides interest-free loans and labor to start Kenyan women on their businesses while continuing to support them as their businesses expand.

Maji Mamas has offered training on water and hygiene to 2,500 community members. The women in the program have made 2.7 times the current annual income of most women in Kenya.

Kenya should eventually be able to meet the UN’s SDG 6 for clean water and sanitation. Water pans, fresh life toilets and efforts from Maji Mamas are all providing community support and resources to further the process of accomplishing SDG 6 in Kenya.

– Stephanie Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Drinkwell Systems, Purifying Drinking Water for Water-Scarce CommunitiesDrinkwell is an innovative technology platform that won the first Imagine H20 Urban Water Challenge. The objective of the technology company Drinkwell Systems is to provide critical clean water infrastructure in a way that is both environmentally and socially sustainable. Drinkwell Systems not only purifies and provides clean water for underserved communities, but it also provides jobs in the communities in which the water ATMs are installed.

How Does Drinkwell Work

Drinkwell is a system that is able to purify water at an impressive rate with a lower waste rate than reverse osmosis. The Drinkwell system purifies water by using the patented HIX-Nano technology, which only wastes 1% of the water put into the system, compared to 40 to 60% of input water. This company operates in three stages.

These stages are separated into design, build and operation and maintenance. In the design phase, the company tests raw water samples and uses its cloud-based database to paint a clearer picture of where water quality is the poorest and access to drinking water is lowest. During the building phase, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority build sheds while Drinkwell makes and installs the ATM and treatment system. Finally, in the operation and maintenance phase, the local water authorities maintain the systems through the usage of mobile applications. Through these applications, the water authorities are able to report issues that may arise in their systems as well as keep an eye on finances.

Drinkwell’s Current Initiatives

Currently, the company is focused on serving communities in Bangladesh and India. Bangladesh is currently facing a water and sanitation crisis. In a nation with 165 million people, there are 5 million citizens who do not have a reliable source of safe drinking water. The great waterways, such as the Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra rivers, all begin within the borders of other countries. Bangladesh is left with only 7% of the land that makes up these large watersheds, which leaves them with very little control over how much water they can access from these sources. Paired with rising salinity levels in the water and arsenic contamination in the groundwater, Bangladesh’s residents are suffering from a severe lack of access to clean water.

In India, fewer than 50% of the 1.353 billion population face water insecurity. Similar to Bangladesh, India’s water is often contaminated by chemicals like fluoride and arsenic. This contaminated water is found in nearly 1.96 million households. In addition to concerns surrounding contaminated drinking water, India also struggles with a quickly declining groundwater source. This is in part due to increased drilling over the last few decades. In a region with a high number of people who do not have access to safe water, services like Drinkwell are critical to helping people gain access to these essential services.

Looking Ahead

After winning the H20 Urban Water Challenge, the company partnered with the Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority. This partnership led to the implementation of four water ATMs in Bangladesh. With these water ATMs, Drinkwell’s systems were able to provide clean drinking water to 5,100 people. Drinkwell Systems currently has plans to install an additional 96 water filtration systems and ATMs in Bangladesh’s second-largest city in 2020 and 2021. In total, the company has been able to roll out water ATMs in more than 230 locations across India and Bangladesh. In addition to providing people with access to clean drinking water, Drinkwell has been able to create 340 jobs for locals.

In a relatively short amount of time, Drinkwell Systems has served 300 to 2,000 households in water insecure areas of India and Bangladesh, as well as created jobs for people living in these water-scarce areas. Advancements in water supply technology such as Drinkwell are an important step in solving water insecurity worldwide.

—Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Guinea Worm Disease
“[I want the] last guinea worm to die before I do.” Jimmy Carter may soon get his wish. The former President of the United States has spent the last 30+ years on a number of humanitarian missions through his namesake nonprofit—The Carter Center—but people may undoubtedly see one particular mission as ranking among its magna opera. That mission is to eradicate Guinea worm disease (GWD), and frankly, those worms are unpleasant at best.

What is Guinea Worm Disease?

GWD is a parasitic infection in which extremely small worms enter the human body through contaminated water, leading to crippling, painful blisters about a year later when the matured female worm emerges. It has been infecting people since ancient times, and in the mid-1980s, an estimated 3.5 million cases existed across at least 20 countries, including 17 in Africa. In 2019, however, there were only 54 cases in humans.

Success in Reducing GWD

This is thanks largely to the efforts of The Carter Center, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. This partnership has been leading the charge against the disease both in introducing preventative measures in hotspots on the ground in Africa and by raising awareness in the developed world since 1986. Since no vaccine or other modern treatment exists for Guinea worm disease, The Carter Center’s strategies most often include working with health ministries and community-based volunteer groups in order to stop the spread of GWD and bring attention to it via health education.

The attention is important because of the rapid ability of the disease to spread. One missed case can lead to 80+ new infections over one year and delay a country’s ability to control the disease for just as long. This is partly why the WHO has strict criteria when assessing the disease in a given area.

When Can One Consider a Country Free of GWD?

A country must have zero new cases for at least three years for it to receive a declaration of being free of GWD. Despite the rigorous criteria, some countries continue to encounter problems confronting the disease. Chad, for example, has reported almost 2,000 infections in dogs in 2019—a testament to the disease’s stealth and endurance over the years.

In fact, “years” may be an understatement—GWD has emerged in Medieval Middle Eastern and Ancient Egyptian texts under a variety of labels, with some Egyptian mummies even showing evidence of the worm’s presence in their remains. The Old Testament even refers to it as a ‘fiery serpent’ (citing the on-fire feeling when the creature emerges through the skin).

The Correlation Between GWD and Sanitation

In more recent years, the disease received highlight in the early ‘80s as an international threat to clean water—which is where the fight to eliminate the disease originated. Even today, GWD exists primarily in countries—notably Chad and Ethiopia—that consistently rank among the poorest in the world (and are thus most lacking in access to clean water).

The Carter Center has sought to combat this shortfall as well, specifically by introducing a straw-like pipe filter that allows people in affected countries to drink from any water source without fear of contamination.

The eradication of the disease would mean the end of widespread, debilitating illness across several predominantly African nations. Although the fight has gone on for decades, the organizations working to eliminate it now say that the end is in sight. Even Jimmy Carter made his wish—that GWD would go before him—as he was battling cancer a few years ago.

Now, the eradication of all diseases of this sort will be the target of the U.S.’s End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which entered into law earlier in 2020. The goal of the act is to facilitate and coordinate an effective, research-based international effort to end neglected tropical diseases, such as GWD, with special emphasis on impoverished nations.

If the world meets international goals, GWD would become the second human disease (behind smallpox) and the first parasitic disease to experience eradication. It would also be the first disease to disappear without the use of a vaccine or medicine.

– Bardia Memar
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Mali
Access to proper sanitation and clean water is a relatively simple yet incredibly important part of protecting public health. For developing nations like Mali, it can be hard to come by. In rural areas, only 30% of people have access to clean water. This puts them at risk for diarrhea, which is responsible for one out of every nine child deaths in the world. Further, most schools do not have proper toilets for their students, and about half lack a clean water source altogether. People must undergo steps to provide safe water and improve sanitation in Mali. Luckily, some organizations, like Save the Children, are attempting to help.

Save the Children

The Save the Children Fund has been supporting kids around the world since 1919. It works to improve communities in many sectors, including healthcare, education, community development and more. Save the Children first arrived in Mali in 1987 and has been on the ground defending the country’s most vulnerable ever since.

Waterborne diseases pose a great threat to children in developing countries. One of the best ways to tackle this crisis is through proper water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) products and services. Accordingly, Save the Children has made this a center of attention in its work through the Clean Household Approach (CHA) program. The CHA program emphasizes the importance of WASH products and services and is working to reduce the risk of childhood diarrhea and sanitation in Mali.

Previous programs often looked at the issue from a communal perspective. Public resources became the focus rather than looking at what people could accomplish in each individual household. “People care for and maintain personal belongings better than communal property,” Save the Children reported. With this in mind, the CHA program directs efforts at the household level and not at the community level. Instead of providing sanitation equipment at a communal well where people draw water from, the program is making change directly in the homes where people consume the water.

The Clean Household Approach Program (CHA)

The CHA program differs from other programs with similar goals because it does not simply offer financial aid, it also uses a market-based approach. Save the Children recognizes that household sanitation commodities are not something that people tend to prioritize. Families put food and shelter above the often expensive equipment necessary to secure clean water. To circumvent this, Save the Children is making household sanitation commodities both accessible and desirable.

The CHA program provides vouchers that subsidize the cost of WASH products and services. The program typically provides vouchers after a household member attends a meeting on proper handwashing or a visit to a physician. It also uses a variety of incentives to encourage families to invest in WASH products and services. For example, a home can meet “Clean Household” status by satisfying certain criteria pertaining to proper sanitation practices. They then receive the award of a flag to note their success.

The CHA program also uses marketing strategies and social norms to try to emphasize the importance of WASH products and services. Additionally, Save the Children provides training and collaborates with local business owners to ensure that a supply of WASH products and services is always available.

WASH products and services work. The risk of diarrheal infections falls 47% with proper handwashing, 17% with better water quality and 36% with better sanitation. Through projects like the CHA program, Save the Children has been able to keep over 1 million children healthy and nourished in Mali. It continues to change lives around the world and has shown no signs of slowing down in its support for sanitation in Mali.

– Evan Driscoll
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Hungary
Hungary, a country located in central Europe, has a population of roughly 10 million people.  According to Eurostat’s 2016 report, a quarter or exactly 26.3% of Hungarians were at risk of poverty. This translates to about 2.5 million people at risk of poverty in Hungary. In 2008, when the financial crisis created higher poverty and unemployment worldwide, poverty in Hungary was at 28.2%. Upon comparing 2016 figures to those of 2008, trends are improving. Here is some information about poverty eradication in Hungary.

Hungary’s Mandate to Eradicate Poverty

The European Union (E.U.) has created an agenda, the Europe 2020 strategy, marking poverty eradication within the E.U. as one of its key targets. Meanwhile, in September 2015, Hungary adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda, adopted by all United Nations (U.N.) member states, is committed to eradicating poverty and creating a path towards a sustainable future by 2013 globally.

Yet, Hungary has a plan of its own. Presenting its Voluntary National Review (VNR) at the U.N. High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2018, Hungary showed its stake in the process of moving forward to achieve sustainable development. The country places a large emphasis on its most vulnerable population—those in poverty.  The basis of poverty eradication in Hungary follows that all should have equal access to natural resources, knowledge, information, market and affordable loans, for instance.

Access to Clean Water and Sanitation

Hungary holds a specific emphasis on the human rights aspects as well as a holistic approach to sustainable development. The country looks to create universal access to clean water and sanitation. In effect, Hungary has proposed the issue of water and sanitation as a standalone goal within its VNR. In fact, Hungary’s tap water is of the highest quality according to European standards, in which water quality parameters reach above adequacy in excess of 95%. This means that Hungary’s tap water is safe to drink.

According to Hungary’s policies, the nation plans to put the correct price on water, allocating water and water-related funding more efficiently. This will occur all the while maintaining water-efficient technologies and practices, implementing Europe’s water-saving culture and improving knowledge and data collection regarding water scarcity and drought risk management.

Public Participation

In order to achieve success within Hungary’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the country is targeting public participation. It intends to establish this through stakeholders and local action.

Measures include planning within the national and local-level scale, investing in and implementing social inclusion campaigns and implementing what works after understanding what does not. Additionally, the intention is to not only identify communities’ needs but address them as well.

According to the 2014-2020 financial framework of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), Hungary looks at three dimensions of social inclusion. The first is measuring inclusive growth for enhanced development impact, which looks at methods that monitor development outcomes and better target social investments. The second looks at enabling inclusive growth in the nation, discussing the ample support local planning and implementation will provide on the national level. The third dimension examines the people behind the numbers, which is a handbook implementing local equal opportunity programs, offering practical guidance and tools that empower local stakeholders, a part of local Equal Opportunity Programs, to effectively mold the local social inclusion landscape.

Child Poverty in Hungary and the Family Housing Allowance Program (CSOK)

Hungary’s child poverty rate has risen from 7% to 17% between 2007 and 2012. Children born into poverty in Hungary are often the most disadvantaged. In 2015, Hungary’s government announced a new major policy, the Family Housing Allowance Program (CSOK), which would effectively give families generous subsidies to buy or build new homes. Subsidies increase based on marital status and the number of children families have. However, the country’s tax benefit favors married families with children. Since the policy’s start, Hungary has increased its fertility rate, partly due to tax preferences, cash grants, loan subsidies, constitutional protections and expensive political signaling.

 Poverty eradication in Hungary can occur through the country’s plan of working together through the cooperation of science, economy, government and civil society. Because of Hungary’s focus on eradicating poverty, the country’s poverty level is below the E.U. average.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Access to Showers
Many people consider showering to be a basic human right – and the United Nations General Assembly certainly agrees. In 2010, the assembly classified The Human Right to Water and Sanitation as a human right. Yet not everyone has equal access to showers and sanitation; individuals who are part of marginalized groups, such as the homeless, often have limited access to showers. Ensuring that all individuals have access to forms of sanitation such as showering is essential to creating a more equal society.

The Importance of Showers

According to a 2017 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, access to sanitation methods such as showering is necessary for good health and hygiene. Individuals who do not have access to showers and thus shower only occasionally are at risk for diseases and infections such as ectoparasite infestations like lice. A study of homeless populations in Europe who took infrequent showers showed that they had a higher risk of developing these infestations, which included scabies, fleas and head lice. In Mexico, a homeless man named Fernando told El Universal that he had not “had a proper shower in 14 years,” saying that he and other homeless individuals near Puente Negro only had access to the unclean, pungent waters of the Tijuana canal in which to bathe themselves.

Though many homeless individuals adamantly seek out showers and other forms of maintaining hygiene, individuals who sleep outdoors or participate in substance use are at greater risk of being unable to regularly access showers and sanitation. In Boston, Massachusetts, homeless individuals who were able to shower regularly usually gained access to showers through a family member’s or friend’s home (20% reported this) or a day shelter (another 20% reported this). Yet those who do not have family or friends whom they can turn to or those who sleep on the streets may have a more difficult time gaining access to showers.

Mobile Showers: A Growing Industry

In June 2014, a nonprofit organization called Lava Mae emerged. Lava Mae founder Doniece Sandoval created mobile showers and toilets for the homeless population of San Francisco out of a retired bus, saying that if food could be delivered through mobile means, “why not showers…?” Since then, Lava Mae has built a “worldwide support network,” and 163 global communities have formed 190 mobile hygiene programs after receiving training and inspiration from Lava Mae.

By 2020, Lava Mae has provided 32,000 homeless people in California with 78,000 showers. Those who receive mobile showers receive shampoo, a towel, soap and socks – and they maintain privacy in a shower stall. Lava Mae has even created a hygiene toolkit that anyone can download if they wish to start their own mobile hygiene service in a community.

Iglesia Ancla (Anchor Church)

Other organizations are providing the homeless with mobile showers as well. In Tijuana, Mexico, a church called Iglesia Ancla (Anchor Church) started a mobile shower service in August 2018 to help homeless individuals have access to showers. Members of the church took an old cargo van and renovated it to contain three bathrooms with a shower, mirror, toilet and sink. This van travels to areas where homeless populations concentrate two times a week and provides them with shampoo, soap, a towel and a change of clothes.

Puente Negro Mexico News Daily reported that one homeless man in Puente Negro experienced shock at hearing that he would be able to take a shower through the church’s mobile shower program, saying that he might be able to “get a job” and that he almost fainted in the heat.

Orange Sky Laundry

Similarly, another organization, Orange Sky Laundry, is working in Australia and New Zealand to give mobile showers to the homeless. With a setup of 21 vans in Australia, the organization, founded in 2014 by Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, is currently managing 15-20 loads of washing and showers daily. About 116,000 Australians are homeless, and in Auckland, New Zealand, where the vans have set up, about 1,000 people sleep outside – a factor that, as mentioned previously, limits people from access to showers and increases the risk of infection.

Next, Orange Sky Laundry plans to expand its operation. Orange Sky Laundry plans to expand its organization to serve the homeless in the U.S., the U.K. and Greece. Marchesi and Pratchett, who have already powered through several hurdles – including broken laundry machines – to successfully deliver mobile showers, hope that their “homeless friends (can) transition back into being connected into the community again.”

Concluding Notes

These mobile shower organizations are imperative in helping the homeless, particularly those who live and sleep on the streets. Increased access to showers links to lower rates of infectious diseases – and helping the homeless around the world is necessary for achieving a greater form of equality. Many homeless individuals, including military veterans, use mobile laundry services such as Lava Mae to shower on a regular basis. Staying clean on the streets is not always possible or easy, as one veteran, Silas Borden, mentioned in Reader’s Digest. Therefore, these mobile laundry services can bring benefits to many communities around the world.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr