Sanitation in Djibouti
The Republic of Djibouti is a small country in the Horn of Africa that is home to nearly 1 million people, many of whom are living in poverty. Sanitation in Djibouti continues to be a concern today. However, its location near Ethiopia, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean make it a site of interest for many foreign powers. As a result, the country receives significant aid as its leaders work to provide Djiboutians access to sanitary water sources and services, many for the first time. Here are 10 facts about life and sanitation in Djibouti.

10 Facts About Life and Sanitation in Djibouti

  1. Djibouti is among the least developed and most impoverished countries in the Horn of Africa. Of its nearly 1 million residents, an estimated 42% live below the poverty line. As of 2018, the average life expectancy for Djiboutians was 66.8 years.
  2. Djibouti’s dry climate, nomadic farming lifestyle and periods of civil war have led to poverty, disease and malnutrition. Malnutrition rates have been as high as 30% in some rural areas, while many others living in urban areas like the capital city of Djibouti must rely on foreign aid and imported foods to survive. According to the World Food Programme, while malnutrition rates continue to decline, as much as 7.5% of Djiboutians experienced malnourishment as of 2016.
  3. Djibouti does not have a source of surface water and often experiences extensive droughts, so citizens rely on underground water aquifers that scarce rains refill. However, many of these aquifers run dry during the dry season from April to September, forcing many rural residents to adopt nomadic lifestyles or seek refuge in urban areas.
  4. Sanitation in Djibouti continues to be a challenge. The country faces several health crises as a result of open defecation practices and a lack of sanitation facilities. As many as 17% of citizens go out into the open to defecate in urban regions, while 83% of those living in rural areas have no access to sanitary latrines and toilets. This has led to a sharp increase in water-borne and diarrheal diseases since 2000, predominantly in children and women.
  5. The demand for sanitation programs has increased dramatically as a result of poverty and food insecurity. Since over half of those living in rural areas are food-insecure, mass migrations to urban areas have begun, increasing the need for essentials such as sanitary water and waste management. An estimated three-fourths of Djibouti’s population now lives in urban areas. As of 2011, UNICEF estimates that 73% of people have access to proper facilities in densely urban populated areas, compared to only 21% in rural areas. That means nearly 39% of all Djiboutians do not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
  6. The mass migration to densely populated urban areas and lack of proper facilities pose a significant risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Djibouti’s current rate of infection, about 98 cases for every 100,000 people, represents the highest prevalence and quickest multiplication rate on the continent. Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, announced a national lockdown starting on March 23, 2020, but has conceded since the country has not contained the outbreak. Guelleh has pledged an emergency fund of 1 billion Djiboutian francs ($5.6 million) and announced that food distributions have reached thousands of impoverished families. However, the initiative continues to face an uphill battle as it tries to reach all those in need, especially amid allegations of favoritism. Scrutiny on sanitation in Djibouti is particularly pertinent during the COVID-19 pandemic as the country lacks sufficient handwashing stations and waste disposal systems.
  7. Djibouti’s geographical location in the Horn of Africa has been a minor saving grace, as it represents a site of significant interest for several foreign powers, including the United States. USAID’s Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project hopes to address sanitation in Djibouti primarily by modernizing water services and access to potable water in rural areas. The WASH project is working to improve governance of water points, pay for water services to ensure affordable access for the most vulnerable and provide efficient maintenance services. To date, USAID’s project has rehabilitated five boreholes and five ring wells in rural areas, serving over 5,700 people. Over 2,000 of these Djiboutians are gaining access to sanitary water sources for the first time.
  8. The USAID’s WASH project in partnership with UNICEF also intends to end unsanitary practices and promote better hygiene in Djibouti through education. The project plans to help teach over 25,000 poor and vulnerable Djiboutians, particularly children, by providing classes on proper handwashing, water-gathering and waste disposal techniques.
  9. Foreign aid systems of support continue to help impoverished Djiboutians today. UNICEF has donated over $1 million to improve sanitation services and hygiene education programs. However, the Republic of Djibouti will need to search for more ways to provide public services to its vulnerable populations, especially as the Trump Administration continues to scrutinize such U.S. global health initiatives, proposing to cut as much as 28% of USAID’s funding in its 2020 fiscal year budget.
  10. As Djibouti works to wean itself off of foreign aid, President Guelleh has promised more funding for public services addressing the country’s sanitation needs, especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 2020, the Djiboutian government has pledged to fund and erect more public handwashing stations, but such efforts to improve sanitation in Djibouti are still on-going.
The Djiboutian government continues to encounter challenges as it works to help its vulnerable citizens. Foreign aid efforts such as USAID and UNICEF are providing funding for projects aiming to clean up sparse water supplies and waste management programs, but it ultimately will be up to President Guelleh and his administration to ensure proper sanitation in Djibouti.
 

– Andrew Giang

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in RussiaDespite Russia’s vast landscape and numerous bodies of water, access to clean, drinkable water is one of the nation’s most dire concerns. Although the government has recently taken steps to improve accessibility and water quality, years of inadequate infrastructure and weak pollution regulations have caused monumental damage. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Russia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Russia

  1. As of 2018, more than 11 million Russians do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the Russian regulatory bodies. Reports also show that roughly a third of Russia’s population of 144 million drink water with high iron content. While ingesting iron isn’t harmful to one’s health, iron in water attracts multiple breeds of bacteria, making it dangerous to drink. Not to mention, high iron content will turn water yellow and produce a foul smell.
  2. Although Moscow is the largest city in Russia, more than 56% of its water sources do not pass official water safety standards. A study in 2013 found high levels of sulfur, oil, aluminum and other hard metals in Moscow’s main river, the Moskva.
  3. Much of the pollutants in Russia’s water sources were dumped during Joseph Stalin’s rule, between 1941 and 1953. Stalin wanted the USSR to “catch up” with the western countries, and, as a result, factories forewent the usual environmental regulations in order to produce goods as quickly as possible.
  4. As recent as 2016, locals near Mayak, one of Russia’s nuclear complexes responsible for some of the largest radioactive accidents, speculated that the plant was still dumping waste into the Techa River. Mayak’s last confirmed case of illegal dumping was in 2004, and doctors have recorded consistently high rates of birth defects and cancer in the residents of the area.
  5. With around two million lakes and a quarter of the world’s freshwater reserves, Russia is not lacking any water. However, faulty pipes, pollution and inefficient filters have left much of the population without clean potable water. Scientists estimate that up to 60% of Russia’s water reserves do not pass sanitary standards, due to pollution and chemical dumping.
  6. Roughly 30% of the water pipelines that run through Russian towns and cities are in need of repair. The corrosion of these pipes not only stops them from working but can deposit even more harmful heavy metals into the already contaminated water supply.
  7. In 2010, the Russian Academy of Sciences created a government-backed plan called the Clean Water of Russia Program. This is Russia’s first and only government-issued program designed to overcome the water crisis. More than 2,000 separate proposals were collected and refined into the program, which was implemented in regions across the country. The program outlines goals to invest in improving water supply and waste disposal, protection for water sources against pollution and installing steel water pipes to last over 100 years.
  8. Although the Clean Water of Russia Program is a step in the right direction, many scientists have called out the lack of science-based data in the initiative. Reconstructing entirely new water systems may be economically favorable in some areas of the country while repairing pre-existing water systems would be more efficient in other areas. Some scholars worry that an inadequate number of scientists were involved in outlining the Clean Water of Russia Program, and the country will lose an unnecessary amount of money.
  9. Similar to the nationwide Clean Water of Russia Program, a smaller, government-backed plan entitled The Clean Water of Moscow was created in 2010 with plans to provide clean water to all of Moscow’s citizens. This plan was structured with the help of scientists. Since its inception, four water treatment plants utilize ozone-sorption technology to purify Moscow’s drinking water.
  10. Five years after the creation of the Clean Water of Russia Program, a study carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported that 97% of Russian citizens’ water sources had improved in quality, and 72% of the population had improved and available sanitation facilities. However, improved quality does not equate to meeting water safety standards, and millions of people still do not have access to pure drinking water.

After examining these 10 facts about sanitation in Russia, there are still many obstacles in its path to clean water for all, including massive detrimental polluting during the 20th century and from nuclear power plants. In 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed citizens in a broadcasted Q&A that access to water was still a prominent issue for the country, despite the launching of the Clean Water of Russia Program. However, through continued work, the Clean Water of Russia Program can make a positive difference in further improving clean water access.

– Anya Chung
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

7 Facts About Sanitation in Syria
In Syria, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities kill more than 85,000 children each year. In contrast, the war kills approximately 30,000 annually. Without clean water, young children, specifically 5-year-olds and younger, are left vulnerable to malnutrition and preventable diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and polio. Syrian families forced to flee due to the war are at a greater risk of contracting deadly illnesses. Here are 7 facts about sanitation in Syria.

7 Facts About Sanitation in Syria

  1. Damaged Infrastructure: The devastating use of explosives during the war in Syria has left basic infrastructure damaged beyond repair. In 2018, 50% were non-operational and more than 35,000 buildings were turned to rubble. As a result, the lack of access to clean water has become a growing problem.
  2. Water Mismanagement: Water researcher, Francesca de Châtel, believes Syria has mismanaged its water supply for 50 years. De Châtel says Syria has focused too much on large scale agriculture projects that have dried up rivers and wells. A lack of sufficient water has caused farmers to abandon their land and look for work elsewhere. This mismanagement also has nationwide impacts due to the amount of water waste.
  3. Risky Childbirth: Pregnant women are among one in every three families that are displaced from Syria. Often, they have little to no medical care because nearly 46% of health facilities are no longer functional and 167 are totally demolished. This has forced many pregnant women to give birth outside, under trees. They do not have a safe or sanitary place to deliver, which heightens the risk of delivering a unhealthy baby.
  4. Risk of Violence for Girls: While it may seem like an unusual correlation, lack of access to water in the home can put young girls and women at risk of violence. Since most households do not have clean sanitation facilities, girls and women venture out and travel miles to gather water. During their travels, they are vulnerable to violence, both physical or sexual. In fact, during the summer of 2015, the Syrian city of Aleppo faced a major water crisis and three children were killed while trying to collect water for their families.
  5. Contamination: Damaged infrastructure and the flooding of wastewater have contaminated water sources. In the northwest part of the nation, there is a high number of camps where displaced citizens have gathered. Here, these communities share latrines that do not meet the minimum humanitarian standards and are not segregated by gender, which can aggravate contamination. Paul Alcalde, who oversees water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming believes, “Lack of sanitation and lack of means for basic hygiene practices is not only about meeting immediate needs and basic rights, but it matters for dignity.”
  6. Cost: Prices and exchange rates have made water too expensive and out of reach for the poorest families. Some families spend up to 25% of their annual income alone on access to clean water derived from water tanks.
  7. Overcrowding: Many shelters throughout Syria and the surrounding countries, which hold the two million citizens that have become displaced, are not meeting the water or hygienic needs of the refugees. These living conditions are unsanitary due to a small number of showers and toilets as well as a lack of products like soap. Water is also rationed, and people are often allowed less than 10 quarts a day. Some shelters have been accommodated to hold around 25,000 refugees but will overcrowd and house twice the amount.

The Good News

Although Syrians, displaced or not, are still facing a sanitation and hygiene crisis, many organizations around the world have been doing their part to help.

UNICEF, the leader of the Water and Sanitation sector, has provided some relief to the people of Syria. Since 2011, UNICEF has provided 22,000 people with drinking and domestic water, 225,000 people have received soap and other hygiene products and 17,000 people have gained access to toilets and sanitation facilities. Nine years later, UNICEF concluded its first phase of WASH by completely restoring major water and sewage pipelines. In turn, 700,000 people have more and cleaner water instead of contaminated sources. 

Another organization that has provided major support is World Vision. Its efforts have included installing 10 water tanks in a refugee camp in Azraq, 5,200 WASH structures above and below ground such as toilets and sewage pits and constructing 35 tap stands that are connected to water tanks underground.

While Syria continues to grapple with war and violence, it must not forget to also address sanitation. With continued help from organizations like UNICEF and World Vision, hopefully sanitation in Syria will improve.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Cholera Outbreaks in AfricaDue to the use and ingestion of contaminated water, cholera has become one of the most common waterborne diseases in the world. Cholera is a bacterial disease that causes such symptoms as diarrhea, dehydration, and, if not treated quickly, even death. Lack of availability to drinking water and sanitation facilities in Africa allows cholera to spread easily and quickly. However, many organizations have come up with different ways over time to help reduce the spread of cholera. Here are five things being done to prevent cholera outbreaks in Africa.

5 Things Being Done to Prevent Cholera Outbreaks in Africa

  1. Access to Clean Water: Being a waterborne disease, cholera can be prevented most effectively with access to clean drinking water. CDC has created a program called The Safe Water System Project, which brings usable water to areas with contaminated water. The Project also treats water with a diluted chlorine solution, making it safe to drink. CDC was able to use this program to bring safe water to more than 40 schools in Kenya, providing clean water to the students, staff and their families.
  2. Oral Vaccination: The FDA approved an oral cholera vaccine called Vaxchora. Due to the spread of cholera cases in Africa, in 2017 and 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) distributed Vaxchora to five different countries in Africa to prevent further cholera outbreaks. By distributing this vaccine, WHO is giving relief and medical treatment to millions of individuals who previously may not have had access to any medical care.
  3. Proper Sanitation Facilities: Cholera can spread very easily if proper sewage and sanitation facilities are not in place or contain defecation. An organization called Amref Health Africa has made it their goal to supply communities in Ethiopia with clean toilets, sinks and other sanitation facilities. Amref Health Africa also sends teams to help train the community on how to maintain the facilities and educate them on other hygiene practices.
  4. Establishing Treatment Centers: According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 11 treatment centers have been established in Africa with the specific purpose to prevent cholera outbreaks. In addition, an organization called Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has created mobile clinics to meet the needs of those in more rural areas who may have contracted cholera. MSF has also established the Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC), which is a facility where individuals can visit and be treated for cholera.
  5. Hygiene Practices: UNICEF has launched a campaign to help spread hygiene awareness. The campaign is called My School Without cholera and is brought to more than 3,000 schools in Cameroon. Along with this campaign, UNICEF is urging Cameroon’s government to act and address the impact cholera has had on its community.

 

While as of 2018, cholera hotspots around the world have seen a decline of 60% since 2013, thousands of individuals are still susceptible to cholera in Africa. The WHO has estimated that Cameroon, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have had more thna 45,000 confirmed cases and close to 700 deaths just in the time span of 2017 to 2020. The call to educate others on and how to prevent cholera outbreaks is imperative to the health of those who face cholera as an everyday battle.

Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 
Mauritania is the geographic and cultural bridge between North African Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Islamic nation has a population of around 4 million people. Located in northwest Africa, the coastal country includes 90% desert land. Mauritania is infamous for being the last country to abolish slavery — in 1981 — and slaves still make up 4% to 10% of the population. Meanwhile, Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mauritania

  1. According to WHO, the lack of water sanitation causes nearly 90% of the 2,150 deaths from diarrheal diseases in Mauritania each year. Stagnant water breeds malaria mosquitos, parasites and other contaminants. With over 16.6% of the population below the extreme poverty line, many Mauritanians cannot afford to acquire clean water or proper healthcare.
  2. According to the Africa Development Bank Group, 68% of Mauritanians have access to potable water. In 2008, only 49% of the population had access to potable water. In isolated desert villages, citizens must trek miles to reach the closest water source. Meanwhile, in the capital city of Nouakchott, people in poverty often purchase water from vendors who hauled the barrels from a water supply several kilometers away.
  3. WaterAid determined that in 2017, 1,048,500 Mauritanian children under the age of 17 lacked a proper household toilet. Because people cannot afford toilets and lack access to running water, Mauritanians rely on latrines. In 2010, the government of Mauritania halted funding towards latrines, further stalling progress toward sanitation. However, UNICEF’s Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative has improved 67% of latrines since 2009.
  4. As of June 12th, 2020, Mauritania logged 1,439 cases of the novel COVID-19. Although many facilities lack proper sanitation to handle the virus, the Mauritanian government enforced curfews, travel bans and shop closures. In hopes of preventing potential economic damage, the government also distributed food and exempted 174,707 households from paying electricity bills. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF responded to the situation by treating coronavirus patients and implementing sanitation facilities to contain the virus.
  5. In 2018, the Chinese company CTE subsidized $40.3 million toward a rainwater collection system for a new sanitary sewerage network in Nouakchott. Prior to the project, Nouakchott’s sewerage network served only 5% of the city’s households. Building better sewerage networks will allow Mauritania to bring running water to rural areas. Since the country is below sea level, sewerage networks can also help limit floods and stagnant water.
  6. The African Development Bank funded the National Integrated Rural Water Sector Project (PNISER) to install drinking water supply networks and solar pumping stations in rural Mauritania. The Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation is implementing the new networks in rural communities that lack water systems. Around 400,000 square meters of irrigated land will receive water availability, generating additional income for women and youth.
  7. World Vision initiated the WASH Mauritania program in 2016. It has provided three local villages with access to water, hygiene and sanitation resources. With funding from the U.S. and Germany, World Vision Mauritania “[rehabilitated] boreholes, water towers, water retention points, fountains and water network extension.” In the village of Maghtaa Sfeira, WASH benefited over 900 people and sponsored more than 200 children. As a result of this program, many women and children no longer have to seek unsanitary water holes or trek miles for water supplies.
  8. According to WaterAid, 60% of Mauritania’s schools lacked sanitation in 2016. When schools offer sanitation, not only can children practice good hygiene, but their school attendance increases.
  9. Because Mauritania is vulnerable to desertification, WHO partnered with the Mauritanian government in 2013 to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and villages have proper water, sanitation and hygiene. WHO provided water basins, installed toilets and insured higher quality of food for schools. In addition, WHO equipped the country with six biomedical waste incinerators to dispose of hazardous substances. In one instance, transforming a Land Rover into a mobile water laboratory has enabled WHO to monitor the water quality of different villages.
  10. In 2020, the World Bank secured funding for the Water and Sanitation Sectoral project and the Mauritania Health System Support project. The Water and Sanitation Sectoral Project received an International Development Association (IDA) grant of $44 million to improve latrines, add hand-washing facilities and rehabilitate water systems. In the Hodh el Chargui region in eastern Mauritania, an additional $23 million IDA grant will increase the quality of reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health and nutrition services. Together, these projects will benefit more than 473,000 people.

Improving sanitation in Mauritania can potentially have wide-reaching benefits — from raising incomes and boosting the national economy, to improving education and lowering mortality rates. It is imperative that the government and other organizations focus on providing sanitation resources to the people of Mauritania.

– Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in BotswanaBotswana is a landlocked country in southern Africa. It has actively advocated and improved legislation for water access and sanitation since 1981 and continues to improve its Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) conditions. Still, despite its growing economy, the country struggles to provide WASH services for some of its 2 million inhabitants. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Botswana.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Botswana

  1. Free Feminine Hygiene Products: As of 2017, girls enrolled in both public and private schools have access to free feminine products as part of their school supplies. One in 10 girls reported missing school during their period prior to this initiative. This often led to girls falling behind in their work, and in some cases, dropping out. To combat this problem and encourage more Botswanan girls to finish their education, the government began providing sanitary pads to enrolled students. Similar initiatives throughout Africa have improved school attendance by more than 40%.
  2. Free HIV Treatment: Botswana provides free antiretroviral treatment for HIV and was the first country to do so. Despite the free treatment, Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world with 20.3% of the population infected according to Avert. Botswana encourages condom use by making 85% of condoms free and by teaching people about their benefits. Botswana has also improved the prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) in all healthcare facilities. The country provides training to employees to combat this issue, decreasing the transmission to 2.1%.
  3. Hygiene in school: A study performed by The University of Botswana concluded many elementary schools have the proper infrastructure for hygiene, such as toilets, sinks and latrines, but they do not always have the resources to ensure that the infrastructure works properly. The study found that 80% of toilets did not flush properly and that there was limited access to handwashing supplies. The Botswanan government is working to ensure these situations are improved through additional funding and newer infrastructure.
  4. Education about hygiene and sanitation: Hygiene is taught to students in elementary schools, but there is still a greater need for implementation and proper hygiene practices. The Okavango Research Institute found only 70% of students said they “always wash their hands,” before eating and after going to the bathroom, if available.
  5. Toilets in Botswana: More than 88% have access to adequate toilets in Botswana in 2020. Most toilets in Botswana are Western flush style, though latrines are also prevalent. However, in rural areas, Western-style toilets are less common, and up to 32.62% of people are practicing open defecation.
  6. Access to water: Clean water in Botswana primarily comes from ground sources, such as rivers and dams. Rates of water access are relatively high in urban areas (99.5%) compared to 84.1% in rural areas. However, limited infrastructure to secure the water forces many women into the laborious and time-consuming task of retrieving the water. Women may spend up to five hours retrieving clean water on a given day.
  7.  Water Demand: With increased access comes increased demand, which is hampered by decreasing rainfall and the high cost of sanitation. This demand also puts pressure on infrastructure systems and threatens access to clean water. To resolve this demand, government agencies and schools have started water recycling facilities. One such facility started by the Ministry of Agriculture recycles water from the Gaborone city sewage. It uses this water for “gardening and brick making,” reducing the need for clean water for these activities.
  8. Disease Implications: Diarrheal diseases remain a prominent concern regarding sanitation in Botswana. Diarrhea is caused by contaminated drinking water, inadequate sanitation services and unsafe storage practices. Through a study published by the Journal of Health, research determined people in rural areas are drinking and using water “unsuitable for domestic use,” despite the apparent availability of clean water. The study also concluded that the lack of proper storage in a person’s home contributes to the contaminants in the water. The prevalence of diarrheal diseases is the third highest killer in Botswana. Such illnesses kill four times as many people as the global median as of 2017.
  9. Healthcare Facilities: A huge factor in improving sanitation in Botswana is healthcare. Botswana has 27 health districts that provide “almost free” healthcare to citizens. Since the Abuja Declaration of 2001, Botswana allocates 17% of its budget to healthcare. Despite this, hospitals struggle with “inexperienced staff” and a lack of bed access. Citizens who can afford it opt for private healthcare to receive better services. However, healthcare and safety are prioritized in Botswana, and because of this, the country has only 49 reported coronavirus cases. This is also due to the government’s early implementation of required masks and social distancing.
  10. Improvement to WASH Services: Botswana has government agencies dedicated to improving WASH conditions: the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services and The Ministry of Health. This Ministry has worked with the U.N. to participate in the Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation And Drinking Water (GLAAS) survey. Furthermore, since 2000, Botswana has improved basic sanitation by 25% according to UNICEF.

Botswana is continuing to make valiant strides in the public health arena and looks on track to provide a better overall quality of life to its citizens, despite limitations in funding and infrastructure.

Allison Caso
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Niger
Niger is the largest country in West Africa. It is officially named the Republic of the Niger after the famous Niger River. While rates like school enrollment, global economic prospects and life expectancy at birth are estimated to increase in the coming years, it still remains one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in the world. Access to proper sanitation still remains one of the largest issues affecting the nation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Niger.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Niger

  1. In 2016, an estimated 70.8% of deaths were caused by a lack of safe drinking water or proper sanitation. Other leading causes of death include influenza and pneumonia accounting for 27,892 deaths, diarrheal diseases accounting for 16,180 deaths and tuberculosis accounting for 3,842 deaths, all in 2017.
  2. Because of Niger’s quickly increasing population, any progress being made in the sanitation infrastructure and development has been slowed down by the number of people being born. In 2000, the population was around 11.4 million. By 2018, the population had grown to 22.5 million. Niger also has the highest birth rate in the world: in 2011, the birth rate was 7.6 births per woman per year .
  3. The droughts that Niger experienced in the past, from 1950 to around 1980, contributed to sanitation access issues and disease. This also led to lower crop yields, resulting in malnutrition.
  4. In Niger, there are 10 million people who cannot reach clean water. This is in part due to the fact that most of the people in Niger live in rural areas, not urbanized ones. In 2014, approximately 8.2 million people lived in the rural areas of the country that lacked proper sanitation infrastructure.
  5. In 2008, only 39% of the people living in rural areas had access to water, while 96% of the population in urban areas did. Also in 2008, only 4% of people living in rural areas had access to sanitation, while 34% had access to sanitation in urban areas.
  6. There are 18 million people without access to a toilet in the country. This issue of sanitation in Niger leads to open defecation, which also poses health issues. In 2017, 68% of people were practicing open defecation in the country.
  7. Lack of clean water results in 9,800 childhood deaths from diarrhea each year. In 2018, there were 83.7 childhood deaths per 1,000 children.
  8. Part of the reason many people lack access to sanitation in Niger is due to the country’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH), which needs to be improved. This is in part due to the rapidly growing population. The goals of WASH cannot keep up with the growth. The drastic differences in living conditions between the urban and rural populations also create complications.
  9. Although wells are dug for water, there are problems accessing them and with contamination. Some wells do not have proper liners, and therefore become contaminated and unusable for drinking. In other cases, women and children have to walk hundreds of miles just to access the water wells.
  10. Niger’s people face problems with diseases from water, especially cholera. The conditions of sanitation in Niger result in water contamination, which resulted in a cholera outbreak in the area from the years 1970 to 2006. In 2004, another outbreak led to 2,178 cases of cholera, resulting in 57 deaths. In 2006, Niger had yet another outbreak, leading to 1,121 cases and 79 deaths being reported.

The Good News

UNICEF is one of the main groups helping the government of Niger with the sanitation issues in the country. The group aims to help provide safer drinking water and better access to sanitation. Another group called Water Aid aims to provide clean water to those in need, along with access to toilets and hygiene. The nonprofit Wells Bring Hope focuses on drilling wells in the rural areas of Niger in order to supply clean drinking water. They also are promoting drip-farming in order to help farmers grow their crops.

While Niger is far from reaching its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and sanitation concerns are rampant throughout the country, especially in rural areas, there are groups making strides for the nation’s future. With these continued efforts, hopefully sanitation in Niger will improve.

– Marlee Septak
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in MaliOne of the largest countries in Africa, the Republic of Mali sits landlocked in the northwestern chunk of the continent. While it is known more recently as one of the most impoverished and unstable countries, thousands of years ago Mali was a cultural epicenter. The Niger and Senegal rivers that cross through the country made Mali one of the richest countries due to a flourishing trans-Saharan trade economy. With goods came literature, art, music and discovery, transforming the Malian city of Timbuktu into a vital center for scholarship. Though Timbuktu’s cultural reputation and Mali’s musical achievements have continued, the country as a whole faces many challenges. About half of Mali’s total population lives in poverty, facing exceedingly unhealthy circumstances as a result, partially due to poor sanitation. Mali’s journey toward achieving proper hygiene and sanitation is detailed in the following facts.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mali

  1. In 2017, the WHO and UNICEF discovered 52% of Malian households nationally have access to basic hygienic facilities, just below the global average of 60%. In rural areas though, access to facilities drops down to just 39%. These averages are higher than other African countries, like Ethiopia and Burundi, that have less than 10% access to facilities in rural areas.
  2. UNICEF also found about 7% of Malians still practice open defecation, causing preventable illnesses connected to improper sanitation. Diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria unequally affect children, producing some of the highest child and infant mortality rates in the world. However, in 2018, UNICEF, USAID and its partner organization JIGI implemented Community-Led Total Sanitation models (CLTS) as a way to decrease open defecation in rural communities. CLTS helped more than 3,500 villages eradicate open defecation, improving the lives of almost three million people due to increased awareness of personal hygiene and sanitation.
  3. Thanks to humanitarian aid from various organizations, 80% of Mali’s national population has access to safe drinking water and in rural areas, 70% have access. In 2019, UNICEF and its partners provided water supply services to more than 194,500 people, including water points and latrines in 95 schools and 61 health centers.
  4. In 2018, a Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study discovered diarrheal diseases stood as the third-highest cause of death in Mali, beaten by neonatal diseases and malaria. However, it is worth noting that due to sanitation improvement measures, the rate of death from diarrheal diseases declined by almost 9% between 2008 and 2017.
  5. Currently, 52%of the population does not have access to a handwashing facility, weakening how Malians can effectively combat diseases. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has begun distributing handwashing devices with the goal of sending up to 4,000. In a joint report with UNICEF and the WHO published in April concerning COVID-19, they specified that “frequent and correct hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus”. They also recommend proper water sanitation and waste management to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  6. About 50% of schools have improved water access, though only 20% have working, gender-separated latrines. Due to the coronavirus, more than 1,000 schools have closed for the time being, cutting off access to what could be a child’s only functioning toilet.
  7. Since 2012, armed conflicts have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people in addition to violence and abuse of children. This instability has created a decrease in the successful delivery of humanitarian aid, which the country largely relies on for assistance with sanitation needs. The coronavirus pandemic has also slowed the services usually given to Mali.
  8. In April, the World Bank approved a $25.8 million grant to support Mali’s response to the coronavirus. The money contributes to health care services, screening and treatment of patients. The initial funding will focus on Mali’s response to the virus and the country’s ability to handle the health and economic impacts to come with an already fragile health system. The grant will also allow Mali to continue essential services like clean water and education.
  9. The humanitarian organization World Vision joined the Mali Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (MIWASH) to construct 208 new water points in 2019, allowing more than 100,000 people access to sanitation facilities while increasing hygiene education. World Vision has also implemented numerous latrine stalls, handwashing kits and hygienic education services through its additional projects, reaching 15,400 children in 51 schools.
  10. In 2016, UNESCO, U.N.-Women, UNFPA and KOICA implemented the “Empowering Girls and Young Women through Education in Mali” project to help girls and young women seek better living conditions through equitable education. The project involves educating girls about feminine hygiene and their reproductive rights to decrease the rates at which young girls drop out of school, have children and marry while still children themselves. One aspect of the project involves access to clean water and sanitation facilities. One of the many achievements the project has made since its creation includes the construction and mending of 137 latrines suitable for girls in Bamako.

Poor sanitation is not the only problem plaguing Mali but it does create a tidal wave of other preventable issues that Malians have to struggle with. Disease, higher mortality rates and malnutrition result from improper sanitation of water and toilet facilities. However, continued investments by the Malian government along with support from international players will help with country to improve conditions for its citizens going forward. 

Maria Marabito
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in belarusBelarus, a post-Soviet state that spent seven decades as a conglomerate of the larger Soviet Union, industrialized early, making much of its industrial base outdated and inefficient today. The country is highly dependent on Russia economically, with many treaties linking the two nations, and much of the sanitation and infrastructure remains unchanged from the early 20th century. This has left much of the country without safe sanitation or modern amenities, reducing the standard of living. Looking back on Belarus’s sanitation history shows high chemical content in their water, poor waste management systems and poor consistency of water flow. However, large scale projects on the horizon are looking to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of Belarus’s sanitation infrastructure.

5 Facts About Sanitation in Belarus

  1. Current status: Though Belarus struggles compared to its Western European neighbors, compared with some of its Eastern counterparts, Belarus scores in the top third of countries in the Human Development Index measure for “quality of standard of living” metrics. Additionally, compared with some of its less developed neighbors eastward, Belarus ranks in the top third in countries for environmental sustainability which also takes into account sanitation in Belarus. The United Nation’s report on water states that 95% of the population has access to a safe potable water source, 86% of the country has safe wastewater treatment and 81% of the country has access to safe sanitation services. While these numbers may appear relatively high, they are critically low when compared to Western European nations. For example, Belarus’s neighbor to the West, Poland, has 100% of its population with access to potable water and 93% of the country that has access to sanitation services.
  2. Clean water access is an ongoing problem: According to a study conducted on drinking water in Belarus, the quality of potable water is among the most pressing ecological problems for Belarus. Multiple outbreaks of diseases can be attributed to poor access to clean water. For example, in 1997, poor drinking water quality caused a small 400-case outbreak of aseptic meningitis. Other disease outbreaks related to poor water quality include viral hepatitis and methemoglobinemia in infants. These factors greatly reduced the quality of life for those in Belarus who could not rely on safe water to drink.
  3. Belarus is a “water-rich” country: Though Belarus’s territory has been known to lack basic sanitation, the country contains many natural, accessible water resources. Belarus has many aquatic ecosystems including rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. The historic difficulty for Belarus has been to transform those clean water sources into potable and usable water for its citizens.
  4. The “Clean Water Program”: Massive efforts are underway to transform the Belorussian country’s critical utility services. With support from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, Belarus is upgrading existing critical infrastructure in order to modernize. In addition to upgrading the old infrastructure, the World Bank hopes its investment will not only provide better services but come at a lower cost. It was planned that, through this program, 324,000 citizens of Belarus would have better quality drinking water and a cleaner environment. Through the modernization of existing systems, the reforms would not only bring cleaner water but give a much-needed upgrade to Belarus’s aging solid waste management services. New landfills and water treatment facilities would usher in a new era of environmental efforts as well as raise the standard of living.
  5. The quality of living has risen: In June of 2020, following the completion of the subsidized “Clean Water Program,” the number of people that benefited from quality access and treatment of water rose from 324,000 in 2019 to a staggering 611,766 people at the time of the project’s completion. Not only did more people benefit from increased water quality and treatment, 47,520 individuals gained access to much-improved sanitation services through 32 newly constructed utility centers and 154 kilometers of piping that was replaced. In addition to the new changes brought on by the massive initiative spearheaded by the World Bank, tangible changes in quality of living were noticed throughout the country. In the city of Berezino residents noticed cleaner air and cleaner water in the Berezina river that intersects the town. This was all due to the replaced water treatment center. Residents from another provincial town called Smolevichi noticed that the discoloration in their water supplies was almost totally gone. These noticeable improvements regarding sanitation in Belarus are vital in raising the standard of living in the country and bringing people out of poverty.

While Belarus is still lagging behind many of its more developed Western neighbors, vast international efforts have recognized the need for Belarus to have access to safe drinking water. Recent efforts to address sanitation in Belarus, as well as other water-related infrastructure, are vital to understanding its development as a sovereign state in the 21st century.

– Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

 

Sanitation In Malaysia
Malaysia is home to a diverse population of more than 32 million people. Water safety and sanitation in Malaysia has greatly improved over the years, but more action is required to secure access to safe water and sanitation for all. The World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WHO/UNICEF JMP) has a goal to “leave no one behind” in the plan for sustainable development by 2030. Here are nine facts about sanitation in Malaysia.

9 Facts About Sanitation in Malaysia

  1. Basic sanitation access is now near-universal. The U.N.-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) conducted in 2016/2017 reported that 100% of the urban population and 99% of the rural population is using at least basic sanitation services. In 2000, 98% of the urban population and 94% of the rural population had access to basic sanitation according to a study by the WHO/UNICEF JMP.

  2. Investing in water and sanitation has benefited economic development and vice versa. The Malaysian government has prioritized the sanitation sector, using a top-down approach since Malaysia’s independence in 1957. Growth in tourism led to improvements in sewer infrastructure driven by this factor’s ability to spur economic development. Since 2010, Malaysia’s economy has been growing at about 5.4% annually. The World Bank expects Malaysia to become a high-income economy by 2024. The prospect of economic growth motivated improvements in sanitation, and development has helped make further investments financially possible.

  3. Urbanization and industrialization strain conditions. It is predicted that 80% of the overall population in Malaysia will live in urban cities by 2030. While these changes are benefiting economic development, the increases in urbanization and industrialization are increasing the demand for water resources. These elements are causing tensions, while simultaneously increasing the rate of water pollution. The sanitation infrastructure that originally helped Malaysia’s economic growth is now struggling to manage the increased capacity.

  4. Changing weather patterns pose a challenge. Malaysia is experiencing increased flooding problems which cause higher rates of sediment that are difficult to manage. Workers can build dams to help the flooding issue, but dams obstruct the natural environment and often force the relocation of already vulnerable populations. The World Water Vision project is working to promote clean water with a focus on the quality of life and the environment necessary to confront these intertwined issues.

  5. Institutional and legal issues are hindering progress. There is no single agency in Malaysia responsible for the holistic planning and management of water. The National Water Resources Council is one entity that promotes effective water management. Current institutional bounds are also causing a lack of regulation for sanitation and drinking water programs and policies, especially for rural areas.

  6. Discrimination affects access to safe sanitation and clean water. A 2018 report from the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, Léo Heller, emphasized the pattern of discrimination in those excluded from safe sanitation access. People who are undocumented, stateless or gender nonconforming are particularly affected. Importantly, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was not ratified by the Malaysian government, which is discouraging to progress on this pertinent issue.

  7. Indigenous communities suffer from a lack of sanitation and clean water services. Improved drinking water infrastructure and policy are especially lacking in indigenous communities. The Orang Asli, the indigenous population in Malaysia, make up 0.7% of the population in Peninsular Malaysia. However, this group makes up 60% of the population in East Malaysia. This demographic collects its water directly from rivers and streams, but they also use these rivers in place of toilets. Heller reported that many of the water treatment facilities that do exist are not working and many are too difficult to maintain without proper training, which the Orang Asli lack.

  8. The Global Peace Foundation is improving conditions for the Orang Asli. The Communities Unite for Purewater (CUP) initiative, a joint effort between the Orang Asli and the Global Peace Foundation, is working to install water filters and educate the community about water, sanitation and hygiene. With the new filters, women no longer have to travel as far to collect water. This effort is also a great example of increased community engagement in policy. CUP has benefited more than 3,000 villagers who struggled to have access to safe water and sanitation due to their remote locations.

  9. Vulnerable populations are not adequately addressed in policymaking. Heller stated in his report that average figures are not always a good measure of conditions. Regarding sanitation in Malaysia, he says “We need to look at the marginalized and special groups. Usually, they are hidden in the average numbers.” There is a need to improve disaggregated data on water and sanitation services to better understand and target the lack of access to vulnerable communities. Additionally, targeted policies need to improve access for indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups. Refugees and undocumented peoples need the same right to safe sanitation as citizens.

Overall, access to basic sanitation in Malaysia is almost universal. The country now needs to handle issues of discrimination and inequity of access to these services, especially among vulnerable populations.

Katie Gagnon
Photo: Flickr