Sanitation in MalawiMalawi is an impoverished, landlocked country in southeastern Africa. As is common among impoverished nations, Malawi critically struggles with health and sanitation. Here are the top 10 facts about sanitation in Malawi.

Top 10 Facts About Sanitation in Malawi

  1. Menstrual hygiene – In Malawi, there are imbedded cultural beliefs surrounding menstruation that lead to communal ignorance. This stigma surrounding menstruation extends to schools, where girls similarly do not receive education about menstruation. Furthermore, most school bathrooms provide little to no privacy. This lack of privacy, combined with the societal shame of menstruation, results in girls leaving school once they get their period.
  2. Hygiene in schools – For children without access to clean water, toilets or soap at home, school can be their only hope of sanitation. Unfortunately, hygiene in schools often falls short in Malawi. As of 2018, only 4.2% of Malawian schools had handwashing facilities with soap and 9% did not have a secured water source.
  3. Education about hygiene and sanitation – Schools are a key tool for educating youth on basic hygiene and sanitation, especially due to the fact that children are effective agents of behavior change. They capable of sharing lessons they learn at school with their local community. However, similar to their lack of sanitation infrastructure, schools also lack education surrounding sanitation in Malawi. Even if schools did offer education surrounding hygiene and sanitation, high rates of enrollment would be required to create a large scale change in behavior. In many rural communities, girls are tasked with traveling long distances to collect water. This responsibility combined with the obstacle of menstruation reduces female enrollment in school.
  4. Toilets – As of 2015, 9.6 million Malawians – almost half of the population – did not have access to an adequate toilet. There are two types of toilets in Malawi. The first is the Western-style with a toilet bowl and a seat; the second is a hole in the ground. The Western-style is common in urban towns and cities while the hole in the ground is common in rural areas.
  5. Open defecation – In 2008, Malawi adopted the Community Lead Total Sanitation and Hygiene program (CLTS) in an effort to make the country Open Defecation Free (OPF). Malawi has made great strides, but 6% of rural communities continue to openly defecate. Open defecation results from inadequate health infrastructure such as toilets and is a key health concern in Malawi. Open defecation is linked to sanitation-related diseases, high child mortality and the spread of cholera.
  6. Access to water – As of 2015, only 67% of households in Malawi had access to basic drinking water. Similarly, 5.6 million do not have access to a safe water source. In fact, pproximately 30% of water points in rural areas were non-functional at any given time. Water is deeply intertwined with sanitation. Without access to clean water people catch water-borne diseases, are unable to stay clean through bathing and risk their safety by traveling long distances to receive water.
  7. Access to local sanitation facilities – As of 2015, only 42% of Malawian rural households had access to basic sanitation services. Consequently, in 2018 there were 9.9 million people in Malawi who did not use basic sanitation. Combined with poor transportation infrastructure, this lack of local sanitation facilities places strain on rural communities. Communities that do not have secure access to water, predominantly rural communities, are reliant on local sanitation facilities to stay clean and healthy. Thus, without such facilities, the risks of experiences the consequences of poor sanitation increase dramatically.
  8. Role of drought – In the past 36 years, Malawi has experienced eight major droughts. Droughts directly cause a reduction in water availability and thus, indirectly impact sanitation. The most recent drought in Malawi occurred in 2016 and disrupted household economic activities by increasing the time needed to search for water. It also increased the degradation of water catchment areas and increased the risk of water-washing diseases due to a prioritization of water for drinking rather than personal hygiene. Drought places another obstacle in the way of achieving universal sanitation in Malawi.
  9. Higher risk of diseases – Poor sanitation and unhygienic practice result in approximately 3,000 under-five child deaths per year in Malawi. Diarrhea is often a tragic consequence of poor sanitation with 11.4% of infant and child mortality resulting from diarrhea. Similarly, even if diarrhea does not result in death, frequent episodes can yield a negative effect on child development, stunting and acute respiratory infections. Furthermore, poor sanitation not only leads to diarrhea but also waterborne illnesses such as cholera. Thus high rates of communicable diseases are intimately tied to poor sanitation in Malawi.
  10. Improvements to WASH services – USAID is an active participant in increasing WASH services in Malawi and has made great progress. In 2015 alone USAID had constructed 60 shallow wells and three boreholes. It built 360,080 toilets with handwashing facilities as well as installed 2600 chlorine dispensers in 25 villages. This progress provides hope for the achievement of universal sanitation in Malawi.

Malawi is an impoverished African nation currently suffering from inadequate sanitation. This lack of sanitation in Malawi not only impacts health but household income and child attainment of education. While progress has been made through organizations such as USAID, more still needs to be done. Please consider visiting the Borgen Project website on information on how to call or email your representatives to put international aid as a priority on the U.S. agenda.

Lily Jones
Photo: Flickr

poverty eradication in IndonesiaIndonesia is a large Southeast Asian country with a population of 267.7 million. As of 2019, 9.4% of Indonesians lived in poverty. Different programs both located in Indonesia and in other countries are innovating ways to eradicate poverty in Indonesia. Among them are cash transfer programs, food assistance programs, WASH sanitation programs and others. Here are five facts about innovations in poverty eradication in Indonesia.

5 Facts About Innovation in Poverty Eradication in Indonesia

  1. Poverty is declining each year, but not by much. From 1999 to 2013, the poverty rate in Indonesia went from 24% to 11.4%. However, in the years after that, the rate of poverty reduction has slowed to be 0.5% lower each year. In 2014, out of the Indonesians in the bottom 10% of the income bracket, only one-fifth received all governmental social assistance programs that they were eligible for.
  2. Conditional cash transfer programs are working to provide support to Indonesia’s poorest families. Program Keluarga Harapan, which translates to the Family Hope Program, is a social protection program. It provides assistance to very poor families in Indonesia. This program has been recently expanded to reach the 10 million poorest families in Indonesia. Program Keluarga Harapan focuses on targeting pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. It also focuses on families with toddlers and school-aged children.
  3. Non-cash food assistance programs deliver food assistance. By 2018, Indonesia expanded non-cash food assistance programs to serve about 10 million Indonesian families. These programs are similar to food stamp programs, and they deliver food assistance with a focus on proper nutrition. One of Indonesia’s longest-running food assistance programs is Rice for the Poor, also known as Raskin. Rice for the Poor is changing into an electronic voucher program that provides non-cash food assistance.
  4. Healthcare programs are also an imperative part of poverty reduction. When faced with illness or health problems, low-income households are often at financial risk. Indonesia’s Healthcare Guarantee Program, known as Jamkesmas, protects low-income families from this risk when they become ill. As of 2012, this program covered about 76.4 million people in the low-income bracket in Indonesia.
  5. WASH programs help improve access to clean water. Indonesia Urban Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH) partners with a local water utility and micro-finance institution. It helps provide services to families and small business owners in order to allow them to build bathrooms that are hygienic and safe. In 1990, only 35% of Indonesians had access to sanitation facilities. In 2015, that percentage jumped to 61%. Additionally, sanitation services and clean water can improve the health of many families, particularly low-income ones.

Overall, these programs are all essential in reducing and eradicating poverty in Indonesia. Poverty, homelessness and hunger are still relevant issues in Indonesia. However, these programs will pave the way for more innovations in poverty eradication in Indonesia that can also help in other parts of the world.

Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr

Water Disparities in NigeriaIn Nigeria, clean water does not always receive treatment as a public good available to everyone. Instead, access to clean water depends on the neighborhood a person lives in. As a result, the dangers of waterborne diseases affect low-income areas disproportionately. Additionally, clean water is a privilege pertaining to socioeconomic status rather than the public good it should be. Water disparities in Nigeria often affect those who need the most help.

The Problem of Water Contamination

Adriel Garrick, who grew up in Nigeria, knows about water inequality. Garrick told The Borgen Project that “When [she] was young [she] had a friend diagnosed with Typhoid,” an infection that drinking contaminated drinking water or food causes.  She also said that “[Her] friend did not know he was drinking polluted water, and he was in the hospital for about three weeks, then later passed away.”

Death from water contamination is not unusual. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, as of 2015, 42.7% of Nigeria’s rural population and 19.2% of its urban population lacked clean, reliable drinking water. Diarrheal diseases, usually from contaminated drinking water, are the fifth leading cause of death in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s rural population is in a worse situation than the urban population for one reason: wealth. Wealth is a massive determinant of who gets clean drinking water there.

Water Supply System in Nigeria

According to Chidozie Nnaji, a researcher at the University of Nigeria, Nigeria does not treat drinking water as a social right. “The government provides water for the highly placed and charges them peanuts, but the same gesture is hardly extended to the generality of the masses who have to provide (purchase) their own water,” Nnaji told The Borgen Project. “Water is perceived as a social right for the highly placed, but as an economic good for the rest of the people. What an irony!”

Nigeria has a privatized water supply, contributing to disparities between the access of the wealthy and the poor. “Privatized water supply in developing countries is known for little infrastructure investments, neglecting low-income areas, and prioritizing profit over service quality,” Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, an associate professor at the University of Dammam, told The Borgen Project.

Not only can privatized water add to economic disparities, but it is also often unhealthy. Water vending is not a sustainable solution, according to Abubakar.

“Water vending is supposed to be a stop-gap solution to water outages or for households not yet connected to piped water supply,” said Abubakar. “Water vendors have now become the primary source of water for numerous households, . . . they should not be allowed as a long-term solution. . . . Water vendors and packaged water are expensive and not free from contamination.”

UNICEF’s Solution to Clean Water

The United Nations Children’s Fund has been working with the Nigerian government since 2005 to implement the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. The program aims to provide clean water to all of Nigeria and implement hygiene education and sanitation facilities. WaterAid is a global federation of nonprofits. It has an initiative working with the Nigerian government to provide clean water and sanitation to families who need it most.

Safe, clean water is a necessity for all people, not a privilege. Given the disparities in access to clean water in different economic sectors, it is clear that Nigeria is experiencing a crisis that will not be resolved until the country as a whole is able to claim clean water and the physical health that depends upon this resource as an essential human right.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MadagascarMadagascar is an island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa. Established as an independent country in 1960, Madagascar is known for its diverse culture of French, Indian, Chinese and Arabic influences, along with many others. The island is home to about 27 million people. The majority of these people are currently living in extreme poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty Rates in Madagascar

According to the World Bank, 75% of people in Madagascar are estimated to be living on less than $1.90 per day as of 2019. This number has decreased since the last official statistic in 2012 (when 77.6% were living in poverty in Madagascar). Still, this remains one of the highest poverty rates in the world. For comparison, in the U.S., 1.2% of people lived on $1.90 or less per day in 2016. According to data from 2015, 10% of the world’s population lives on $1.90 or less per day.

Additionally, in Madagascar, approximately 85% of homes do not have access to electricity. Almost one-half of children in Madagascar are likely to experience stunting as a result of undernutrition. One in 16 children dies before the age of five. As an island, Madagascar is at a high risk of natural disasters and climate change effects, experiencing an average of three natural disasters per year. These are responsible for approximately $400 million in damages.

Georgette Raharimalala is a Malagasy mother to three in Betafo, Madagascar. On average, women in Madagascar have five children. Raharimalala, known as Zety, primarily makes her money by working in the fields in her village with her children, buying and reselling peanuts and occasionally gardening where she can find space on her small property. “Life is very hard,” she said. “As soon as we make a bit of money, we buy food.”

However, poverty in Madagascar continues to improve. There are many programs in place to provide economic assistance to low-income countries like Madagascar.

World Bank’s IDA Program Helps the Economy

Zety is eligible for financial assistance from the International Development Association (IDA) on a bi-monthly basis. The IDA is part of the World Bank, which distributes loans and grants to 74 of the world’s poorest countries. The bank aims to improve local economies, reduce inequalities and improve living situations. This IDA program requires Zety to take her children to the wellness center in her village for a checkup once a month to ensure they are properly nourished. She also learns how to cook and provide proper diets for her children. Children in families receiving financial assistance must also be enrolled in (and remain in) school. As a result of the IDA program:

  • 1.3 million children have had access to free healthcare
  • 347 healthcare centers have been refurbished
  • Over 700,000 mothers and children have improved nutrition

The Support of the US

In addition to programs like the IDA, the United States supports Madagascar on its own. In fact, the U.S. is the largest donor country to Madagascar. It has provided foreign aid in the following areas to help reduce poverty in Madagascar:

  • Food: The U.S. was the largest donor of food following the severe drought on the island.
  • Development: The U.S. provides aid in areas that USAID refers to as “WASH,” or water, sanitation and health.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Madagascar is known for its incredible diversity and has more unique species than the entirety of Africa, which U.S. aid supports.

The U.S. has dedicated $109.91 million to Madagascar for the year 2020, a small percentage of its total foreign aid budget.

While the struggle for basic healthcare, education and income is still prominent for many Malagasy citizens, conditions are continuing to improve for people like Zety and her children due to a combination of national and international policy and aid efforts. Though there is always room for improvement, poverty in Madagascar is being reduced and fewer are living with less than $1.90 per day.

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash

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

9 Facts About WASH in Serbia

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

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

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

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

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

10 Facts About Sanitation in East Timor

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

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

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

5 Organizations That Are Working to Improve WASH in Haiti:

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

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

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in BhutanAccess to functioning sanitation is critical for maintaining a healthy population and increasing lifespans worldwide. Countries facing sanitation challenges are more susceptible to health challenges, and Bhutan is no different. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Bhutan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bhutan

  1. The Royal Government of Bhutan recognizes sanitation as a right, and its constitution obliges it to provide a safe and healthy environment for its citizens. However, only 71 percent of people in Bhutan had access to improved sanitation as of 2016 according to a government report. The report also notes that safety management is necessary to maintain basic sanitation even in these areas. UNICEF reports that 63 percent of the population has access to basic sanitation facilities.
  2. Many girls in Bhutan miss school due to hygiene and sanitation concerns. A recent study reported that around 44 percent of adolescent girls missed school and other activities due to menstruation. They listed a lack of clean toilets and water as one of the primary reasons.
  3. Bhutan has a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) program to increase access to sanitation in schools. By working with UNICEF, Bhutan was able to provide 200 schools with improved sanitation as of an evaluation in 2014. During this evaluation, 90.8 percent of respondents surveyed reported that the program improved students’ health.
  4. As of 2016, all schools in Bhutan had at least one toilet. However, 20 percent of schools did not have working toilets, and 11 percent did not have access to improved sanitation. Furthermore, only about one-third of schools had toilets specifically for girls.
  5. Monastic institutions in Bhutan frequently do not have basic sanitation facilities. About 65 percent lack water supply, while 34 percent do not have proper sanitation. This leads to skin infections, worm infestations and other health issues in monasteries and nunneries.
  6. The most common type of sewage treatment in urban Bhutan are septic tanks that discharge into the environment with no treatment or containment. All urban landfills in Bhutan are used as open dumps and are not sanitary landfills capable of containing and treating solid waste. In rural areas, pit toilets are the most common.
  7. Twenty-four sub-districts in Bhutan have access to 100 percent improved sanitation. These sub-districts are located within nine of Bhutan’s 20 districts. A health assistant in Mongar district said that, with 100 percent improved sanitation, the number of cases of diarrhea is falling.
  8. Many people need to be treated for illnesses that could have been prevented with improved access to sanitation. Poor sanitation was responsible for 30 percent of reported health cases in 2017. Healthcare facilities themselves also suffer from sanitation challenges, as 40 percent of district hospitals reported severe water shortages.
  9. According to a report in 2015, over 50 percent of people living in urban areas only had access to an intermittent water supply; a supply that delivered water six to 12 hours per day. Additionally, this water did not meet quality guidelines. In rural areas, only 69 percent of water supply systems are functional.
  10. As of 2017, only 32 percent of the poorest households in Bhutan had access to improved sanitation. This is about three times less than the richest households, of which 95 percent had access to improved sanitation facilities. Government reports recognize that there are disparities in access to sanitation relating to various factors; income, disability, gender and geographic variables can all contribute.

Overall, these 10 facts about sanitation in Bhutan demonstrate that the sanitation, water and hygiene conditions are quickly improving in the country. Initiatives by the government, UNICEF and other nonprofits in the country have led to substantial positive changes. However, inequality in access to improved sanitation services remains a major issue, and Bhutan still has a long way to go to provide improved sanitation throughout the entire country.

Kayleigh Crabb

Photo: Pixaby