How Improper Waste Management in Vietnam Impacts PovertyOne of the top contributors of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is among the several nations struggling to properly manage and dispose of waste. This problem has unfortunately affected the lives of many of Vietnam’s impoverished who work as garbage collectors. Researchers are now conducting studies to understand the potential hazards and consequences associated with improper waste management, providing insight into how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Waste Problem in Vietnam

Vietnam currently generates about 13 million tons of waste every year. In the past, the country has broken records by producing 38,000 tons of waste “in a single day.” Vietnam’s administration now finds that waste production increases by 10-16% annually and that the nation mismanages about 85% of its garbage. This is problematic because as waste builds up over time, it negatively affects environmental conditions and contributes to pollution. Today, garbage is still piling up in Vietnam’s poorly constructed landfills and the technology incorporated to treat waste in these areas fails to meet basic sanitary requirements.

Vietnam’s Waste Collectors

Waste collecting is an occupation generally held by Vietnam’s lower class, a job that many see as undesirable. In Vietnam, many people have a very negative outlook on the idea of managing garbage for a living because of how unrewarding the endeavor is and how little it pays. As a result, those who find themselves working as waste collectors face significant prejudice and social stigmatization from their communities. While waste collectors often endure discrimination in their communities, they also have to live with harmful side effects that stem from living and working in poor and unsanitary conditions.

Health Effects

In order to determine the effects of waste management in Vietnam, researchers conducted a study by interviewing waste collectors from several cities and provinces, such as Hanoi, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh and more.  Participants were of various ages, with some as young as 30 and others as old as 65. The results showed that respondents suffered from musculoskeletal disorders and commonly felt side effects such as aches and fatigue. Some participants lived with gastrointestinal illnesses and had diseases such as dermatitis. Other symptoms include tension, insomnia and depression.

The effect of waste management on health is alarming because the most disproportionately affected people, the waste collectors, usually come from low-income backgrounds. This is significant because many waste collectors cannot afford healthcare and go about their days aware of this fact, exposing themselves to hazardous materials for the sake of a meager income. Waste collectors endure such work as their most significant priority remains financially supporting their families, no matter the risks. These circumstances illustrate how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Role of Other Countries

As it turns out, nations such as the United States are partially to blame for the waste management crisis in Vietnam. This is because the U.S. and other well-developed countries engage in trade by exporting waste to less-developed nations. Notable recipients of these types of exports include nations in Southeast Asia, like Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam.

Though Vietnam receives a large amount of waste from the U.S., it did not import as much plastic before 2018. In previous years, states would send most of their waste to China and Hong Kong, which were the two largest recipients of these exports at the time. In December 2017, however, China implemented a plastic ban, meaning that the U.S. could not send as much waste as it previously did. As a result, the United States started reallocating the garbage that would have gone to China by sending it across multiple smaller countries.

Before China’s ban, Vietnam received nearly 49,000 tons of waste from the U.S. between January and June 2017. Between January and June 2018, Vietnam imported more than 71,000 tons of garbage, a near 50% increase from the previous year.

What Can be Done?

As much of the waste that Vietnam generates is plastic, many believe the country’s best option would be to find ways to reuse and recycle disposed materials. One example of this would be to turn plastic into products such as aerosols, which can have several applications in different industries. Vietnam can also learn from countries such as the United States by setting up material recovery facilities where people drop off recyclable items. Workers can then palletize these materials and deliver them to other recycling centers that turn plastic into smaller pellets, which there is a large market for.

Alternatives for Vietnam are to potentially consider new materials that could replace plastic. Many enterprises now produce biodegradable plastic and could help Vietnam by providing an eco-friendly solution. That way, the country could see a reduction in waste generation over the next few years. Similarly, Vietnam could also offer incentives for businesses to produce or switch to using biodegradable materials.

Although many of these solutions can positively impact Vietnam’s people, starting them up can be expensive. For this reason, Vietnam’s government is opening the country up to different industries with the hope of establishing business relations with other nations. If Vietnam successfully implements new policies and alternative solutions, the government can dramatically improve the lives of many of its people.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger and Poverty in the UAETo alleviate food insecurity and poverty and reach the 2030 goals of the Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is using technology to increase the efficiency of farming and irrigation techniques. Throughout 2020, the UAE explored new and innovative solutions to reduce poverty and hunger. Solutions such as drone mapping, mobile applications and AI crop sensors have been crucial for mitigating food scarcity and eliminating hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Drone Mapping

Drones provide a solution to effectively map agricultural areas. Drone technology grants valuable agricultural information to farmers in order to better assess agricultural progress. Drones are able to collect important data such as soil type, salinity and livestock numbers as well as information on farming facilities. According to the company Falcon Eye Drones, drones speed up this data collection process, which typically takes years.

Moreover, farmers can use the information gathered to create agricultural plans. Drone mapping also helps with the allocation of resources. With more information about soil quality, farmers can effectively plan how to distribute water and chemicals for maximum impact. Drones also allow for crop monitoring, enabling farmers to predict agricultural outputs well in advance. Drone mapping saves resources and increases agricultural output, effectively helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Mobile Applications

The FreshOnTable application is another innovation reducing poverty and hunger in the UAE. Through the digital application, users can purchase produce from local vendors and have it delivered straight to their door. This process drastically cuts the carbon footprint normally attached to food distribution. In the app, users are able to see the source of their food and choose from a variety of options.

According to Gulf News, this application also reduces food waste by giving customers the option of choosing “imperfect vegetables,” which are just as healthy as the more aesthetically pleasing options. By cutting down on food waste through technology, FreshOnTable provides a solution to food insecurity.

AI-based Sensors in Irrigation

AI-based sensors monitor the surrounding temperatures of crops to improve irrigation. The sensors can also test the level of humidity and water content in the soil. Irrigation systems are employed more effectively with AI-based sensors in use. Irrigation sensors limit water waste and help with sustainable water use.

Farmers have more knowledge of the soil quality and water content of their land, allowing for a smoother irrigation process. In turn, the process helps maximize crop output because farmers use the information gathered to make data-informed agricultural decisions.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority implemented a study between 2011 and 2013 to analyze the efficiency of smart irrigation systems that utilize AI technology. The results prove that the technology decreased water use by 10% in comparison to other estimation-based methods. Thus, smart irrigation systems are able to increase sustainability, save on costs and improve profitability for farmers. With better agricultural output, food insecurity is reduced.

The Future for the UAE

Overall, these technological innovations stand as examples of how technology can help solve hunger and poverty in the UAE, two deeply interconnected issues. Without drone mapping, the UAE would spend years collecting environmental data that can drastically improve agricultural outputs. In addition, food waste would be much higher without mobile applications to bridge the gap between farm and table. AI sensors maximize agricultural efficiency by reducing resource wastage. As countries strive to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, technology-oriented solutions will help accelerate progress, bringing the international community closer to eliminating global poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Flickr

Zero-Waste SolutionsThai researcher Sorawut Kittibanthorn is looking into how to transform the nutrient component found in chicken feathers into a powder that can be turned into a protein-rich source of edible food that can be used in a variety of dishes. Prototypes including his version of chicken nuggets and a steak substitute have received some positive feedback. Kittibanthorn feels chicken feathers have the potential of becoming an alternative food substitute that can reduce poverty and food insecurity. Kittibanthorn and others are determined to promote zero-waste solutions in an effort to reduce global waste and promote sustainability while addressing global poverty and hunger.

Chicken Feather Waste

The poultry market is a booming industry. Chickens are one of the most commonly consumed meat products in the world and poultry is a cultural and economic staple in many countries. The bird feathers, however, produce mass waste. In the U.K. alone, chicken farms discard around 1,000 tons of feathers per week. Few companies have taken notice of the potential behind these unwanted goods. Feathers have a high source of keratin protein, making the feathers ideal sources of insulation, plastic or animal feed. The findings of Kittibanthorn are unique and shift the conversation toward a multi-pronged solution in combating global hunger using creative solutions.

On top of reducing waste, Kittibanthorn maintains the idea that chicken feathers can be repurposed for elegant, elevated dining. The destigmatization of food waste is not completely unprecedented in the culinary world. Michelin star chef, Massimo Bottura, utilized a trash-to-table dining model in 2018 by recovering surplus ingredients to make nutritious and delicious meals for a community. Food waste is a largely uncomfortable issue around the world and the U.S. alone generates 40 million tons per year. By utilizing solutions similar to Kittibanthorn and Bottura, many countries could work toward resolving the issue of world hunger through zero-waste solutions.

A Zero-Waste Future

Utilizing chicken feathers as a zero-waste solution to combat poverty would fall in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which include seeking to end hunger and improve nutrition. In the context of agricultural initiatives, chicken feathers open the conversation on the collaboration between innovations like feather-based foods and organizations that promote crop diversity.

The Borgen Project spoke with Rodrigo Barrios, strategic partnerships manager at the nonprofit organization, the Crop Trust. Barrios explains how crop diversity includes two elements of action: use and conservation. Barrios told The Borgen Project about the organization’s program called The Food Forever Initiative. The Food Forever Initiative seeks to enlighten the community with crop usability by connecting chefs to less popular crops and giving chefs the agency to promote agrobiodiversity. Barrios says that promoting crop diversity would also help reduce poverty. In a similar fashion, Barrios states “we identify all biodiversity, internationally, that is fundamental for food security and nutrition and agriculture and we ensure that the gene banks are funded in perpetuity, provided they are up to standard.” The Crop Trust’s goals align with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The organization seeks to build more funding to support long-term conservation initiatives as zero-waste solutions.

The Road Ahead

The practice of repurposing materials that are typically disposed of, such as chicken feathers, has great potential to reduce poverty and push for more sustainable market practices including zero-waste solutions. Trends and practices related to repurposing materials would promote ethical decisions in the private sector, help communities with nutrition security and connect agronomics to crop supporting initiatives.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Many people in poverty find ways to create income for themselves and their families. Some choose to work in a factory or sell fruit at the local market. For others, having income comes from sifting through garbage dumps to find sellable materials. There are some very large garbage dumps located in Sub-saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Due to waste distribution throughout a dump site, many people can sift through to find sellable items. These items can range from everyday plastic waste to copper byproducts. This type of work can be dangerous due to injury from objects in the dump or burning things that create toxic fumes. For this reason, charities such as Children of the Dump create opportunities for children in these situations to receive an education.

Payatas Dump

Looking more specifically at Manila, the city has a garbage dump that’s named Payatas Dump. The garbage dump allows people in poverty to sift through it to find items to sell. People collect the items, wash them if needed and then sell them for a minimal amount. Some people don’t just work in the dump, but also live near it since transportation can be expensive. The shelters created near the dumps are made from surrounding garbage and house several people in a confined space. In 2017, the Payatas Dump was closed, and many people lost their livelihoods. Some asked garbage truck drivers to dump garbage into the streets to scavenge enough for a small meal. This type of work doesn’t just appeal to adults; many children work in the dump to earn money for their families. As a result, many children of the dump are unable to have an education and some will sift through garbage their entire lives.

Children of the Dump

Children of the Dump is an organization created to aid children and their families who sift through garbage for money. The organization is partnered with another charity located in the Philippines and relies heavily on donations. Due to the lack of opportunities for these families, Children of the Dump provides three different programs:

  1. “Cashew Early Years” – Donations to this program go toward providing a free meal and half a day’s worth of education for 100 kids aged four to six.
  2. “Grapevine Outreach” – Donations to this program are given to families so children can attend local schools. This type of program gives children the opportunity to have an education rather than working in the dump.
  3. “Mango Tree House” – This program provides a place where displaced children can live and go to school to grow up in a nurturing and educational environment.

There are several success stories of children who were a part of Children of the Dump’s program. Two students, Danny and Jamaica, participated in the programs at very young ages. The two went on to become college graduates and are working full time.

Sifting through garbage dumps can be a way for people in poverty to earn income. However, it can prevent children in the dumps from having time to get an education because they are looking through garbage to earn money for their families. Children of the Dump works to ensure kids have access to education, helping students like Danny and Jamacia work toward future economic success.

– Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in algeriaAlgeria is a former French colony in North Africa. Libya, Tunisia Niger are on its western borders. Morocco, Marius and Mali are on its eastern borders. About half of the population lives in urban areas concentrated near the Mediterranean sea. Algeria is a member of OPEC and the Arab Maghreb Union, a regional organization. During the 1990s, the country experienced a civil war between Islamist terrorist groups and the Algerian army. While the army’s victory ensured greater stability, Algeria continues to face challenges such as sanitation. Here are ten facts about sanitation in Algeria.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Algeria

  1. Diseases: Poor sanitary conditions place Algerians at-risk for diseases. In 2018, Algeria experienced a cholera outbreak with 217 cases. The cases were concentrated in Algiers, the capital. Government responses included testing the water supply daily for pathogens and requesting 5,000 diagnostic tests from the WHO. By way of comparison, cholera has been virtually eradicated in the United States with most cases in the U.S. originating from international travel.
  2. Rural-Urban Divide: Urban Algerians are more likely to have greater access to sanitation than rural Algerians. Three percent more rural Algerians do not have access to basic sanitation (i.e sewers, latrines and septic tanks) than urban Algerians. This rural-urban divide continues when comparing lower classes. Algeria’s urban poor experience 10% more sanitation coverage than their rural counterparts. To help address the challenges associated with rural sanitation, the African Development Bank established the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative in 2003.

  3. Hand Washing: While the majority of Algerians are able to practice proper hygiene by washing their hands, disparities exist among rural and urban communities. Currently, 83% of Algerians are able to wash their hands. This is slightly higher than what is typical in the region. However, there is a 14% gap between rural and urban Algerians; only 73% of rural Algerians are able to do so.

  4. Recent Improvements: Over the last decade, rural Algerians have gained greater basic sanitation. From 2000 to 2017, basic sanitation coverage increased by approximately 10%.  Today about 70% of Algerians have access to basic sanitation.  This is relatively high for the region as an average of only 50.2% of individuals have this service region-wide.

  5. Access to Toilets: Similarly, the number of rural Algerians openly defecating has substantially decreased.  From 2000 to 2017, this percentage decreased by 12.5%. Today only about 3% of Algerians experience this level of deprivation. This is substantially lower than the regional percentage of 10% of rural individuals.

  6. Rural Sewers: Disadvantaged Algerians have increased access to better sanitary facilities. Since 2000, approximately 14% more poor Algerians gained access to sewers. Notably, this positive trend is true of rural Algerians. Since 2000, 17% more rural Algerians gained access to sewers. Today about 60% of this demographic has sewers.

  7. Regional Access to Sanitation: As a whole, more Algerians have better sanitation facilities. In the last decade, sewer availability has increased by about 14%. Today, about 83% of all Algerians use sewers. This percentage is higher than the regional percent of 58%.

  8. Drinking Water: In 2000, few Algerians had access to quality drinking water facilities. The majority of Algerians gain drinking water from pipe-improved water. Notably, this is true for both rural and urban Algerians. To address this issue, the Algerian government established L’Algérienne Des Eaux (ADE), a public company, in 2001. To further remedy this problem, the Algerian government established a program to create more extensive water pipelines to Médéa, a city in Northern Algeria.

  9. Students: Most Algerian students have access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water. Currently, 98% of Algeria’s primary students have basic sanitation; 87% have safe drinking water. This is a remarkable achievement as regionally only about 8o% of all students have basic sanitation and 74% have safe drinking water.

  10. Drinking Water Improvements: Most Algerians have access to safe drinking water. 93% of Algerians have basic access to drinking water. This is true of both urban and rural areas with only a 7% gap between the two categories.

These ten facts about sanitation in Algeria reveal that Algeria has overcome substantial challenges.  While most Algerians have access to some level of sanitation, drinking water and hygiene, there remains a higher risk for waste-related illnesses such as cholera. Furthermore, while there remains a persistent gap between its rural and urban citizens, the country’s overall coverage and sanitary facilities have improved since 2000. With sustained effort by the Algerian government and the African Development Bank, Algeria can overcome the remaining obstacles to better public health.

– Kaihua Tymon Zhou
Photo: Wikimedia

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

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

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

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

How it Works

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

WASH in Nigeria

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

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

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Dengue FeverAccording to the World Health Organization, dengue fever is one of the ten major global health threats of 2019. The mosquito-borne illness results in flu-like symptoms that can kill up to 20 percent of those infected. Approximately 390 million cases of dengue fever are reported each year across 100 different countries, although, many cases go unreported. Cases of dengue fever have also increased 30 times in the last 50 years, meaning that today, 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

Why the Increase?

While dengue fever used to be concentrated in countries with extreme tropical climates, such as India and Bangladesh, the disease is now prevalent in countries that have more temperate climates, such as Nepal. With higher than average temperatures, rainy seasons are lasting longer which creates the perfect environment for the Aedes mosquito, the carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the geographic regions that the Aedes mosquito inhabits coincide with low and middle-income countries. Many of these countries do not have sufficient health care systems to cope with this major health issue. Therefore, the effects of dengue are even more severe.

Protection from Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization is leading efforts to reverse the increasing threat of dengue fever. One common tactic used is immunization. The first immunization for dengue fever was approved in 20 countries in 2015. However, follow-up data from 2017 showed that the vaccine was actually harmful to those who had never contracted the disease, putting people at a higher risk of more severe cases of dengue. Now, the vaccination is recommended as a measure for those who have already been affected.

In addition to immunization, people can inhibit the Aedes mosquito’s survival and procreation by properly disposing of human waste, and not leaving out any stagnate, uncovered containers of water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in both environments. It is also advised to use spray insecticide to repel bugs and invest in screened windows and sleeping nets for protection in homes.

Combatting the Threat

The World Health Organization is partnering with local organizations and governments in affected countries to ensure that the number of deaths caused by dengue fever will decrease by 50 percent in 2020. In order to reach this goal, however, additional funding and research are needed so that the scope of dengue fever is properly understood. Health care providers also need the training and resources to properly address the issue and detect the disease in its early stages as well. If dengue fever is diagnosed before the symptoms become too severe, mortality rates of the disease become much more optimistic.

 

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Clean Fuel Solutions

Today, 40 percent of the world lacks access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking. As a result, traditional wood, charcoal and kerosene fuels cause indoor air pollution claiming around 1.5 million lives per year. Fortunately, a number of organizations are taking up the mantle to introduce clean fuel solutions for the world’s poor. Keep reading to learn more about these top innovative clean fuel solutions.

4 Innovative Clean Fuel Solutions

  • KOKO: KOKO is a small portable stove that uses bioethanol. The business model relies on mobile banking which enables users to buy a KOKO and clean fuel by paying for it in installments. KOKO partners with fuel majors so its model requires significantly lower upfront capital expenditures compared to other clean cooking fuels. As a result of its decentralized sales points and mobile/cloud technology, its model delivers bioethanol fuel closer to customers. When taking imported ethanol and taxes into account, it is also the cheaper option at 85 cents per liter.
  • BBOXX: BBOXX is similar to KOKO in that it uses mobile technology and installment payments. BBOXX engages in the same process as KOKO but also has BBOXX Pulse. The BBOXX Pulse device collects data and insights letting the company provide its services to previously unreachable populations. BBOXX also detects when fuel is depleted letting the user know the fuel cost and replenishing the fuel supply. It currently operates in 12 countries and has been sold in more than 35. BBOXX received a $15 million investment from a number of companies most recently Oikocredit. With this investment, the company experienced a rapid scale-up of its business model allowing BBOXX to reach key regions in Rwanda and Kenya.
  • Biogas device – Omer Badokhon: Omer Badokhon invented a small-scale biogas system that converts waste into clean fuel. The device is created from plastic or fiberglass and works by using specially designed fermenting chambers. This device then takes food scraps and converts them into biogas. Badokhon won the “Young Champions of the Earth” award from the U.N. Environment Programme and is building the first group of units with the prize money. The units have been piloted in 1,500 rural homes in Shabwa, Sanaa, Hadramout, Ibb, Taiz and Aden. Badokhon also received $10,000 from the Yemeni oil company PetroMasila to complete his research. Not only does the biogas device create clean fuel, reducing pollution, respiratory illness and death, but it also has the potential to reduce cholera rates. By recycling, waste should not be as big of a problem as it is a major contributor to cholera.
  • HomeBioGas: Another clean fuel solution is HomeBioGas. HomeBioGas is an invention that uses bacteria rather than electricity, naturally breaking down organic matter to turn it into either cooking gas or fertilizer. HomeBioGas performs bacterial anaerobic digestion of organic waste, for example, food scraps or animal manure. It also has two filters, a bio-filter that reduces odors as well as a chlorine filter that eliminates pathogens. The device itself is an easy-to-assemble kit, making it a perfect fit for villages in places like Palestine and Uganda. There are an estimated 70 different countries that are interested in having their own HomeBioGas devices and are willing to distribute them throughout their respective countries. An Indiegogo campaign raised 200 percent of the company’s $100,000 target, thus it is now launching globally.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Top 6 Water NGOs in Latin America

A number of countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region are experiencing water crises which present an obstacle in achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to clean water access by 2030. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations actively working to help them get there as quickly as possible. Keep reading to learn more about the top six water NGOs in Latin America.

Top 6 Water NGOs in Latin America

  1. Founded in 2007, Water Charity’s first project focused on improving the health of garbage dump workers by providing water filters in Guatemala City. Since then, the NGO has executed numerous water missions throughout 12 Latin American countries, among other projects worldwide. Each of its projects is innovative and tailored toward the specific needs of the communities in which they work. For instance, through the Dajabon Latrine Project in rural northwestern Dominican Republic, 110 families now have access to safe and sanitary latrines. Moreover, the initiative strives to educate families on the importance of health and hygiene given Dajabon’s poor education system.
  2. Living Water International in Mexico has been working to improve water access, hygiene and sanitation throughout the country’s poorest and often most rural communities. With operations spanning from water systems to hygiene education, the organization aims to focus on the marginalized regions of southern Mexico. Living Water’s “Lazos de Agua” program from 2013 to 2016 promoted WASH (“water, sanitation and hygiene) services to 68,000 beneficiaries in Oaxaca and Puebla. The organization’s projects, such as a new initiative to serve beneficiaries in 65 Mexican rural communities, continue to emerge across the nation and beyond.
  3. blueEnergy knows that the most efficient way to create change is through community consultation and working with local actors. Recognizing the context of a changing climate, blueEnergy has delivered water and sanitation to more than 30,000 people in marginalized regions of Nicaragua. Regarding a recently built water filter, Victorio Leon, a resident of Bluefields, Nicaragua only had positive feedback. “This filter has helped me economically and helped me avoid being sick a lot of the time… now we know we can drink this water with confidence.” Indeed, according to the World Bank, lack of water and sanitation results in a loss of 0.9 percent of Nicaragua’s GDP. Promoting health, and ultimately economic opportunity is among blueEnergy’s primary goals.
  4. WaterStep recognizes that making a true difference in developing countries requires planning for the long-term. For this reason, the nonprofit educates vulnerable communities on why and how to use safe water solutions such as bleach making as well as how to use WaterStep’s on-the-ground technologies. One of its ongoing projects includes that in Ecuador, which began following the country’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016. Thousands of Ecuadorian survivors were misplaced and lacked any source of clean water. WaterStep responded to the situation by implementing water technologies and training people in refugee settlements on how to use this equipment.
  5. Water For People has targeted Honduras’ marginalized and rural regions such as Chinda and San Antonio de Cortés, since 1997. The NGO invests in public and private sectors alike to provide proper water and sanitation solutions. Since the nineties, Honduras has seen success not only in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the percentage of people lacking clean water by 50 percent. Moreover, at least 84 percent of the rural population now have access to improved water. Grassroots efforts such as those by Water For People are making clear steady strides towards achieving SDG goal six: providing clean and safe water to all regions.
  6. Solea Water acknowledges the clear inequalities between rural and urban Panama. While Panama City has seen outstanding economic growth in recent years, in marginalized indigenous areas, extreme poverty affects nine in 10 inhabitants. Consequently, clean water access remains a critical issue in these regions. One of the organization’s many projects includes work in Sinai, Panama, where seven in 10 people lack safe drinking water. In addition to implementing a municipal water system which utilizes sustainable technologies to pump water, the organization has supported WASH education to locals. Solea Water’s goals of better health, education and overall improved standards of living within regions like Sinai are made a reality through the organization’s tireless dedication.

What Happens Now?

While access to water has improved in poor and marginalized regions in-line with the decrease in global poverty, disparities remain. These disparities are clear between regions, where 94 percent of citizens in the United States and Europe have access to safe drinking water compared to 65 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, even larger disparities can be seen within a given region, such as the gap between urban and rural regions within Latin America. While 96 percent of citizens living in the Dominican Republic’s cities can obtain piped water, less than 25 percent of Dominicans in rural areas have this same access.

While the fight to universalize access to clean water and sanitation remains a pressing matter, these top six water NGOs in Latin America present the importance of civil society’s proactive planning, hard work and progress.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

 

Wasted Medical Supplies
The United States generates over two million tons of wasted medical supplies each year. Facilities do not use many of these supplies such as unexpired medical supplies and equipment. People even throw away completely usable, albeit expired medical supplies. This surplus exists because of hospital cleaning policies, infection prevention guidelines and changes in vendors. Additionally, because equipment must always be ready, replacements are always in order. As such, in the U.K., medical facilities replace equipment before the old versions are out of commission. Waste ranges from medicine to operating gowns, all the way to hospital beds and wheelchairs. Beyond consumables like medicine and one-time supplies like syringes, the need to replace before equipment is sub-optimal leaves a margin for waste on big-ticket items like MRIs.

Many hospitals have dumped their garbage from the reception and operating rooms along with usable medical surplus into incinerators. Although this burning is a source of many pollutants, it is still common practice in many developing countries.

This issue of medical supply waste intertwines deeply with a lack of access to medical equipment in the developing world. While developed countries live in a world of sterile excess, developing countries and remote villages with little access to suitable equipment to meet their needs suffer.

How Does this Waste Relate to Poverty?

People view access to the level of health care service in the developed world as the standard rather than a privilege. In places of poverty like Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, facilities are in desperate need of supplies and equipment to treat patients in their region.

Inadequate provisions leave patients on the floor or in out-of-date hospital beds paired with another patient. In the DRC, rape is a common weapon of war. The U.N. Human Rights Security Council passed a resolution that described the problem as “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.” Many of the patients at the doorstep of Burhinyi Central Hospital are suffering from rape-related ailments. Some examples are HIV/AIDS, fistulas, bladder and intestinal damage and infections. Without the necessary equipment to handle such cases, impoverished areas, which are already more prone to injury and disease, deteriorate.

How Can it be Fixed?

Again, the issue of wasted medical supplies id deeply connected to poverty. In fact, they are complementary. The solution lies in moving the surplus from areas of excess to people in need. This reduces the waste in developed countries by giving supplies to hospitals that need them. Therefore, one can convert wasted medical supplies to usable surplus.

There are many NGOs like Medshare and Supplies Over Seas (SOS) that follow this process. These nonprofits operate based on collecting, sorting and sending the usable medical surplus to hospitals in need.

SOS has a container shipment program that sends cargo containers filled with medical supplies. These containers would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. A typical container contains six to eight tons. Its medical contents value conservatively at $150,000-$350,000. Since 2014, SOS has shipped containers to 20 countries in need.

A volunteer at Medshare outlined her experience working with surplus medical supplies, saying that, “It was shocking how much waste there actually was. Warehouses full of totally usable stuff all ready to be thrown away.” She added, “[she] sorted through things like syringes and gauze packets which were all put into huge containers for hospitals that need it. It feels like a difference is being made.”

Stop Wasting and Start Donating

Wasted medical supplies and impoverished areas without access to proper medical equipment are issues that people can resolve simultaneously by salvaging usable supplies and equipment that were ready to go to landfill and sending them to communities in need. Regarding medical waste and poverty, the best solutions occur when those who have more give to those who have less.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr