Morocco is a water-scarce country. It is greatly impacted by the effects of rapid desertification, poor water management and high susceptibility to droughts. Water resources in the country have fallen by about 71% since 1980. In rural communities it is common for families to rely on one water source, meaning water scarcity can have profoundly negative impacts on Morrocan families and their livelihoods. Drought, in particular, occurs on average once every three years and can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of Moroccans. About 51.5% of the Moroccan population is negatively impacted by droughts. With drought on the rise, sustainable water management is integral to the development of the economy. As a result, an organization called Dar Si Hmad is stepping in to use CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

Water Scarcity and Poverty

The citizen’s organization ‘Social Watch’ identifies the poor management of scarce water resources as a serious aggravator of rural poverty in Morocco. Farmers and women in Morocco are particularly burdened by the effects of water scarcity. Forty percent of working Moroccans are employed in the agricultural sector and 70% of farmers struggle due to the impact of frequent droughts. Women in rural communities in Morocco spend on average 3.5 hours a day seeking and carrying water, restricting their time in pursuit of other activities.

CloudFishing to Solve the Water Crisis

Dar Si Hmad, a female-led non-governmental organization (NGO), is taking an innovative approach to solving the crisis of water scarcity and alleviating poverty in Morocco. The NGO’s vision is to “enable sustainable livelihoods and create opportunities for low-resource communities to learn and prosper.” It is pursuing this vision, in part, by using ‘CloudFishing’ to combat poverty in Morocco. CloudFishing is an approach to solve the water crisis by utilizing the abundant resource of fog. In Morocco, fog gathers from the ocean and is captured in the mountainous landscape for about 140 days out of the year. Dar Si Hmad uses fine mesh to ‘fish’ for droplets of water within the fog which, once it accumulates, drops into a basin and is then filtered through a process of solar-powered UV, sand and cartridge filters.

The water collected by Dar Si Hmad is piped to 140 households providing approximately 500 people in southwest Morocco with access to sustainable clean water. Dar Si Hmad has developed into the largest functioning fog collection project in the world and is directly contributing to poverty alleviation in the country. The project is partly funded by USAID in Rabat, Morocco. Sustained foreign aid from the U.S. is integral to the organization’s continued success. CloudFishing has a positive impact on women in the community who now have more time to devote to pursuing economic activities to help them rise out of poverty. Sustainable access to water also allows poor farmers to have more stable livelihoods and escape the cycle of poverty in Morocco.

Looking Forward

While clean water is a human right recognized by a number of international organizations and countries, in water-scarce Morocco it has become a luxury. Dar Si Hmad is continuing its work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is preparing to build two new CloudFishers to provide water to 12 additional rural villages in Morocco. Dar Si Hmad plays an integral role in providing solutions like CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Haitian Water CrisisHaiti is currently managing an outbreak of the pandemic virus, COVID-19. Amid a highly contagious virus, Haiti’s water and sanitation facilities are of the utmost importance in containing mass contagion. However, millions of the Haitian population do not have access to clean water and sanitation facilities essential in combating viruses. The Haitian water crisis is complicating the response to Covid-19.

On March 19, Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency wafter confirming its first COVID-19 case. Haiti has confirmed over 6,000 cases of COVID-19 since then. Fortunately, Haiti has seen low death rates reported at less than one percent and, despite experiencing some case spikes, Haiti’s COVID-19 cases have been on a downward trend since the beginning of June. However, without proper precaution, COVID-19 death rates could easily be back on the rise in Haiti.

Covid-19 and Water

According to a public health announcement issued by the World Health (WHO) Organization, one of the most effective ways to avoid COVID-19 contagion is to wash your hands regularly. WHO also recommends frequently cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and everyday objects.

Any WHO-advised COVID-19 prevention measures that require increasing sanitation practices pose a problem for Haiti. Only about half of the Haitian population has access to clean water, and only one-third of the population has access to basic sanitation facilities. The Haitian water crisis is making it difficult for citizens to take precautions. Water resources and sanitation facilities are particularly inadequate in rural areas of Haiti. Lacking the resources to combat COVID-19 will only increase the probability of contracting the already highly contagious virus.

Along with the pressure of a worldwide pandemic, Haiti is still dealing with the effects of a devastating natural disaster. In 2010, an earthquake decimated Haiti destroying essential infrastructures in Port Au Prince, Haiti’s Capital city. The earthquake caused mass displacement and migration to rural areas of Haiti. These highly populated rural areas are now struggling to contain COVID-19 contagion without the necessary resources to prevent widespread contamination.

Another challenge rural Haitians face is the lack of communication with the government about COVID-19 prevention methods. Because rural areas host almost half of the population in Haiti, many Haitians are unaware of the need for proper sanitation. PureWaterfortheWorld.org is working along with the Centre of Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology to get radio and virtual COVID-19 prevention sanitation methods to rural areas of Haiti that experience government communication issues. The PWW proposes driving trucks through rural areas while blasting sanitation messages through loudspeakers.

The Way Forward

While the PWW focuses on the dissemination of information, many are working to provide better sanitation in rural communities. These organizations aim to provide clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19. An organization called Charity:water.org establishes long-term water solutions in rural Haiti. Charity:water.org uses hydrologists and engineers to design wells and pumps that extract water from natural resources in mountains and springs. Up to now, Charity:water.org has invested in 40 water projects in Haiti and over 50,000 all over the world.

The organizations working to provide better and more accessible water resources to rural Haiti will significantly impact the prevention of COVID-19 through sanitation practices. Along with the efforts to advertise the importance of sanitation, the western hemisphere’s poorest country can manage COVID-19 amid a water crisis.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the United Arab Emirates
When Americans think of the United Arab Emirates, they may often think of cities like Dubai consisting of staggering skyscrapers, extravagant lifestyles and unimaginable wealth. Americans may not always see the underlying struggles that many Emirates deal with on a day-to-day basis. Aspects of poverty include a dominating wealth gap, which exists at the expense of migrant workers, water insecurity and issues regarding food supply. This article will address each of these facets of poverty in the United Arab Emirates while also discussing the efforts to help people suffering today.

Wealth Inequality and Migrant Workers

According to the World Inequality Database, the top 1% of Emiratis constitute about 22.8% of total income in the UAE, while the bottom 50% of Emiratis make up only 5.8%. As for wealth, the top 1% of individuals in the UAE hold over 50% of the entire country’s wealth.

The UAE is indeed a rich nation, yet few understand the makeup of this wealth. The upper echelons of Emirati society hold the majority of this wealth and income, which leaves far more individuals struggling for what is left. Foreign nationals make up as much as 88% of the population in the UAE, and migrant workers often receive low pay and work in forced labor.

The country has made some progress in the arena of workers’ rights. For example, an unprecedented bill passed in 2017, guaranteeing certain labor rights. However, the visa sponsorship program in the UAE still ties migrant workers to their employers with strict punishments for those who leave. Systemic financial inequality and lax workers’ rights policies force migrant workers to bear the brunt of poverty in the United Arab Emirates.

Water Insecurity

The U.N. defines “water-scarce” as having less than 1,000 cubic meters of water per capita, per year. The UAE has less than half of that figure. Lacking renewable freshwater, the country relies on desalination, which provides 98% of the water supply for the 2 million people in Dubai. The Water Resources Institute ranked the country 10th out of 164 countries with the most extreme water supply issues.

While desalination plants have picked up some slack, water insecurity is a looming threat in the region. The issue will likely affect members of the lowest classes of Emirati society first. Luckily, organizations like the nonprofit UAE Water Aid Foundation, or SUQIA, are working to provide accessible, potable water throughout the world. Since 2015, SUQIA has helped by improving water purification practices, building wells, installing water coolers and improving water distribution networks and sanitation facilities. This aid organization has expanded its efforts outside the UAE, helping over 13 million individuals suffering from water insecurity in 36 countries. Improving water access and sustainability has a direct impact on millions suffering from predatory labor norms and poverty in the United Arab Emirates.

Food Supply

The lack of a sustainable source of freshwater means the UAE cannot grow enough food to support its population. As such, the UAE relies on imports for 90% of its food supply. This causes the nation to be extremely vulnerable to global shortages and price changes. While the UAE is able to provide food to most of its citizens, projections determine that its population could grow by over 2 million people in the next five years, which could increase pressure on the fragile food supply. Consumption is similarly growing by 12% each year. Migrant workers and other less-wealthy individuals could suffer first because of this growth.

Less than 5% of the land in the UAE is arable farmland, yet over 80% of the water in the country goes to this tiny agriculture sector. As a result, entrepreneurs like those at Madar Farms are working to increase productivity. The company, led by Abdulaziz Al Mulla, purchased old storage containers and repurposed them into indoor farms, growing vegetables under LED lights. These efforts have also translated to the Persian Gulf, where the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment has built artificial caves and established coral gardens to improve the sustainability of fish farming. Doing so enhances the sustainable food supply, which will largely help those suffering from poverty in the United Arab Emirates. National programs like this reduce the risk of a hunger crisis should global supply plummet.

Poverty in the United Arab Emirates

While few associate poverty with the UAE, the reality is that millions struggle to provide for themselves and their families. Restrictive labor policies in the country provide little help to people in lower socioeconomic classes. Water insecurity is a relatively well-known issue in the UAE, but few recognize hunger as a common problem.

In truth, the UAE has been able to provide for most of its people, but it is easy to overlook everyday threats. Water insecurity and food supply will harm impoverished Emiratis far before they reach the wealthy classes associated with the country. Luckily, organizations like SUQIA and Madar farms are at the forefront of building workable solutions. These efforts provide hope for the UAE, a country that would suffer if left to rely solely on global markets.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Saudi ArabiaWhile 97% of Saudis have access to potable water, Saudi Arabia is classified as one of the most water-scarce nations on the planet. The absolute water scarcity level is 500 cubic meters per capita, per year. Saudi Arabia has only 89.5 cubic meters per capita, per year. Despite high levels of water access in the Kingdom, severe overconsumption and lack of reliable renewable water sources have made this issue a top priority. Many view oil as the most important natural resource in Saudi Arabia. However, due to the water crisis in Saudi Arabia, water is becoming increasingly valuable.

The Current Situation and Implications

While the Middle East and North Africa region is no stranger to water scarcity, modern consumption and waste levels have raised the stakes. These issues have disproportionately affected the poor. In some areas, more than half the water used exceeds sustainable levels and 82% of wastewater is not purified for reuse. The Guardian reported that Saudi Arabian per capita water consumption levels are double the world average at 263 liters every day. These levels indicate that the Kingdom is using more than four times the water that renews on average.

The two major sources of water are rapidly disappearing groundwater and the sea. In addition, the groundwater accounts for 98% of natural freshwater. Each accounts for 50% of the water consumed in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is the largest country to rely so heavily on desalination. However, it is extremely expensive and causes serious environmental concerns due to carbon emissions. While this issue is not immediate in that Saudis are not currently dying of thirst, it does loom over individuals who live in the region. Water is now the key to survival in the country that oil discovery transformed. Additionally, if the water crisis in Saudi Arabia is not solved, there will be severe humanitarian and geopolitical consequences for the unstable Middle East and the U.S.

Government Efforts

In 2019, Saudi Arabia launched a national program called “Qatrah,” which is Arabic for “droplet.” This program is a part of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. It intends to slash water consumption by about 43%, to 150 liters per capita, per day by 2030. Currently, Saudi Arabia is behind only the U.S. and Canada for per capita water consumption. Hence, this water conservation program is a significant endeavor that is badly needed to improve the sustainability of water supply in the Kingdom. Qatrah is meant to encourage change in individual behavior by raising awareness of the issue. In addition, the program rationalizes water sources to best protect natural resources and all aspects of life that depend on water.

Another important aspect of Qatrah is reducing water consumption in the agricultural sector. As previously mentioned, agriculture consumes the vast majority of water in the Kingdom. Because of this, the Ministry that oversees Qatrah has plans to increase the regulation of water in this sector. The Ministry also decreases its overall consumption in order to shift more water toward the urban sector. There is a government-driven campaign to preserve and protect water is invaluable. Movements like this struggle without direction and support from the government of the country in which they operate. Thus, the aggressive plan has helped to successfully bring the water crisis in Saudi Arabia to the national stage.

NGO Efforts and Other Strategies

Suez is an international corporation dedicated to achieving sustainable management of the world’s resources. In Saudi Arabia, Suez has worked in Jeddah to improve access to drinking water. According to Suez, desalination plants supply almost all the water consumed in Jeddah: 98% to be exact. The population continues to grow in the water-scarce city. As a result, Suez has pledged to make drinking water accessible 24/7, repair links in drinking water networks and improve the efficiency of wastewater collection. Moreover, Suez has successfully decreased the amount of time it takes to repair leaks throughout the network. This proves to be an easy and vital way to preserve water.

In this endeavor, Suez has 1,400 local employees who support the delivery of about 830,000 cubic meters of water to people in Jeddah every day. According to CNN, strategies are less expensive or difficult than desalination. In addition, decreasing overall water use includes wastewater treatment, groundwater recharge through capturing rain and stormwater and allocating water differently. These methods combined with practices are already in place. Additionally, it could help fight the water crisis in Saudi Arabia.

The water crisis in Saudi Arabia is not currently claiming the lives of millions. However, it continued the unsustainable water consumption in one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. Like most geopolitical and environmental issues, the poor will suffer the worst in Saudi Arabia if the government does not manage the pending crisis responsibly. Luckily, there has been a concerted government effort, through its Qatrah program. The program slashes water consumption and consumes it more efficiently. This effort has strong support from NGOs like Suez. Suez focuses on other aspects of the crisis to help the Saudi people save what is becoming their most precious resource: water.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr