Water SecurityThere are 326 million trillion gallons of water on planet earth. However, only 1% of that is clean and accessible. This means there is enough water for everyone on the planet and more. Nonetheless, 1 in 5 children still do not have basic water security.

Lack of Water Security Hurts the Poor Most

Globally, 80 countries harbor children living in regions considered to have low water security. The poorest children are the most likely to live in these regions. Of the top ten most affected countries, nine are in the poorest continent on earth: Africa. A staggering 58% of children in Eastern and Southern Africa face a difficult path to get water on a daily basis. In some regions, families have to travel for up to 30 minutes to get water at all. Consequently, the lack of water security increases the risk of dehydration and takes time away from families who could be working. The risk for water deprivation is also increased, which is lethal. Furthermore, impoverished children face another issue related to poor water security.

An Infectious Problem

In regions with poor water security, bacteria and viruses often contaminate the water. Water contamination leads to diarrheal illness, taking more children’s lives than many of the most common causes for death. It is the second leading cause of death for children worldwide. The illness causes the person affected to lose so much fluid that they die from dehydration. In total diarrheal infections take the lives of 525,000 children each year.

The Water Packet

Water security is a concerning problem that industry giant P&G has been tackling one liter at a time. In 2004, P&G initiated its Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, a revolutionary initiative based around a simple yet effective invention called a purifier of water packet. Created by company scientists, it has the ability to transform 10 liters of dirty water into crystal clear drinking water in thirty minutes. First, the four-gram packet is placed in dirty water and then the whole container is stirred thoroughly. During the stirring, any particles in the water group together into thick clusters. Then the stirring ceases and the particles are allowed time to settle at the bottom. Throughout the whole process, the packet disinfects the water from contaminants. Lastly, the water is run through a cloth which catches the remaining particles and all that is left is drinkable water.

Brittaney Stapleton, Volunteer Relations Coordinator at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical garden informed The Borgen Project about her time at a P&G event where she was shown a demonstration of the packet. She said that during the event the attendees were taken to a beautiful piece of land with a murky brown reservoir of water. “I wouldn’t have touched that water with a ten-foot pole,” she remembered. “So they opened the packet and I don’t remember exactly how long they had to do it but they just stirred with a big stick and after a period of time, the water was crystal clear. There was no debris. It was crystal clear and it looked like something you would see in a Brita filter. Just clear.”

Looking Towards the Future

Throughout the lifetime of the program, a total of 18 billion liters of water have been purified, with P&G planning on purifying billions more in the future.

Brittaney added that they geared the demonstration towards showing people how easy it is to change lives. “It made you feel that much better to know even if you could only give a little bit it’s making a huge impactful difference. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a millionaire, you can be just middle of the road and you can still help.”

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Flickr

Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Water poverty in NigeriaWater poverty in Nigeria is still a pressing issue today. Only 30% of northern Nigeria’s population can access safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities. The subsequent use of unclean water leads to the spreading of waterborne diseases such as cholera, guinea worm and hepatitis. The lack of water has impaired the livelihoods of farmers and led to a lower enrollment rate at schools, especially with girls. However, the situation is not without aid.

The History of Water Poverty in Nigeria

Since 1995, Nigerians have benefitted from WaterAid, a charity organization that has established a multitude of water and sanitation projects. The organization works through partnerships with local government authorities, civil society groups and state agencies to implement its programs. The projects have led to progress in development plans and data collection efforts that have increased clean water supply and access to safe toilets.

WaterAid has worked to improve water poverty in Nigeria by implementing its services in over 100 of Nigeria’s poorest communities, which include:

  • Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, where safe tap water is only acquired by 7% of the population.
  • Bauchi State where fewer than 50% of its people can access safe water and sanitation.

  • Benue State where most streams are contaminated.

  • Ekiti State where the main source of domestic water is pre-packaged water sachets and water vendors during the dry season.

  • Jigawa State where waterborne diseases are common.

  • Plateau State where most households rely on an unsafe water supply from government sources.

WaterAid, along with government support, has provided over three million Nigerians with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

The Data4WASH Programme

The Abuja-based nonprofit Media for Community Change and US-based NGO BLI Global have a similar goal of eliminating water poverty in Nigeria. On August 27, 2020, they formed a partnership to launch The Data4WASH Programme. The program consists of an interactive online platform that accumulates data and maps GPS coordinates. It then creates a map that water-impoverished communities can utilize to advocate for themselves.

Through the map, empirical and widespread evidence can prove the need for adequate investment in the design and installation of clean water and sanitation facilities. Additionally, the program empowers civil society by involving them in the national initiative to improve water poverty in Nigeria. The map encourages people to identify and report water-deficient and poorly sanitized areas in their communities. For instance, final year students from The Department of Statistics at the University of Ibadan will participate in the data collection process.

COVID-19

The Data4WASH Programme has been especially valuable after COVID-19 disrupted Nigeria’s progress in alleviating water poverty. According to WaterAid, 60 million Nigerians lack access to a clean water supply and services, and 150 million people lack basic hand-washing facilities with soap and water.

By enhancing data collecting processes, Nigeria can fortify its most vulnerable communities and health care systems to withstand the present detriments of COVID-19. Further, it can institutionally protect against potential health threats in the future. These measures established by The Data4WASH Programme’s interactive map system would also satisfy The U.N.’s Global Goal 6 — “clean water and sanitation access for all, including safe and affordable drinking water.”

Locally crafted, community-driven initiatives like The Data4WASH Programme and intergovernmental organizations are vital to ending global poverty. One sets guidelines and the other provides outlets that encourage entrepreneurship. The two must work together to end water poverty in Nigeria and all around the world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

The One WaSH National ProgrammeGlobally, at least 2 billion people do not have access to clean water. The ability to access clean water supplies and sanitation is a vital aspect of a country’s development. Improved water supply and sanitation positively affect economic growth and poverty reduction as water is essential domestically and agriculturally. Furthermore, clean water and sanitation are imperative to human health. Contaminated water can cause diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. The issue of clean water is present worldwide and demands preventative action. Thankfully, the One WaSH National Programme is here to help.

Ethiopia is one country where the water crisis needs to be addressed. Close to 33 million people in Ethiopia lack access to a safe water supply and nearly 89 million don’t have access to basic sanitation. This lack of access is responsible for 90% of diarrheal disease occurrences, which is a leading cause of child mortality in Ethiopia. To fight this, the Ethiopian government along with partners developed the One WaSH National Programme in 2013. The goal was to drastically improve access to safe water and sanitation services throughout the country.

The ONE WaSH National Programme

The One WaSH National Programme aims to improve the health and well-being of communities in rural and urban areas. Their strategy to achieve this is to increase equal and sustainable access to clean water supplies, sanitation services and good hygiene practices. As explained by the IRC, “It combines a comprehensive range of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions that include capital investments to extend first-time access to water and sanitation, as well as investments, focused on developing the enabling environment, building capacity, ensuring the sustainability of service delivery, and behavioral change. It has rural, urban, institutional WaSH and capacity building components.”

Impacts of The Programme

Phase one of The One WaSH National Programme in Ethiopia began in October 2013 and lasted till July 2017. It boasted great results. In four years, 18.7 million people gained access to water supplies and the practice of open defecation reduced from 44% to 29%. Additionally, 1,280 school WASH facilities were constructed.

The One WaSH National Programme approved its second phase in 2018. This time, the overall growth and transformation of the program was the main target for improvement. Another objective was to diminish vulnerable infrastructure in drought-prone areas in Ethiopia. Doing so would create a climate-resilient water supply system that provides the community with safe and sustainable access to water. Results for this second phase are still being collected as it was expected to run through July 2020.

The Importance of Clean Water in Poverty Reduction

Access to basic water and sanitation are vital parts to improving the economy. As such, it is essential for eradicating poverty. Many health issues faced by the poor arise because of the consumption of contaminated water. Increased availability of basic water and sanitation services can aid in general public health and assist in reducing health care costs.

The ONE WaSH National Programme has not completely satisfied their goals of extending safe water supply to 98% of the country’s rural population and 100% of city dwellers. Nevertheless, they have made many great strides toward improving sanitation services. Overall, the program has contributed significantly toward improving the standard of living within these Ethiopian communities.

The ONE WaSH National Programme and similar endeavors have the power to greatly improved the population’s access to a safe water supply and reduce poverty in Ethiopia and worldwide.

Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe once had an effective water system. However, a lack of proper infrastructure and government action means a lack of safe water. Water and waste disposal systems suffer ineffective planning, especially in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. Further, COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe broadly as well as having an impact on its already fragile water supply.

The Issues in Harare

To survive, residents in Harare must dig wells to create a water source. However, the well water is not safe to drink. The sewage system in Harare is another health issue for residents. Young children play in sewage and often fall ill from the lack of sanitation.

Additionally, further issues plague Harare. The Human Rights Watch interviewed a Harare resident named Bonnie who explained that she does not have water to bathe and clean her three children, including one in diapers. The video also featured an interview with a woman called Abigail. She mentioned that the water smells, and she must use a purification tablet before bathing or drinking. Abigail says the government’s negligence has caused these issues within the community.

More than half of Harare’s 4.5 million population could only access running water once a week. This was according to the city’s mayor, Herbert Gomba, back in 2019. Thus, residents must turn to other solutions, such as waiting in long lines at communal wells, streams or boreholes. The water received from these places may not even be safe to drink.

Drought is the cause of the shortage of water in Zimbabwe. In Harare, one-half of the population’s reservoirs are empty because there is no rain. The remaining water, 45% to 60%, is often lost and inaccessible to the population due to leakage or theft.

The Pandemic

As the novel coronavirus plagues the globe, the disease is contributing great distress to Zimbabwe. COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe mainly through its water supply, which hurts the citizens of Harare and the surrounding population.

In Harare, citizens go without water for days. They must wait until water trucks arrive in the city. Once the water is finally available, COVID-19 changes how citizens can access it. Citizens gather in large numbers to wait in line, which makes the concept of social distancing nearly impossible. Then, they push and shove to receive water. Additionally, COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe because many individuals do not wear or cannot access masks.

Organizations like Doctors Without Borders encourage social distancing. Yet, it is not a long-term or time-friendly solution, as they are not sure that it will keep people safe. Furthermore, the people in Harare are desperate for food and water. They may sacrifice their health to be first in line to receive water for themselves and their families.

Dewa Mavhinga, the South Africa director at Human Rights Watch, explains that COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe differently because of their pre-existing lack of water. It takes a toll on the spread of the virus and other infectious diseases, such as typhoid and cholera. Water is necessary for handwashing and hygiene, which can combat the spread of coronavirus. Without an uninterrupted supply of water, residents will struggle to stay safe and healthy.

Aid

Supporters abroad can help aid the people of Zimbabwe by urging U.S. congressional leaders to make the COVID-19 crisis in Zimbabwe a current political and human rights focus. With U.S. backing, the Zimbabwean government can ensure there are water points throughout the country. This will prevent overcrowding and the spread of COVID-19.

Another way to aid Zimbabwe’s public health system is to show support to organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children. These organizations are providing emergency relief and recovery programs for people in Zimbabwe. They are doing everything they can to combat how COVID-19 affects Zimbabwe by implementing humanitarian relief efforts.

Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Water Insecurity in South Africa
Located at the Southern tip of Africa, South Africa is one of the most developed Sub-Saharan African states on the continent. However, water insecurity in South Africa poses a risk to the economy and livelihoods of the country’s 49 million inhabitants. Rains that once provided much-needed water now fall less frequently. On top of this, some cities like Durban face issues surrounding water theft. About 35% of their water supply is stolen or dealt with illegally. For example, Cape Town has been rationing water since 2018. It has even geared up for a Day Zero, a day in which no person from the city would receive any water.

Water is a human necessity for hydration. However, it is also necessary for proper cooking, sanitation, sewage, bathing, washing dishes and cleaning clothes. Because of this, there are many favorable forces at work to alleviate the effects of water insecurity in South Africa.

5 Forces Alleviating the Effects of Water Insecurity in South Africa

  1. Universal behavior change is one of the things alleviating water insecurities in South Africa. Rationing water does not target the source of the problem. However, it ensures equitable sharing practices. The richest of individuals in South Africa’s Cape Town is receiving the same amount of water per day as the most impoverished individuals. This fact might seem obvious, but many countries in the world would struggle to enforce such practices. This dilemma comes on the back of South Africa’s groundbreaking legislation through the National Water Act. This piece of law formally recognizes sanitary water as a constitutional right. Thus, the government must work toward providing water for all constitutionally.
  2. Desalination plants are also alleviating water insecurity in this country. South Africa is beginning to invest in water desalination plants that could ultimately filter salt-water. These would be capable of providing millions with water sustainably. Ocean water would also be drinkable. While these plants are costly and time-sensitive to build, there is no price on providing a sustainable water supply. Positioned with an extensive coastline, South Africa has no limit to its provision of seawater.
  3. Additionally, improved wastewater treatment can help alleviate water insecurity. Repurposing wastewater has the potential to save large quantities of water every year. This process makes water once again usable for a variety of diverse water requirements. South Africa is continually investing in this technology, successfully targeting water insecurity in South Africa. Also, while this does not effectively solve the problem at its source, it does the most critical job of providing water to South Africans. The Mvula Trust is one of the world’s leading water and sanitation nongovernmental organizations. It is leading the charge in investment for wastewater treatment plants in South Africa. It recently organized a workshop bringing together many organizations such as the USAID and the Department of Water Affairs. The organizations agree on specific goals designed to ensure wastewater treatment is handled sustainably.
  4. Furthermore, another force that is working to alleviate water insecurity in South Africa is rainwater harvesting. While rainfall is much less consistent over the past few decades, South Africans have become more committed to taking advantage of rains. Many have installed formal or makeshift rainwater collection tanks that allow households to store water themselves. A Cape Town company named Jaguar Products has created a sleek and lightweight tank design that is not only effective but affordable. The selling of these available tanks not only aid households in securing water, but it also helps to drive the economy. It even provides money to South African businesses and jobs to South African citizens.
  5. Grocery Store Water Purification Systems are working to alleviate water insecurity as well. Because water from the tap has been scarce in some places within South Africa, many citizens have gotten water from their local grocery stores. Through donations and NGO work, many stores have drinking water refill systems. They allow sustainable purification of water. The Waterpod by I-Drop has been crucial in providing thousands with water. It will enable the shop owners to sell purified water, saves plastic through its reusability, and allows accessibility of purified water. While this is a fantastic innovation, it can only serve as a temporary fix, not as the new normal. South Africa has formally announced access to clean water as a constitutional right. Thus, individuals should not have to pay for their water. This has been effective in providing water for many households.

Overall, water insecurity in South Africa is not a problem that is going away. The country has averted many crises; however, it still needs to find a long-term solution. This issue does not only pertain to South Africa. With watersheds drying up all around the world, this issue will become more pervasive worldwide with each year that passes. Emphasizing the importance of this issue in South Africa could provide the fix that ultimately saves the rest of the world in the future. Thus, giving the South African government and its researchers the tools to succeed has the potential to solve a problem inevitable to everyone.

Keagan James
Photo: Flickr