Access to Water and Sanitation
The U.S. investments that have been working toward improving access to water and sanitation have been particularly focussed on building a more water-secure world during the coronavirus pandemic. So far, the pandemic has affected the lives of billions all over the world and the most vulnerable in particular, already struggling with health and sanitation challenges. According to the OECD, before COVID-19, the African continent had already faced a slowdown in growth and poverty reduction. The organization added that “the current crisis could erase years of development gains.”

The pandemic could impact people already struggling with hunger and poverty. Several international organizations estimated that the number of starving people could have increased to 132 billion by the end of 2020.

To support countries struggling with water and sanitation access during the global pandemic, USAID re-configurated the priorities the Water for World Act of 2014 listed.

How does the global pandemic challenge water security and, in turn, how does USAID respond to these challenges? Before tackling these two questions, this article will give a brief background on the Water for World Act of 2014 and discuss its reconfiguration in light of the recent events regarding sanitation.

The 2014 Water for World Act and WASH Programs

The Water for World Act of 2014 is a reform bill that emerged from the 2005 Water for the Poor Act which made water, sanitation and hygiene – conveniently called WASH – top priorities in the federal foreign aid plan. In an attempt to make data more transparent, optimize aid strategies and improve water support, Congress voted for the Water for World Act in 2014. However, in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the need for global access to water and sanitation.

To address this concern, USAID re-designated 18 high-priority countries according to criteria such as lack of access to water, inadequate sanitation conditions and opportunities to make progress in these areas. Some of the high-priority countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Kenya and South Sudan. In doing so, USAID intended to leverage WASH programs and enable vulnerable populations to have continual access to clean water during this critical period.

Current Challenges to Water Security

Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right and the current pandemic underscored the emergency to settle this right in the most vulnerable countries. Populations receive daily reminders to wash their hands and keep a healthy diet to prevent the propagation of the virus and save lives. However, the lack of clean, drinkable water is not only amplifying the already precarious living conditions of vulnerable populations, but it is also making it harder for these countries to stop virus transmission.

COVID-19 tends to affect vulnerable populations the most: poor communities, minorities and people living in crowded areas. According to UN-Habitat, it is clear that the pandemic affects the world’s most vulnerable populations the hardest because they lack sustainable access to water and sanitation.

For instance, India is the second-leading country in the world for most cases of COVID-19. It had almost 11 million cases on February 21, 2021. This number directly links to the country’s crowded rural areas and the lack of access to running water. At the end of 2020, more than 21% of the Indian population showed evidence of exposure to the virus. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees living in a refugee camp are crowded with a population density four to seven times more than New York City, putting them in high-risk situations.

How WASH Programs Help

WASH programs helped high-priority countries respond to the pandemic in 2020. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID and the World Bank financed WASH campaigns to improve the population’s handwashing behaviors.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, they collaborated with the local authorities to improve access to water and sanitation in health care facilities. In Haiti, WASH services included purchasing chlorine to clean water and installing water supply in markets, health centers, orphanages and prisons. According to the World Bank report, ensuring that these countries have safe access to water and sanitation is a necessary medium-term response to the pandemic.

US Investments and Improving Access to Water and Sanitation

U.S. investments aim to provide financial support for water service providers. For instance, in June 2020, USAID partnered with UNICEF in Mozambique to provide subsidies covering the cost of private water providers.

USAID also financed programs that relay information about handwashing. In April 2020, U.S. investments financed radio campaigns in Burkina Faso promoting a new handwashing system expanding access to hygiene in more areas. Data has shown that these programs made a difference in terms of transmission. In fact, transmission levels went down in both Mozambique and Burkina Faso from June to December 2020.

USAID also focused on health care facilities and on supporting health care workers in priority countries by training and protecting them. WASH programs trained more than 16,000 workers in diverse locations such as Senegal, India, Bangladesh, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. USAID support in Senegal was one of many successes: 447 officers and 549 health workers received training while the programs also resulted in the installation of 497 public handwashing stands in health facilities and high-risk places. They also distributed 2,423 handwashing kits to families with COVID-19.

Looking Ahead

Despite the crises of the past year, one can spot at least one positive outcome: global leaders have had to rethink access to water and sanitation. The pandemic increased global awareness about the importance of water and sanitation security, all over the world. U.S. investments to improve water and sanitation accessibility under the Water for World Act provide help during sanitary and water emergencies, even during these challenging times. The recent update about the high-priority status for designated countries is not the only positive news on the horizon. USAID administrator John Barsa has also signed the Sanitation and Water for all World Leaders call to action. His signature confirms what many have come to realize over the past year; international collaboration is key to fight the pandemic and secure better living conditions for all.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Alleviating Pakistan’s Water Crisis
Water is a necessity to any living being and yet some countries struggle immensely with it. One such country is Pakistan. Pakistan’s water crisis and sanitation issues have lasted more than 15 years. Pakistan has reached a level where it has less than 1,000 cubic meters of water per person and could potentially run out of water entirely within five years. Fortunately, there are several organizations that are working to solve Pakistan’s water crisis.

Change the World of One

Change the World of One has recently finished a campaign concerning the water crisis in Pakistan. Its effort, Pakistan Clean Water Project, identified water access and sanitation as the two biggest problems of the water crisis and aimed to lessen the water crisis by building water hand pumps and electric pumps in a rural village in Pakistan.

The project was a success with the installation of around 10 hand and electric pumps as well as two handwashing stations and latrines. While the work focused mostly on one village, one cannot ignore the outcome of the Pakistan Clean Water Project, especially considering what the project brought to light as possible.

Paani Project

Paani Project is one of the newest organizations working in Pakistan to address its water crisis. The project’s method centers around creating outside-of-the-box solutions to public health problems, donations and creating what they call a “movement.”

Donations and direct action are important for Paani Project as they are for any NGO. This is especially critical considering the costs of developing water pumps and systems. Paani Project recognizes that through their own actions, Pakistan’s water crisis can be tackled day by day.

Charity: Water

Charity: Water has recognized the link between poverty and a lack of clean water in many countries, including Pakistan. The organization is almost entirely transparent with its projects, donations and direct goal of providing clean drinking water on their company website. Its work in Pakistan has provided a significant number of people with water and essential resources. Since 2013, Charity: Water has funded approximately 320 projects and helped around 35,458 people by drilling wells.

USAID

USAID, an organization dedicated to giving aid to foreign countries, has a current four-year plan to aid Pakistan’s water crisis. The Sustainable Water Partnership works to establish water security in Pakistan, which will improve other aspects of life such as public health, economic gains and ecosystems.

This is not its only dive into tackling Pakistan’s water crisis. It also implemented the Pakistan Safe Drinking Water and Hygiene Promotion Project that ran for approximately four years to implement better management of water, improve hygiene and better the technical aspects of water treatment, all of which was able to cover 31 districts in Pakistan in the program’s first phase.

Alkhidmat Foundation

Alkhidmat Foundation is another organization that has found success in alleviating Pakistan’s water crisis. The organization has installed approximately 131 water filtration plants, 6,312 hand pumps, 1,846 water wells and around 930 submersible water pumps.

Giving to communities that are the most vulnerable is exactly how Alkhidmat Foundation has been successful. Many of these impoverished villages do not have the funding like in bigger cities, meaning these communities cannot afford water wells and pumps. The Alkhidmat Foundation has recognized this and is working tirelessly to bring more water to Pakistan.

While Pakistan’s water crisis continues well into the 21st century, these five organizations are doing their part to alleviate Pakistan’s water crisis and are moving one step closer to ending the global water crisis through direct feet-on-the-ground action, advocacy and awareness.

– Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr

Ganges RiverMore individuals depend on the Ganges River in India than there are people in the United States. More than 400 million people live at the basin of the Ganges, making it one of the most important natural water resources in the world. A holy river in the Hindu faith, the Ganges River (or Ganga) is used to bathe, cook, wash clothes, conduct funerals and more. Entire businesses along the basin depend on the river, adding an economic dependence to it as well. Due to this immense usage, pollution has run rampant. The Ganga Action Parivar estimates that “2.9 billion liters of wastewater from sewage, domestic and industrial sources are dumped” in the river every single day. Pollution reduction in the river is a top priority to prevent hundreds of millions of Indians from facing water insecurity.

The World Bank Assists

In 2011, the World Bank targeted the Ganges River pollution issues by launching the National Ganga River Basin Project (or NGRBP). A $1 billion initiative, the NGRBP looked to create bank investments in the water sanitation department and develop better waste management control in India. While this did prove to be a step in the right direction, the Ganges still saw a rise in pollution. India’s inability to properly dispose of waste outpaced the World Bank’s project. After nine years, the World Bank looked to bolster its contribution to the fight to save the Ganges as more and more Indians were becoming sick. In June 2020, the Second Ganga River Basin Project received approval from World Bank directors despite the bank focusing on COVID-19, proving how dire the situation at the basin truly is. An 18-year commitment, this second NGRBP adds another $380 million to clean up the Ganges until 2038.

Ganga Action Parivar’s Impact

Along with international help from the World Bank, India also made pollution control a national issue. An array of agencies have come about in India centered around the purification of the Ganges. For over a decade, the Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) has taken a diplomatic approach to fight water pollution. Through communication with government officials, media outlets and fundraising, the GAP looks to bring awareness to the issue and demand action from within India. In 2016, the GAP launched the National Ganga Rights Act and began asking for support for it. The act detailed how there are both natural environmental and human rights on the line with the continued pollution of the Ganges River. More than just a body of water, the Ganges is an epicenter of religion, prosperity and life. Creating a natural rights act helps to ensure that action will mobilize to protect the water resource and that is exactly what the GAP has set out to do.

The Year 2020 and Beyond

The year 2020 has been a promising year for pollution reduction in the Ganges River. The World Bank launched and financed its second project centered around cleaning the water back in June 2020. New research suggests that there has also been a natural cleansing that has taken place over the past few months. Since COVID-19 forced India to shut down, the Ganges’ usage has dropped. In a video released by BBC News, just a mere 10% drop in usage throughout the pandemic has led to significant improvement in the sanitation of the Ganges. For years now, India’s government has been trying to find ways to heal the Ganges. While India and the world fight the COVID-19 virus, the Ganges River is healing. Once the lockdown ends, the work of the World Bank and GAP will be vital to keep the momentum going. If pollution rates continue to climb, India will have a water crisis on its hands. Sanitizing and protecting the Ganges is instrumental in helping India reduce its poverty rates and preserving a crucial water resource.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

WASH advancements in IndiaWater, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is a public issue in India. Launched in 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SMB) of India has seen great success in recent years in improving the health and sanitation of India’s people. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has aided in the mission, helping to educate and institute new technologies, such as Sunidhi toilets. Aided by UNICEF, additional initiatives like the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) and the implementation of WASH in schools and health facilities are contributing to the reduction of harmful and unsanitary practices. There have been several key WASH advancements in India.

6  Facts About WASH Advancements in India

  1. Urban Centers Bear the Brunt. Nationally, 910 million citizens do not have access to proper sanitation. With the rapid increase in population density in cities, there is an increasing strain on water and sanitation services. Despite urban centers housing the majority of India’s population, urban sanitation has been underfunded.
  2. Swachh Bharat’s Toilet Access and Job Creation. SMB’s primary objective is to reduce open defecation in India. Between 2018 to 2019, 93% of households had access to toilets, a noticeable jump from 77% in the previous year. SMB’s efforts have also seen economic benefits, including an increase in job opportunities. The construction of the sanitation infrastructure is responsible for employing over two million full-time workers. The creation of an additional two million jobs is expected in the coming years.
  3. Water in Rural Communities. Between 2017 to 2018, India’s national water mission expanded to become the National Rural Drinking Water Mission (NRDWM). While other programs and departments addressed sanitation in urban centers, NRDWM cares for the rural regions of India. One goal is the institution of piped water supplies to rural households. As of 2019, “18% of rural households had been provided with Piped Water Supply (PWS) household connections.”
  4. iJal Safe Water Stations. The Safe Water Network, a nonprofit organization created by Paul Newman, has reached communities through its iJal water stations. The locally owned stations provide access to clean, quality water in communities where water security is scarce. In 2019, 86 new stations were built, with a total of 319 stations built, reaching over a million people across 319 communities.
  5. Better Community Toilets. Improper sewer networks and poorly maintained public toilets lead to open defecation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sought solutions to this crisis, including the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011. The lack of safe public toilets is especially burdening on women. To address this concern, the WASH Institute leads the Sunidhi Toilet project. The project sees the construction of easily installable, self-cleaning public toilets.
  6. WASH Allies. USAID and UNICEF have worked in cooperation with the Government of India. As of September 2020, USAID reported recent achievements, including greater access to safe drinking water,  more household toilets and a decrease in public defecation. UNICEF has aided in the education and implementation of hygiene, particularly in schools and health facilities.

Recent years have seen several WASH advancements in India. The Indian government, large and small businesses as well as nonprofit organizations, are all playing an important part in ensuring access to safe water and sanitation. Education and creative solutions are made possible thanks to hard work and global cooperation.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Clean Drinking Water in the PhilippinesAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking, with people in rural areas with limited infrastructure being mostly affected. Within the Philippines, this concept manifests in that 91% of the country’s estimated 100.7 million population have access to basic water services, but access is highly inequitable across the country, with regional basic water services access ranging from 62% to 100%. To combat water insecurity, government bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and independent parties have collaborated to ensure that all citizens have access to clean drinking water in the Philippines.

The Philippine Clean Water Act

In 2004, the government passed the Philippine Clean Water Act which aims to protect water bodies from pollution and monitor their safety. This was implemented through multiple boards of governors and local mayors who were given specific water sources to monitor and maintain. By localizing management, the government found that leaders were more driven to clean their water because it affected their personal community. In addition, this strategy hinged upon community involvement as well, which led to a greater public awareness of water sanitation. In other countries with a similar problem, this localized strategy could work to create a body of legislators invested in water access, which would lead to cleaner water overall.

Hydropanel Fields

Water sanitizing technology has also been instrumental in guaranteeing access to all populations in the Philippines, specifically the rural ones. For the indigenous people of Palawan, the lack of clean drinking water is due to their lack of access to city centers and infrastructure. SOURCE Global and Conservation International collaborated to create a field of hydropanels that will create 40,000 liters of clean drinking water each year. Because the hydropanels are portable and easy to assemble, they can theoretically be used anywhere in the world. This opens up possibilities globally for communities with inadequate drinking water access. Going forward, this model could be used to eradicate water insecurity.

Water.org

Another influential NGO has been Water.org, which provides no-interest loans to families trying to gain access to clean water in their homes. These loans are used to rig homes with plumbing as well as build wells. The organization is unique in that it addresses the economic issues associated with a lack of clean water. Without clean water, families contract diseases at higher rates, which limits their ability to work and earn an income. In addition, because these illnesses tend to affect children at higher proportions, access to clean water means a chance for education. Water.org’s belief is that by providing rural communities with their own funding, the people in that community will be able to build themselves up independently and ensure a legacy of success. As of now, the goal of the organization is to help the government in the Philippines reach its goal of access to clean drinking water for all by 2028.

Other Organizations for Water Access

Two other notable NGOs are DAI and Clean Water International. Both of these organizations work globally to ensure all people have access to clean water. In the Philippines, DAI specifically works to improve sanitation techniques. This has been accomplished through infrastructure projects that transport water in safer ways as well as education campaigns that teach communities how to check if the water is clean and how to clean it properly. Similar to this, Clean Water International has worked to increase sanitation. Both of these organizations maintain that proper sanitation is essential to access to clean water and have provided the funds to create proper water sanitation.

Access to Clean Drinking Water

Without access to clean water, communities are barred from work opportunities, exposed to disease and experience the effects of poverty at higher proportions. As seen in the Philippines, a multi-faceted and robust approach is needed to address this crisis and it requires the cooperation of all. The problem of lack of access to clean drinking water in the Philippines cannot be addressed simply by giving communities water bottles. It must be a ground-up approach that gives communities the tools to create and access clean water for years to come.

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr

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

Drinkwell Systems, Purifying Drinking Water for Water-Scarce CommunitiesDrinkwell is an innovative technology platform that won the first Imagine H20 Urban Water Challenge. The objective of the technology company Drinkwell Systems is to provide critical clean water infrastructure in a way that is both environmentally and socially sustainable. Drinkwell Systems not only purifies and provides clean water for underserved communities, but it also provides jobs in the communities in which the water ATMs are installed.

How Does Drinkwell Work

Drinkwell is a system that is able to purify water at an impressive rate with a lower waste rate than reverse osmosis. The Drinkwell system purifies water by using the patented HIX-Nano technology, which only wastes 1% of the water put into the system, compared to 40 to 60% of input water. This company operates in three stages.

These stages are separated into design, build and operation and maintenance. In the design phase, the company tests raw water samples and uses its cloud-based database to paint a clearer picture of where water quality is the poorest and access to drinking water is lowest. During the building phase, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority build sheds while Drinkwell makes and installs the ATM and treatment system. Finally, in the operation and maintenance phase, the local water authorities maintain the systems through the usage of mobile applications. Through these applications, the water authorities are able to report issues that may arise in their systems as well as keep an eye on finances.

Drinkwell’s Current Initiatives

Currently, the company is focused on serving communities in Bangladesh and India. Bangladesh is currently facing a water and sanitation crisis. In a nation with 165 million people, there are 5 million citizens who do not have a reliable source of safe drinking water. The great waterways, such as the Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra rivers, all begin within the borders of other countries. Bangladesh is left with only 7% of the land that makes up these large watersheds, which leaves them with very little control over how much water they can access from these sources. Paired with rising salinity levels in the water and arsenic contamination in the groundwater, Bangladesh’s residents are suffering from a severe lack of access to clean water.

In India, fewer than 50% of the 1.353 billion population face water insecurity. Similar to Bangladesh, India’s water is often contaminated by chemicals like fluoride and arsenic. This contaminated water is found in nearly 1.96 million households. In addition to concerns surrounding contaminated drinking water, India also struggles with a quickly declining groundwater source. This is in part due to increased drilling over the last few decades. In a region with a high number of people who do not have access to safe water, services like Drinkwell are critical to helping people gain access to these essential services.

Looking Ahead

After winning the H20 Urban Water Challenge, the company partnered with the Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority. This partnership led to the implementation of four water ATMs in Bangladesh. With these water ATMs, Drinkwell’s systems were able to provide clean drinking water to 5,100 people. Drinkwell Systems currently has plans to install an additional 96 water filtration systems and ATMs in Bangladesh’s second-largest city in 2020 and 2021. In total, the company has been able to roll out water ATMs in more than 230 locations across India and Bangladesh. In addition to providing people with access to clean drinking water, Drinkwell has been able to create 340 jobs for locals.

In a relatively short amount of time, Drinkwell Systems has served 300 to 2,000 households in water insecure areas of India and Bangladesh, as well as created jobs for people living in these water-scarce areas. Advancements in water supply technology such as Drinkwell are an important step in solving water insecurity worldwide.

—Maddi Miller
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

Sanitation in Mali
Access to proper sanitation and clean water is a relatively simple yet incredibly important part of protecting public health. For developing nations like Mali, it can be hard to come by. In rural areas, only 30% of people have access to clean water. This puts them at risk for diarrhea, which is responsible for one out of every nine child deaths in the world. Further, most schools do not have proper toilets for their students, and about half lack a clean water source altogether. People must undergo steps to provide safe water and improve sanitation in Mali. Luckily, some organizations, like Save the Children, are attempting to help.

Save the Children

The Save the Children Fund has been supporting kids around the world since 1919. It works to improve communities in many sectors, including healthcare, education, community development and more. Save the Children first arrived in Mali in 1987 and has been on the ground defending the country’s most vulnerable ever since.

Waterborne diseases pose a great threat to children in developing countries. One of the best ways to tackle this crisis is through proper water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) products and services. Accordingly, Save the Children has made this a center of attention in its work through the Clean Household Approach (CHA) program. The CHA program emphasizes the importance of WASH products and services and is working to reduce the risk of childhood diarrhea and sanitation in Mali.

Previous programs often looked at the issue from a communal perspective. Public resources became the focus rather than looking at what people could accomplish in each individual household. “People care for and maintain personal belongings better than communal property,” Save the Children reported. With this in mind, the CHA program directs efforts at the household level and not at the community level. Instead of providing sanitation equipment at a communal well where people draw water from, the program is making change directly in the homes where people consume the water.

The Clean Household Approach Program (CHA)

The CHA program differs from other programs with similar goals because it does not simply offer financial aid, it also uses a market-based approach. Save the Children recognizes that household sanitation commodities are not something that people tend to prioritize. Families put food and shelter above the often expensive equipment necessary to secure clean water. To circumvent this, Save the Children is making household sanitation commodities both accessible and desirable.

The CHA program provides vouchers that subsidize the cost of WASH products and services. The program typically provides vouchers after a household member attends a meeting on proper handwashing or a visit to a physician. It also uses a variety of incentives to encourage families to invest in WASH products and services. For example, a home can meet “Clean Household” status by satisfying certain criteria pertaining to proper sanitation practices. They then receive the award of a flag to note their success.

The CHA program also uses marketing strategies and social norms to try to emphasize the importance of WASH products and services. Additionally, Save the Children provides training and collaborates with local business owners to ensure that a supply of WASH products and services is always available.

WASH products and services work. The risk of diarrheal infections falls 47% with proper handwashing, 17% with better water quality and 36% with better sanitation. Through projects like the CHA program, Save the Children has been able to keep over 1 million children healthy and nourished in Mali. It continues to change lives around the world and has shown no signs of slowing down in its support for sanitation in Mali.

– Evan Driscoll
Photo: Flickr

apps improving access to clean waterThe United Nation’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal is devoted to enhancing clean water and sanitation. Specifically, it calls for equitable access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation for all by 2030. However, nearly one-third of the global population lacks access to clean drinking water. Some companies are making solutions to this problem in the form of apps improving access to clean water.

The Problem

The World Health Organization defines safe water as 20 liters per person per day of accessible, clean drinking water within one kilometer of a household or business. Without safe water, families must spend more time caring for sick loved ones and fetching water from far-away sources. This often prevents them from joining the workforce and earning an income. Businesses and schools that are unable to provide safe water often struggle to retain staff and students. Overall, communities without safe water are more susceptible to illnesses and destruction from natural disasters. Indeed, diarrheal diseases stemming from unsafe water usage and poor sanitation kills nearly 1,000 children per day.

Thankfully, technological innovation for accessing clean water is on the rise. New technological solutions range from fog-to-water conversion systems to easy-to-use water filters. Below are three apps improving access to clean water by collecting, harnessing and sharing important water systems data around the world.

mWater

John Feighery, a former NASA employee, and his wife Annie Feighery created mWater in the mid-2000s for Android devices. After working for a company testing well water in El Salvador, Mr. Feighery learned that the process of testing for clean water was cumbersome and expensive. He collected samples with heavy machinery, transported them to a far-away lab for testing and recorded locations by hand. Mr. Feighery decided he could simplify the process using technology he used with the International Space Station.

He and his wife created mWater, which records the results and precise locations of water quality tests on a mobile device. Anyone with the app can view the data. Users can add pictures and write notes on scent and appearance. Additionally, they can add data from new tests they’ve conducted using the $10 water testing kit available from the app.

With its global water quality database and expedited process of identifying safe water, mWater is one of the most comprehensive apps improving access to clean water. Today, more than 75,000 governments, NGOs, health workers and researchers use mWater for free in 180 countries. They include UN-Habitat, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and The Water Project. Altogether, mWater receives and records 250,000 water surveys per month for public use.

Akvo Flow

One of the few apps improving access to clean water is Akvo Flow. Peter van der Linde and Jeroen van der Sommen founded Akvo Flow after meeting at the World Water Week conference, in Stockholm. They wanted to improve the way that water quality data was presented via open-source technology. This allows governments and organizations to better address the issue of finding safe water. Akvo works with users to design projects, capture meaningful data, understand the data and act to improve conditions. To date, Akvo has implemented software in 70 countries by working with more than 20 governments and 200 organizations.

It aims to increase accountability, transparency and productivity for each partner organizations. Akvo Flow does this by streamlining the data collection process, which allows for quicker decision making. Some of its partnerships include setting up a sanitation monitoring system in Mauritania and working with Water for People in Peru to design solutions. Additionally, it works with UNICEF and the Ministry of Water Resources to test water quality nationwide in Sierra Leone.

Open Water Data

As the name suggests, Open Water Data makes water data available to the public. Founded in 2017 by a group of software engineers and data scientists from Datameet, Open Water Data only applies to India, where it is based. Extreme flooding followed by water-source depletion in India led the group to question the country’s water management systems. They found that the public is unable to access much of India’s water data, despite the fact that local governments need extensive data to implement water management systems.

In response, the founders created an easy-to-use map-based web app with available data from Google’s Earth Engine. It includes datasets from NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Now, the app is one of a few improving access to clean water. It is a one-stop-shop for information on daily rainfall, soil moisture, groundwater and reservoir shortages. Researchers and local governments can create simple models in water-scarce regions and plan for flood mitigation using Open Water Data’s tools. Additionally, plans are in place to create a database that all parties can contribute to.

The Future of Apps Improving Access to Clean Water

In July 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern about the progress of Sustainable Development Goal 6. Specifically, he cited climate change, pollution and increasing demand as obstacles. If clean water and sanitation remain problems in 2030, global health, education and climate change will suffer. These apps improving access to clean water through data management are just one way that technology can crowdsource solutions to the global water crisis.

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr