World Water Day 2019While water might seem like a basic necessity, more than 650 million people worldwide lack easy access to clean water. Every year, the United Nations sponsors World Water Day. World Water Day raises awareness about global water crises, demonstrating the need for water in developing nations. Take a look at these interesting facts about how the U.N. celebrated World Water Day 2019.

5 Interesting Facts About World Water Day 2019

  1. “Leaving No One Behind”
    The theme for World Water Day 2019 was “Leaving No One Behind.” Technology is providing new methods to increase access to clean water. Additionally, it mobilizes programs combating water scarcity. Above all, technology connects individuals interested in making a difference, no matter where they are. However, these advances can’t only benefit privileged populations. Improvements must be available to marginalized groups, as well. World Water Day 2019 emphasized access to clean water is a human right, as recognized by the U.N. in 2010. Everyone deserves water, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or age.
  2. USAID’s Strategy
    The U.S. government is working to implement a strategy to improve global water access through the U.S. Agency for International Development. While the fight to bring access to clean water is global, USAID renewed its commitment to providing clean drinking water this World Water Day. As such, USAID supports the core objectives outlined in the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy. These objectives include promoting better stewardship of freshwater resources and expanding the availability of sanitation services. Additionally, USAID is enacting policy and programs aimed at providing 15 million people access to clean water by 2022.
  3. “Water Action Decade”
    This World Water Day marked the first completed year of the U.N.’s “Water Action Decade.” Three years ago, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously decided to make the global water crisis a top priority for 10 years straight. The “Water Action Decade” kicked off in 2018. Therefore, efforts to increase sustainable water management and access to safe water will last through World Water Day 2028. And nations around the world execute large-scale programs, addressing water scarcity stemming from pollution, drought and urbanization.
  4. Women and Water
    Women played a key role in the message of World Water Day 2019. While many suffer due to water scarcity, women disproportionately carry the burden. According to U.N. research, women and girls make up the majority of people responsible for obtaining water in areas where clean water isn’t accessible. Collectively, women devote around 200 million hours to finding and gathering clean water. Subsequently, a major goal for World Water Day 2019 was improving women’s access to water, which can lead to awesome opportunities that promote independence for women. Therefore, the U.N. sponsors women-led projects in rural areas to include women in community decisions about water as just one part of its commitment to improving universal access to clean water worldwide.
  5. U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
    In fact, World Water Day is just one example of U.N. efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6. Overall, the U.N. has agreed on 17 different goals to promote sustainable development worldwide, specifically in growing and impoverished nations. These Sustainable Development Goals must meet their goals by 2030. Particularly, the primary task of Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to make water safe, affordable and accessible universally. And World Water Day marks just one of many U.N. efforts to reach this crucial goal on target. Ultimately, the first step in achieving universal access to clean water is raising awareness.

Nevertheless, on World Water Day 2019, nations joined hands to strengthen efforts toward making clean water accessible worldwide. The celebration honored organizations that provide aid, unite communities and save lives. And they celebrate innovations that revolutionize water management, along with the people dedicated to campaigning for water access without leaving anyone behind.

Emmitt Kussrow
Photo: Unsplash

Meghan MarkleMeghan Markle, now known as the Duchess of Sussex, began humanitarian work long before she joined the royal family. When she was 11 years old, she was so struck by a clearly sexist ad for dish soap that was targeting women, she wrote a letter to elected officials, to which she received a written response from Hillary Clinton. She has famously cited this story in her speech at the U.N. Women gathering in 2015 as the starting point to her activism. She utilized the fame she garnered from starring on the popular USA Network TV show “Suits” to increase her humanitarian efforts.

Since becoming Duchess of Sussex, she has traveled throughout the Commonwealth discussing humanitarian issues that affect the countries the royals represent. Here are the 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle, Dutchess of Sussex.

The 10 Best Humanitarian Quotes by Meghan Markle

  1. “One hundred and thirteen million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 in India alone are at risk of dropping out of school because of the stigma surrounding menstrual health […] these factors perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future.” In her 2016 visit to Delhi and Mumbai, India, Markle was prompted to write an open letter, featured in Time magazine, calling for action against menstrual stigmas that keep Indian girls from school and from being equal participants in society.
  2. “I think there’s a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school because they aren’t walking hours each day to source water for their families. It allows women to invest in their own businesses and community. It promotes grassroots leadership, and, of course, it reinforces the health and wellness of children and adults. Every single piece of it is so interconnected, and clean water, this one life source, is the key to it all.” Also in 2016, Markle traveled to Rwanda as a global ambassador with World Vision, a humanitarian agency who seeks to impact the lives of young children by eliminating the root causes of poverty. It is one of the largest international charity organizations for children.
  3. “Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.” In celebration of the 125 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand in late 2018, Markle gave a speech about feminism. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women’s suffrage. In her speech she also quoted suffragette Kate Sheppard, reiterating that “All that separates, whether race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.”
  4. “Women don’t need to find their voice, they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.” In February 2018, in her first public appearance alongside Prince Harry, Kate and Prince William, Markle voiced her support of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which focus on eliminating sexual misconduct against all people and supporting victims of assault while promoting gender equality across all industries.
  5. “Don’t give it five minutes if you’re not going to give it five years.” When delivering the keynote speech at the Create & Cultivate Conference in 2016, Markle brought to light the importance of prioritizing and making commitments. She demonstrated the importance of utilizing skills for long-term solutions and goals and to focus attention and energy only on things that can be cultivated and maintained in the long run. She also emphasized pursuing passions and planning on working towards it for years to come.
  6. “We just need to be kinder to ourselves. If we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, can you imagine how much better off we would be? … Yes, you can have questions and self-doubt, that’s going to come up, that’s human.” Markle puts the “human” in humanitarian. She shows it is important not only to show up for others but to show up for yourself in order to make a lasting impact and to be able to maintain your best self in the process.
  7. “With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.” In an interview with Elle Magazine, Markle talked about the things that inspired her when she was young and her experiences going from working on a TV series to helping in Rwanda.
  8. “Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive.” In October 2018 in Fiji, Markle gave a speech on the importance of women’s education and cited the ways scholarships and financial aid funded her education and how worthwhile it was for her as an adult.
  9. “Because when girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them.” The trip to Fiji and Markle’s speech were used to announce two grants that were awarded to Fiji National University and the University of the South Pacific to provide workshops for the women faculty at the universities to allow more women to be a part of decision-making at the schools.
  10. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.” Markle began her speech at the U.N. on International Women’s Day 2015 with this line. It was the same speech where she told the story of her 11-year-old self prompting advertisers to change their sexist dish soap advertisement.

Meghan Markle started her activism at the early age of 11 and didn’t look back. Her career as a successful actress gave her the platform to share her causes with the rest of the world. Clearly, the Duchess of Sussex has been a humanitarian long before being thrust into the global stage, and the top 10 best humanitarian quotes by Meghan Markle prove it.

Ava Gambero

Photo: Mark Tantrum

The Super BowlThe first Superbowl took place on January 15, 1967. Tickets to attend cost only $12, and was the only Super Bowl in history to not sell out. The halftime show was comprised of local high school marching bands. Nowadays, tickets cost thousands of dollars, the halftime show goes all out with famous headliners, people host their own Superbowl parties and millions of people watch. Unfortunately, while cities spend millions of dollars every year to host a Superbowl game, people around the world, and even around the corner, are suffering from poverty. Below is a basic breakdown of different costs that go into the Superbowl and other ways that this money could be spent to help fight global poverty.

How Money Spent on the Super Bowl Could Be Used to Help People

  • Tickets Prices: Want to attend the Super Bowl? On average, tickets now cost between $2,500 to $3,000. This money could be put towards building wells in impoverished countries, for example. Some countries where you can build a well with this money are Togo, Niger, Senegal, Liberia and Chad. The cost to build a well in any of these countries ranges from $1,600 to $3,000.
  • The Halftime Entertainment: Pepsi has paid to sponsor the halftime show for several years now. On average, they reportedly spend $7 million to nab the sponsorship and invest an additional $100,000 in insurance for the show. It would cost around $86,000 to sponsor an entire African village. This includes a fully functioning school, medical center and access to clean water. For less than the cost of insuring the halftime show, the money could be allocated to helping a village in Africa thrive.
  • Commercial Advertisement: The average price for a 30-second ad spot in 2017 reached a height of  $5 million. The total amount spent on advertising from 1967 to 2018 is $5.4 billion. According to a study done in 2013, the average cost to run a mobile clinic was $92,898. That’s under one-fifth of the cost that it takes to run a thirty-second ad during the Superbowl.
  • Super Bowl Parties: In a survey conducted by The National Retail Federation, consumers said that they will spend an average of $81 on a Super Bowl watch party. That is a total of $14.8 billion dollars spent across the country. The cost to end world hunger is $30 billion a year.  American consumers who hold Super Bowl watch parties could pay for nearly half of that!

Realistically, not all consumers are going to pile their money together to help contribute to alleviating world hunger. But, if even just a few consumers donated that $81 dollars or a company like Pepsi opted to spend half of the Super Bowl sponsorship money to a cause that helps fight global poverty, it would make a huge difference because every dollar counts. While the fight against global poverty is one that takes time and money, it is a fight that can be won.

CJ Sternfels

Photo: Flickr

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
In many developing countries, gender inequality in access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH for short) creates additional risks and hardships for women and girls, in addition to all equalities that women must endure. As of 2015, 2.1 billion people globally did not have access to safe water services and 4.5 billion did not have access to a safely managed sanitation service. In order to improve access to these services and the livelihoods of women in developing countries, it is essential that policy-makers view WASH as a gendered issue and involve women in decision-making.

Water Collection

In the absence of basic water services, individuals must travel to a water source to collect water for their household. This burden disproportionately falls on women, with women and girls responsible for water collection in eight out of 10 households without water on the premises. More than 73 percent of water collection is done by women, and 6.9 percent is done by girls under the age of 15. While water collection can be important to the social lives of women, as it offers an opportunity to communicate with women from different households, it poses a risk to women’s safety and takes away time that could be spent on other activities.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it takes approximately 33 minutes to travel to and from a water source in rural areas, and 25 minutes in urban areas. Many people have to make this trip more than once per day. During this trip, women may be vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual assault while traveling on their own. For girls, water collection takes away from time that could be spent on obtaining an education. For women, this is the time that could be spent on childcare, housework or income-generating activities.

Sanitation and Hygiene Issues

Many people do not have access to latrines in developing countries and therefore practice open defecation. In Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, nine out of 10 individuals openly defecate in fields, forests, bushes and bodies of water. Women and girls may require additional privacy when defecating, and therefore in some cultures can only do so at night. This increases the risk of violence, and suppressing their bodily functions during the day can lead to urinary tract infections and chronic constipation.

Menstruating can also be extremely difficult in these settings, with many women lacking access to basic products and services. Many schools lack private bathroom facilities for girls, causing many girls to leave school once they reach puberty. If they do stay, they often stay home while they are menstruating, decreasing their chances for educational success. Adult women are also impacted, and may not be able to work at certain locations if they do not have gender-segregated bathroom facilities.

Additionally, without water, sanitation and hygiene become increasingly difficult. Even if women and girls do have access to private toilets, if they do not have clean water to wash their hands, this poses a serious health risk for them and for others. In general, women are more likely to be exposed to dirty water, as they do a majority of household work, including taking care of young children. Contact with wastewater increases the risk of disease for many women.

Issues to Consider

Those trying to solve the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene must take into account a few different factors. First, in emergency situations, such as natural disasters or conflict, water may become additionally scarce, increasing hardships for women and girls. They may have to walk farther to collect water, making them more likely to experience violence.

On the other hand, cultural or social constraints may confine women to the home during more dangerous times, further decreasing their access to water and sanitation facilities. Second, household gender dynamics and societal gender roles need to be considered. If gender roles are radically altered, particularly if women are given more power than they initially possessed, this could increase gender-based violence because men feel as though they are losing control.

Moving Forward

Involving women in efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene is crucial in solving these issues and is already underway in many communities. Women are influential in raising awareness about water and sanitation issues, and improving water and sanitation can greatly empower them.

A study by the International Water and Sanitation Center conducted in 15 countries found that water and sanitation projects that included women were more effective and sustainable. For example, in Zimbabwe, female community members were involved in committees on WASH, and this highlighted community health concerns and provided insights for the construction and maintenance of water sources. Similarly, a project in Uganda worked with women to help them build rainwater harvesting jars, decreasing the amount of time needed for water collection.

Projects like these are being conducted in developing countries around the world, and the general lesson remains the same- involve women in decision-making at every level and remain conscious of the role played by specific cultural contexts in these issues. Efforts that effectively work with communities have the potential to vastly decrease the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene for women and girls, reducing gender inequalities and improving livelihoods of everyone.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Five Diseases That Thrive in Poor Sanitation
Around 4 billion people in the world lack access to basic sanitation facilities like toilets or latrines and nearly 900 million people still defecate in the open. In addition, USAID estimates that 2.1 billion people currently do not have access to safe drinking water. These dismal conditions pose serious health hazards to the men, women and children living in these communities. Without toilets and latrines to separate human waste from living conditions and water sources, bacteria and virus are easily spread through food, water and direct human contact with waste.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 percent of all deaths worldwide are the result of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio that thrive in unimproved sanitation conditions. This might not sound like a high number, but when considering that these diseases can be relatively easily prevented with inexpensive sanitation and potable water solutions, this percentage sounds absurd. The following list of five waterborne diseases that thrive in poor sanitation provides a glimpse of what is at stake when communities are devoid of proper water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure.

Five Waterborne Diseases that Thrive in Poor Sanitation

  1. Diarrhea causes approximately 480,000 childhood deaths each year. This condition is linked to several viruses, bacteria and protozoans and ultimately depletes a person of water and electrolytes which, for many without oral rehydration solution, leads to death. One of the most important factors in eliminating diarrheal deaths, next to proper sanitation facilities, is handwashing. Something so simple can save lives and stop the cycle of diarrhea.
  2. Cholera is not just a disease from the pages of a history book, it is currently endemic in 51 countries in the world. It is unknown precisely how many deaths are directly the result of this waterborne disease, but WHO estimates that cholera kills from 21,000 to 143, 000 on a yearly basis. Contact with waste from an infected individual either directly or through food and water perpetuates the cycle of infection at an alarming rate. Proper sanitation is currently the first line of defense needed to curb this disease.
  3. Dysentery can be caused by either bacteria or an amoeba and presents an infection of the intestines. Fortunately, dysentery is usually cleared up on its own without treatment. However, this disease can be easily spread throughout communities without a system to separate waste from food and water.
  4. From 11 to 20 million people are infected with typhoid fever every year, causing up to 161,000 deaths on yearly basis. Typhoid fever is a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria Salmonella Typhi through contaminated food or water and sometimes from direct contact with someone who is infected. Unlike many waterborne diseases, antibiotics and new vaccines can provide treatment and limited immunity. Yet, without proper water, sanitation and hygiene typhoid infection will persist and antibiotic-immune typhoid will spread which will make treatment of the disease more complicated.
  5. Polio transmission has significantly decreased over the past 30 years thanks to aggressive, worldwide immunization. Still, the threat of infection continues to spread as a direct result of poor sanitation. Poliovirus is spread when humans come into contact with the virus from human excreta or poliovirus that survives in the wild. Polio is close to being eradicated and providing sanitation to the areas where the disease persists is imperative if the world hopes to one-day be polio-free.

Strategies to Eradicate Waterborne Diseases

Efforts to control these five waterborne diseases that thrive in poor sanitation come from both government and international aid organizations. There is also a concerted effort to implement strategy and resources to address the need for clean water and sanitation.

On the strategy front, a 2013 call to action from the U.N. Deputy Secretary-General on sanitation that included the elimination of open defecation by 2025, the sixth Sustainable Development Goal that aims ensure clean water and sanitation for all as well as numerous global guidelines and action plans for water and waste management set forth by WHO, UNICEF and partners are paving the way for large-scale change.

Meanwhile, in terms of providing resources, some examples include USAID’s country-based programs between 2012 and 2017 that supplied potable water to 12.2 million people worldwide. Numerous companies are partnering with large development organizations to develop their own campaigns or are developing products like LifeStraw, Life Sack and PeePoople that provide immediate potable water and sanitation solutions to millions around the world. These examples, in addition to new vaccines, antibiotics and other disease-specific campaigns are working together to eliminate the threats posed by unimproved sanitation and to eradicate waterborne diseased that are taking the lives of millions of people across the globe.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr

hygiene and sanitation
In November 2018, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing. The Expo was the latest iteration of the Reinvent the Toilet challenge that was started in 2011 to help bring clean, safe sanitation to millions of people living in poverty in the developing world. The expo unveiled the world’s first pathogen killing toilet along with small-scale wastewater treatment plants ready for sale to both private and municipal entities. Innovations showcased at the Expo have the potential to greatly decrease human and economic losses because they provide improvements in sanitation and hygiene.

The Importance of Sanitation and Hygiene

Unlike most modern toilets, where waste is flushed away with water, these reinvented toilets separate the waste and water and were designed to be used in areas where no sewer systems exist and to safely reduce waste byproducts  With 2.3 billion people worldwide not having access to basic sanitation facilities, it is no wonder that as many as 892 million people defecate in open places like street gutters and bodies of water. This creates serious sanitation concerns as it contributes to the spread of diseases including Hepatitis A, typhoid and polio, as well as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma.

Poor sanitation and hygiene along with inadequate water kill as many as 842,000 people in low and middle-income countries each year, affecting children under five the most. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, “2,000 children under five die every day from diarrheal disease, and of these 1,800 deaths are linked to poor sanitation, water and hygiene.” These figures underline the importance of hygiene and sanitation around the world, showing just how important the work done with the Reinvented Toilet Expo is.

Decreasing the Number of Sanitation and Hygiene Related Deaths

The innovative ideas displayed at the Reinvented Toilet Expo aim to significantly decrease the number of deaths from poor sanitation over the course of the next 10 years, especially in urban areas.  The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank were among the financial institutions that have pledged financial commitments with the potential of reaching $2.5 billion toward urban sanitation projects, which is the largest ever coordinated commitment to urban sanitation.

Currently, 55 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas, and that number is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. This poses a growing challenge for sanitation and hygiene for impoverished people in urban areas where sanitation is at a premium. What limited data exists on urban sanitation suggests that human waste is discharged directly into rivers, lakes and oceans. Making improvement in sanitation and hygiene in urban areas will not only create a healthier population but it also is good for the overall economy.

Better Sanitation Equals a Better Economy

According to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, poor sanitation and hygiene lead to more than $200 billion lost in healthcare costs, decreased income and productivity. The new toilets would greatly reduce that number. The reinvented toilet could represent an estimated $6 billion in the global market by 2030 and could even help open up a new sanitation sector. The World Health Organization reported that every dollar invested in global sanitation could have an average return of $5.50.

Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $200 million towards improvements in sanitation and hygiene and plans to invest another $200 million into decreasing the cost for nations where improved sanitation and hygiene will have the most impact. The continued improvements in sanitation and hygiene will decrease the mortality rate, boost the global economy and have the potential to offer new sources of renewable energy and water.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in Kenya
Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright is addressing the issue of clean water in Kenya. Currently, 41 percent of Kenyans (19 million people) still lack reliable, safe water sources for drinking water. While on vacation in the Maasai Mara region, Wright witnessed the challenges faced by locals, especially females, when it came to collecting drinking water and decided to start a fundraising campaign with the goal of building two wells in the village he stayed in.

The Global Issue of Clean Water

The availability of clean water has been a major issue across the globe. In July 2010, the United Nations deemed access to clean water and proper sanitation a human right. Yet in 2017, 2.1 billion people still lacked safe drinking water and 4.5 billion did not have sufficient sanitation services. Without safe management of sanitation services and wastewater from cities, businesses and farms, waterways are likely to be polluted. When these water sources are used by community members as drinking water, many health risks arise.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation remain the most common reason for child mortality and are associated with diseases including cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid and polio. By creating the infrastructure for water services, an impoverished community can significantly reduce the number of preventable health issues.

K.J. Wright’s Fundraiser for Wells in Kenya

Clean water infrastructure, however, can be expensive. To build a single well in the village K.J. Wright visited will cost $20,000. In order to adequately cover the expense of two wells, Wright has set a goal of $50,000 for his fundraising campaign. He will personally be donating $300 for every tackle he makes during the football season, which has added up to $1,500 as of November 2018. He has also created an online donation page through Healing Hands International for individuals wishing to support clean water in Kenya.

Women and girls are particularly affected by this problem because water sources are often miles away, and females are usually the ones expected to collect water for the family. Aside from the health impacts of walking great distances daily, the time invested in this chore also prevents many girls from attending school.

Seeing this had a profound effect on Wright. Commenting on his trip to Kenya, Wright said, “I noticed this young girl had dirty brown water. So, I just wanted to help this community. The young ladies have to walk many miles twice a day just to bring back water, and when they do get the water, it’s not even clean. […] I just want to bless this community that blessed me.” By building these two wells, Wright will be helping these young women not only by reducing the time it will take to collect water but also by giving them access to a clean water source.

Changing Lives

Local access to safe drinking water will drastically alter the lives of residents and improve the overall health of the village. Clean water in Kenya is just one example, but celebrity efforts, such as the steps taken by Wright, can have significant positive impacts on impoverished communities.

Fundraising campaigns and advocacy from public figures affect change quickly and can reach diverse audiences that otherwise would not be educated on issues of poverty, clean water, women’s rights and more. Wright plans on returning to Kenya next year and hopefully will continue supporting the world’s poor and inspiring others to take action as well.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Madagascar
Since becoming an independent nation in 1960, Madagascar has struggled to find its footing and develop in the right way. The island nation’s economy and government have both historically proven to be fragile. Most recently, a coup d’etat, illegal and overt seizure of a state, temporarily transferred political power to military authority in 2009. This societal fragility has contributed to the rate of poverty in Madagascar, that is currently among the highest in the world.

However, Madagascar’s outlook has been looking up since 2013. The country held U.N.-sanctioned elections that led to a peaceful transfer of power. The economy immediately responded with modest, but increasingly promising growth. Madagascar’s GDP was projected to grow by 5 percent in 2018.

Unfortunately, poverty rates have held relatively steady despite these economic gains. In 2017, more than three out of every four citizens of the country lived on less than $1.90 a day. With numbers of poverty being this high, raising people out of poverty has to be the main goal of Madagascar’s government and the international community.

Problems related to Poverty in Madagascar

Poverty in Madagascar is complex and entrenched. Rates of poverty are high throughout the country, but they are worst in rural areas. The country’s poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities is most inconsistent in these areas, where only 35 percent of the population has improved access to clean water.

Electricity, food, and schooling are all hard to come by for the country’s poorest as well. Only 15 percent of the country’s population had access to electric power in 2015 and nearly half of Malagasy children are severely malnourished. These and other societal factors influence the low rate of children enrolled in primary education, which was under 70 percent in 2012.

Most Malagasy people work in agriculture, often producing cash crops like coffee and vanilla. These jobs are far from stable, however. Madagascar’s location off the Southern Coast of Africa leaves the country vulnerable to natural disasters. These disasters not only immediately impact the people caught in their path but contribute to the difficulties in maintaining infrastructure in rural areas.

The Beginning of Progress

Despite all these difficulties, the development in the last five years gives several real reasons for hope. The first of these reasons is related to political stability Madagascar has enjoyed since the 2013 elections. The international community was reluctant to invest aid money in Madagascar during and around the crisis of 2009, but that reluctance seems to have passed. In 2016, the World Bank and the United National Development Programme dedicated $6.4 billion for the country’s infrastructure between 2017 and 2020.

The political stability also opened access to U.S. and European markets for Madagascar. These new markets helped drive the recent economic growth. The World Bank has consistently argued that Madagascar’s government will have to intentionally include the country’s poorest in order to have a real effect on their lives. The current government has shown a willingness to take initiative to address the problems affecting these citizens.

Government’s Role in Reducing Poverty in Madagascar

The government hopes to leverage the growing economy to develop a healthy tax base. With that added funding, the focus can shift to building up infrastructure, education and disaster relief around the country. Past relief efforts have been plagued by corruption, but the government has begun passing anti-corruption laws and encouraging greater judicial oversight of these cases.

Another government role in encouraging economic growth is providing business incentives and greater access to both physical and online banking services around the country. The government hopes that these initiatives will provide new jobs to the rapidly-growing population, provide more stability and diversity to the economy in general, and provide financial flexibility that could protect people from having their entire lives overturned by disasters.

Looking Forward

Progress has been slow, but positive trends are beginning to appear. Madagascar’s economy is hardly a world powerhouse, but it is slowly climbing up the ranks of the World Bank Doing Business ranking and the United Nations Development Program Human Development Indicator. Poverty in Madagascar is also expected to drop by two percent over the next two years.

Madagascar will have to pass a few more important markers before a long-term positive trend is certain. For example, another peaceful transition of power after the 2018 election, resolved in December, will mean a lot in a  long run for ensuring the stability of the country and for achieving the ultimate goal of eradicating poverty in Madagascar. That being said, Madagascar, as one of the most impoverished nations in the world, is finally making progress despite many difficulties. That’s something that should inspire hope in the country but in the international community as well.

– Joshua Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

Right to Water
In July 2010, the United Nations recognized and made a stance that clean water and access to sufficient water is a right for every human being. It has been eight years since the stance was made, and many since have asked: how far has the world come in regards to ensuring better water quality to every human being?

Right to Water

In 2010, there were 2.5 billion people worldwide who didn’t have access to proper sanitation and clean drinking water; eight years later, the figure stands at 2.1 billion people. By no means small, this improvement serves as a positive omen and beginning for a future of continued progress.

But complete improvement in water quality, unfortunately, doesn’t just happen overnight. There are currently at least 2 million people around the world whose water source is contaminated with feces. Although there are many organizations who have stepped up to help those in developing countries regain their right to water, here are three programs and initiatives that have made significant impacts on the current water crisis.

WASH

WASH is a program run by the World Health Organization (WHO) that stands for WHO’s focus on different aspects of water, sanitation and hygiene. The mission of WASH is to provide leadership in water, sanitation and hygiene by making statements, influencing policy and coordinating and collaborating with others.

The services from WASH can reduce healthcare-related infections, increase trust in provided services and increase efficiency in aid provided in healthcare institutions. Today, many facilities lack WASH services — 38 percent don’t have an improved water source, 19 percent don’t have improved sanitation and 35 percent lack water and soap for hand-washing.

The most recent campaign by WASH and WHO — “It’s in your hands. Prevent sepsis in healthcare” — educated others on how quickly sepsis can spread through poor hand hygiene. This education is extremely needed as roughly 30 million people deal with this organ disfunction around the world.

Water.org

Water.org is a non-profit that provides local water projects with local water partners in various countries. One of the key ideas of water.org is to have the communities responsible feel like owners of the specific project. Water.org strives to have the community involved in every aspect of their projects.

Water.org has reached 13 countries, including Honduras. In this nation, water.org reached 14,000 people who are in need of either safe water or improved sanitation. This non-profit is currently working on the construction of a community water system, and health and hygiene education in Honduras. By focusing on these goals, more than 3,600 people in two different Honduras communities will gain access to clean water.

charity: water

Using 100 percent of all public donations to fund water projects, charity: water has funded 28,389 water projects for 8.2 million people around the world. Charity: water’s  efforts have given these people their right to water, and have also funded water programs in 26 countries around the world.

The organization also has a variety of solutions they offer to communities who don’t have access to clean water, including rainwater catchments, water purification systems, hand-dug wells and bio-sand filters.

No matter where or who, good or bad, each person around the world is making some sort of impact on the current water crisis. From littering to pouring cooking oil down the drain, daily actions can have substantial impacts on rivers and waterways in local communities. While there are many organizations that provide funds and support to those without clean water, there are many ways an individual can help with the current water crisis. Here are five ways that water quality can be improved in local communities.

Five Ways to Improve Water Quality

  1. Don’t put anything in storm drains, this includes grass and tree clippings.
  2. Don’t pour grease down drains.
  3. Properly dispose of pet waste.
  4. Appropriately dispose of fluorescent light bulbs and automotive fluids.
  5. Never litter.

It is important for each and every person, no matter where they are, to do their part to maintain safe and clean water, and to always remember that the right to water applies to everyone.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

media misrepresents Burkina FasoOftentimes, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in western Africa. Major journalist outlets like the New York Times or the Guardian usually only take note of terrorist or militia attacks in the country or diplomatic exchanges like when Burkina Faso most recently tied itself to China after renouncing connections to Taiwan.

How the Media Misrepresents Burkina Faso

The New York Times’ website portrays how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, with articles that carry headlines like “Militants Carry Out Deadly Attacks in Burkina Faso” or “Gunmen Kill 18 at Restaurant in Burkina Faso.” This is not to say that the Times only report these negative events, as it also has an article titled “U.S. Pledges $60 Million for Antiterrorism Force in Africa” with Burkina Faso being cited as one of the beneficiaries.

In the past year, the Times published three articles about violence, two neutral-leaning articles about diplomacy with China and Taiwan and only 1 positive article, which was about France returning artifacts to the country. Overall, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso through its tendency to post negative articles.

The Death Penalty

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is by not covering the improvements the country has made, especially about humanitarian issues. As of June 1, 2018, Burkina Faso outlawed the death penalty with Justice Minister Rene Bagoro stating that the passing of the new law allows for “more credible, equitable, accessible and effective justice in the application of criminal law.”

While the country’s last known execution was in 1988, Burkina Faso hasn’t used the death penalty for 30 years. However, the passing of the law strengthens the country’s humanitarian resolve. This new parliamentary decision has been applauded by groups ranging from Amnesty International to the Catholic Church, which demonstrates that human rights movements are progressing in the country.

Clean Water Access

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is with the country’s access to clean water. In 2015, UNICEF reported 76 percent of the rural population and 97 percent of the urban population had access to clean drinking water, meeting or exceeding the country’s water-related millennium goals. Compared to neighboring country Ghana’s 66 percent rural access and 88 percent urban access, Burkina Faso is a leader in the region.

Access to clean water is one of the biggest problems in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa, where North African countries lead the charge with 92 percent safe water coverage in 2014 as reported by the U.N. However, 40 percent of the 783 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa go without clean drinking water. This is a major problem for Africa, but one Burkina Faso has been ahead of the curve on.

This improvement can be heavily attributed to the National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA), which is a state-run utility company that began operating in the 1990s. According to the World Bank, it is a “capable state company with the ability to absorb external funding effectively.” The World Bank also says Burkina Faso is a model country in Francophone West Africa in regards to its water capabilities.

Despite how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, there have been improvements in the small West African country, as shown in humanitarian and clean water improvements. While there is a still a long way to go for Burkina Faso in regards to humanitarian efforts and overall infrastructure, it is still important to acknowledge the progress that has already been made.

– Dylan Redman
Photo: Flickr