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

poverty and pollutionPollution impacts people’s air, water and food worldwide. In general, pollution affects impoverished individuals the most. Many individuals in developing countries already struggle to find clean water, edible food and good healthcare. Unfortunately,  pollution only exacerbates these pre-existing issues. The city of Nairobi, Kenya is a prime example of this. Its largest garbage dump surrounds and pollutes churches, schools, shops and places of business. As such, poverty and pollution are closely related. Eliminating pollution may be able to help eradicate global poverty. 

Poverty and Pollution

Runoff from factories, farms and towns has made drinking water sources dangerous because of contamination. In some places, the effects of pollution also decrease the crop yield and increase food prices, as runoff also contaminates farm land. Additionally, imported food products are often tainted with bacteria, thus making these food products dangerous for consumption. These circumstances could increase the number of people suffering from malnutrition, especially in developing countries. Poverty and pollution are therefore connected through causation: high food prices and food insecurity can both contribute to poverty. Indeed, pollution could contribute to the number of people living in global poverty increasing by 100,000 million.   

Pollution and Hunger

There are currently 815 million people around the world suffering from chronic undernourishment. Importantly, one of the main causes of malnourishment and undernourishment is contaminated food. India, for example, lost an estimated 24 million tons of wheat in one year due to an airborne pollutant. More recently, India may also lose 50% of its rice production because of the same pollutant. On a global scale, studies have found that air pollutants decrease the production of staple crops like wheat, rice, maize and soybeans from 5% to 12%. Experts estimate that this is equivalent to the loss of up to 227 million tons of crops, which equals $20 billion in global revenue lost.

However, food is also becoming contaminated through industrial runoff in the ground. Pollution via industrial run-off affects crops in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and South America. In these regions, access to foods that are high in nutrients is low and irrigation runoff is high. Runoff especially impacts Africa, where farmers depend on subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families.

Both of these types of pollution can increase food insecurity and hunger. In these conditions, individuals cannot use their land to grow clean food for themselves and their families. Worldwide, 33% of children who come from middle- to low-income countries already endure chronic malnutrition. This contributes to the fact that 45% of all children’s deaths are due to undernutrition or a related cause. Furthermore, there are at minimum 17 million children worldwide who are acutely malnourished, resulting in the death of two million children each year. Thus, pollution and poverty are related through the issue of hunger, which is fatal for children around the world.  

Pollution Clouds the Water

Unfortunately, pollution does not only amplify the issue of hunger, it also contributes to a lack of clean water. Globally, 844 million people do not have regular access to clean water. The vast majority of these people live in extreme poverty. In Uganda alone, there are 28 million people who cannot readily access clean water. These Ugandans must drink water polluted by sewage, mudslide debris and other contaminants.

Due to these conditions, 70% of all diagnosed diseases are directly linked to unclean water and poor sanitation and hygiene methods. These diseases include hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. Unfortunately, these diseases kill 3.4 million people each year, 43% of whom are children younger than five. In Uganda, these illnesses force 25% of children to stop attending school each year. 

Poverty and pollution are directly related through water pollution. On a global scale, the world loses $18 billion when people are to sick with waterborne illnesses to work. Additionally, the time many people must spend finding water results in missed economic opportunities valued at over $24 billion worldwide. 

The Fight Against Pollution

Thankfully, many organizations are addressing these pressing connections between poverty and pollution. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), based at M.I.T., received a $25 million gift from King Philanthropies to combat many issues that both poverty and pollution create. It plans to do so by launching the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI). The K-CAI focuses explicitly on helping those who live in extreme poverty. Its aims include reducing carbon emissions, reducing pollution, acclimating to the climate change and transitioning toward cleaner energy.

The K-CAI plans to accomplish these goals by creating and evaluating many smaller projects. Once the K-CAI determines which projects are the most impactful, it will implement them in impoverished countries on a large scale. Thus far, J-PAL has focused on improving the production of food, education, policy and healthcare in impoverished countries. K-CAI is using J-PAL’s successes to help determine the most efficient ways to achieve these goals 

The correlation between poverty and pollution is clear and direct. As such, pollution can make the fight to end global poverty more challenging. However, with promising initiatives such as the K-CAI, the global battle against pollution and poverty seem like a much easier feat. Defeating pollution will give the world a much-needed advantage in ending global poverty once and for all. 

Amanda Kuras
Photo: Flickr

sanitation during covid-19COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is often spread through airborne droplets released by breathing or talking and by touching infected surfaces. Good hygiene is therefore an initial line of defense in preventing viral infection. However, hand washing requires access to clean water and effective sanitation. While COVID-19 has changed the way people think about hygiene, the lack of access many people in developing countries have to sanitation during COVID-19 remains the same.

Water Crises and Sanitation During COVID-19

More than one half of people around the world do not have access to high-quality sanitation facilities. Furthermore, COVID-19 has exacerbated this already tenuous water and sanitation situation in many parts of the world. Areas with hotspots, like Cairo and Mumbai, are often crowded with restricted public services.

To manage the immediate effects of COVID-19, governments in developing countries have turned to various short-term solutions. For example, Rwanda has installed mobile hand washing stations, while South Africa has begun to use water trucks. The Chilean government has also suspended water and sanitation charges for citizens. In a pandemic, automated water management systems are especially helpful in reducing loss, expanding access and preserving social distancing. In addition to these governmental reforms, many companies have used technology to shore up water and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries. Here are five organizations looking to improve sanitation during COVID-19.

Five Companies Improving Water and Sanitation During COVID-19

  1. Wonderkid: This start-up delivers smart solutions to the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The organization supplies water management software to utility companies to help address customer problems, billing, payments and running water meters. Wonderkid’s smart water meters track non-revenue water that does not reach the customer or leaks out of faulty pipes. Thus, Wonderkid allows water utilities to function more effectively and service more people. As of 2018, Wonderkid had expanded to help 36 utility companies in Mozambique, Nigeria, Malawi and Liberia.
  2. CityTaps: This organization provides poor families in Niger access to water at a much cheaper price than water vendors. Its smart water meters give water utilities more financial stability. Importantly, they can then expand their services to more poor families. This allows companies to meet the current needs for effective hygiene to fight COVID-19.
  3. Drinkwell: Impoverished people in Dhaka, Bangladesh often rely on illicit or expensive water sources. The social enterprise Drinkwell, a brainchild of American English Fulbright fellow Minjah Chowdury, provides water through ATMs. Drinkwell works with mobile service provider Robi Axiata and Dhaka WASA, a local water utility, to do so. It is also collaborating with Happy Tap, a mobile hygiene provider, to provide hand-washing services to people in Bangladesh.
  4. Sangery: Container-Based Sanitation (CBS) like Sanergy are an up and coming sanitation alternative for people in low-income areas. These systems are simpler and cheaper than sewer systems, but they are also cleaner than latrines and open defecation. CBS systems use a container to capture waste, which then turns into fertilizer. Sanergy uses this technology to resolve the sanitation crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. Run by three M.I.T. students, the company provides Fresh Life Toilets that fit into cramped urban dwellings and empty safely. The ability to have a private toilet is essential in practicing social distancing during the pandemic. During COVID-19, Sanergy has also provided 18 hand-washing stations that allow residents to practice good hygiene.
  5. Mosan: Similar to Sanergy, Mosan is a sanitation project based in Guatemala that provides container-based system toilets to people’s homes. The toilets have a durable, urine-diverting design, which keeps urine and feces in separate containers. They cover feces with dry materials like ash instead of water and eventually recycle them into usable fertilizer material. Such innovations make it more likely that people will stay at home during the pandemic. Additionally, Mosan is providing contactless pickup of containers to encourage people to stay home and social distance.

The Future of Sanitation in Developing Countries

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in global abilities to provide safe, clean water and sanitation in developing countries. Now, many people lack the water they need to combat the coronavirus. While it is not clear if COVID-19 can spread through human waste, proper sanitation also stops the spread of infectious disease in general.

By shoring up water services and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries, governments and other organizations in have provided stop-gap solutions to water and sanitation issues. Technologies like digital water meters, water ATMs, container-based toilets are now saving lives in a new way. Because they help people stay home and keep clean, these solutions allow developing countries to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph Maria
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

The Backwaters of Kerala
The backwaters of Kerala in India are a maze of lakes, streams and lagoons with a unique ecosystem. Over the years, a variety of challenges have affected the backwaters and threatened the ecosystem, such as contamination from pesticides that farmers use in paddy fields, dumping of chemical emissions from factories and sewage from cities, unregulated sand dredging for construction, and in recent decades, the tourism boom that has worsened water pollution.

Tourism and Pollution

Over 15 million tourists visited Kerala in 2017. Backwater cruises in houseboats, called Kettuvallams, are a popular tourist activity. A reported 70% of households along the Alleppey backwaters are involved in providing tourist services in one form or another.

The popularity of the backwaters as a tourist experience led to a surge in the number of houseboats. More than 1,000 houseboats operate on the backwaters, far beyond capacity, and a large number are not registered. A houseboat can produce up to 1,000 liters of waste a day. Due to lax regulations, most of the houseboats discharge sewage directly into the waters. Emissions and oil leakages from the houseboats and dumping of plastics and other inorganic waste have further contaminated the backwaters.

Effects on the Lives of the Local People

Pollution from sewage dumping, salinization of the water, sand dredging and other such disruptions have affected the lives of the locals in the backwaters of Kerala in many ways. Much of their traditions and cultural practices connect to the waterways. The backwaters are their primary water source, which they use for cooking, drinking, bathing, etc. But due to oil leakages, the water has a glossy residue and tastes like oil, making it dangerous to consume. Polluted waters also affect paddy fields that run alongside the backwaters. The contaminated water reportedly causes illnesses such as skin diseases. And there have been reports of tourist houseboats invading the privacy of the residents.

Additionally, over 1.5 million residents depend on Vembanad Lake for their livelihoods, and the ecological decline is a cause of great concern. Fisherfolks experience the most effects as several fish species have declined in large numbers or disappeared entirely.

Remedial Measures and Challenges

State and District pollution control authorities have set up Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) for proper treatment and disposal of sewage and created regulations to ensure compliance and identify unregistered houseboats. However, these efforts are not without setbacks. A Sewage Treatment Plant set up specifically for houseboats had to shut down due to operational problems, and dumping of sewage into the backwaters continued. Despite these challenges, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) emphasized the need for more STP’s and an enforcement wing to monitor the houseboats.

Local residents and organizations such as the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), have also taken steps to control pollution and restore the ecosystem. Every year in May, ATREE organizes the Vembanad Fish Count to document fish species and numbers and evaluate the water quality. Fishermen in Muhamma village, with the guidance of ATREE, have created fish sanctuaries to increase the number of fish. An anti-plastic straw campaign and workshops to spread awareness among women in Muhamma village about the advantages of reusable menstrual products also emerged. And more recently, solar-powered boats and non-motorized canoes are gaining popularity among tourists.

While the tourism boom has certainly benefited the State and created a reliable income source for many locals, preserving the backwaters of Kerala and its ecology is of utmost importance. Initiatives by residents, organizations and advocacy groups who have recognized the need for action and policy have helped spread awareness. And while much work needs to still occur, efforts to contain pollution and reverse the ill effects have intensified.

– Amy Olassa
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in mauritaniaThe Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a vast desert country with a significant nomadic population. These facets of Mauritania’s geography present challenges for creating healthcare infrastructure. In particular, physical distance and large rural populations make distributing care a massive undertaking. Accordingly, there are only 0.19 practicing physicians per 1,000 people in Mauritania. Here are five facts about healthcare in Mauritania.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Mauritania

  1. A lack of proper infrastructure devastates public health in rural, vulnerable regions. Problems stemming from poor sanitation and a lack of clean water plague Mauritania. Many areas of Mauritania go completely without consistent water sources due to geographic barriers. Overall, the capital city of Nouakchott is the only region with adequate water supply and treatment. This lack of water leads to serious consequences for healthcare in Mauritania. According to the World Health Organization, 2,150 Mauritanians die from diarrheal disease per year. Ninety percent of these deaths are linked to a lack of sanitation and insufficient access to clean water. In addition, droughts and desertification are preventing rural populations from accessing water at all. This is yet another challenge to improving healthcare in Mauritania.
  2. Many political barriers inhibit attempts to improve healthcare in Mauritania. The country suffers from a shortage of doctors and treatment facilities in rural areas of the country. While there are potential avenues for funding expansion, the Mauritanian government tends to keep infrastructure projects centralized to the capital region. Although the capital is the largest city and presents the most promise for economic growth, this neglects rural citizens. For example, the national insurance program prioritizes a portion of the urban population, as it only covers government officials and those who are formally employed. Poverty-stricken people are further disadvantaged by the astronomical cost of healthcare without any insurance. Thankfully, groups like the Institute of Tropical Medicine are working to provide a concerted effort to expand healthcare in Mauritania.
  3. Mauritania struggles with reproductive and neonatal care. According to the World Bank, Mauritania has a birthrate of 4.62. Combined, the birthrate and lack of adequate neonatal care lead to high infant and maternal mortality. However, the International Development Association is dedicating $23 million to expanding the reach and quality of maternal, neonatal and reproductive healthcare in Mauritania. The initiative also aims to combat childhood malnutrition by investing in further healthcare and nutrition services for children. These efforts, part of the Mauritania Health System Support project, aspire to alleviate issues in healthcare beyond the capital city. This will provide much-needed relief to rural and refugee populations.
  4. International aid is going toward healthcare in Mauritania. The International Development Association of the World Bank is providing funds to help local governments build sanitation and water treatment infrastructure. These funds will address the gross centralization of public utilities and expand access to water and sanitation services into rural areas. With tools to manage public services provided through the Decentralization and Productive Intermediate Cities Support project, localities will have the means to create a substantive foundation for healthcare in Mauritania.
  5. The Institute of Tropical Medicine is also promoting healthcare in Mauritania. In her 2018 article for the Institute of Tropical Medicine, public health expert Kirsten Accoe details how the ITM intends to establish a local health system team in the country. This team would tackle healthcare on the district level in conjunction with centralized efforts to improve healthcare. The initiative aims to create sustained quality care by increasing the retention of healthcare workers in each district, which has previously been an issue due to lack of funding, equipment and trained personnel. ITM’s effort can therefore allow more to people get the relief they deserve.

Improving healthcare in Mauritania is certainly a complex task. But the government and aid organizations can come together to cultivate a coordinated effort to improve infrastructure, assist healthcare professionals at the district level and expand the reach of care. In doing so, they will begin to create an equitable healthcare system and provide all Mauritanians with the care they deserve.

Olivia Bielskis
Photo: Flickr

Water Services to the Poor
Water services to the poor are severely lacking around the globe. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. Moreover, more than twice as many people lack safe sanitation. Consequently, 361,000 children less than the age of five die from diarrhea, every year. Of the people who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not even have basic drinking water services. These conditions compel 263 million people to collect water from sources far from home — a process that takes over 30 minutes per trip. A further 159 million people still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams or lakes.

At the current pace, the world will fall short of meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (U.N. SDG) of universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. Accelerating efforts to meet this goal will cost as much as $166 billion per year for capital expenditures alone. It seems that to achieve this U.N. SDG, something must change and soon.

A New Funding Approach

Private finance could play an important role in expanding access to improved, reliable water services to the poor. However, most providers that serve the poor are not privately financeable in their present state and will continue to require subsidies. Hence, development assistance and philanthropic funds are of utmost importance to protect the global poor.

A global funding model, known as a conceptual Global Water Access Fund (GWAF), has been established in other sectors to raise additional funds for targeted interventions. It pools resources in a way that provides incentives for access and utility performance for poor households.

This method is tried and tested. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, received $15 billion in pledges and yielded a net increase in funding. Unitaid, an organization that accelerates access to high-quality drugs and diagnostics in developing countries, generated more than $1 billion through a levy on airline tickets.

Investments in the poor are often perceived as having low or even negative returns. Therefore, pro-poor utilities face challenges entering financial markets. This also explains why profitable utilities are hesitant to expand their services to the global poor. GWAF changes this by bridging the funding gap and placing pro-poor utilities in stronger positions to attract capital for further service investments.

Making Individual Change

Though funding seems like a larger issue, there are ways for individuals to support clean water for all. Many nonprofits focus on bringing clean water services to the poor. Here are three organizations that are dedicated to the proliferation of clean water services to the world’s poor.

3 Nonprofits Tackling Global Water Services for the Poor

  1. Pure Water for the World works in Central American and Caribbean communities. The organization aims to provide children and families with the tools and education to develop sustainable water, hygiene and sanitation solutions. They directly connect fundraising dollars with impact, which immediately helps potential supporters see how their donation or peer-to-peer fundraising campaign will make a difference for the people they serve.
  2. Blood:Water is another nonprofit that works to bring clean water and HIV/AIDS support to over 1 million people. They partner with African grassroots organizations to make a change in 11 countries. Blood:Water works to provide technical, financial and organizational support to grassroots organizations. In this vein, they aim to help strengthen their effectiveness in their areas of operation.
  3. Drop in the Bucket’s mission is another organization that works towards water sanitation. They build wells and sanitation systems at schools throughout sub-Saharan Africa, enabling youth to fully harness the life-changing power of education. They teach the importance of clean water, hands and living spaces. Furthermore, the organization encourages girls to go to school, instead of spending hours fetching water.

Remaining on Track

Although sustainable development goals seem a difficult achievement to reach, innovative techniques such as GWAF and individual efforts through donations take steps in the right direction in ensuring water services to the poor. With nonprofit organizations such as the aforementioned as well as assistance from international organizations and governments like, there is still hope in reaching the U.N. SDGs.

Elizabeth Qiao
Photo: Pixabay

diminish global poverty
Self-driving cars and trips to Mars might be the first things that come to mind when thinking of Elon Musk. His massive-scale innovations will help humanity as a whole, but Musk’s initiatives are also helping to diminish global poverty. Since he was in college, Musk has sought to help humanity through space exploration, global internet and energy efficiency. The mission of Tesla, which Musk founded in 2003, is to accelerate the world of sustainable energy for the good of humanity and the planet. This mission will also have numerous benefits to the poor and overlooked populations of the world.

Tesla Powered Water Plants

In the coastal village of Kiunga, Kenya, water is available but contaminated. With most water sourced from saltwater wells, communities must bathe and cook with saltwater. Washing clothes and bodies with saltwater leads to painful sores that are hard to heal. On the other hand, drinking and cooking with saltwater leads to health problems like chronic diarrhea or kidney failure. These complications inhibit a healthy and productive society.

Tesla and GivePower offered a solution to Kiunga’s lack of potable water: a desalination plant that solar power and a battery reserve power. GivePower is a nonprofit organization aiming to provide resources to developing countries; it was acquired by Tesla Motors in 2016. A solar water farm that Tesla Powerwalls facilitated stores energy from solar panels to fuel the Kiunga facility at night and when there is a lack of sunshine. This plant produces about 70,000 liters of clean water every 24 hours, giving clean water to 35,000 people daily. This project has improved Kenyans’ lives, and GivePower aims to reach Colombia and Haiti next.

Tesla Powered Micro-grids

In many regions, people take electricity for granted. In Africa, hundreds of millions live without it. According to the International Energy Agency, 55% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lack basic electricity access. Energy is essential to power schools, homes and healthcare facilities. A lack of modern energy in developing countries hinders the ability to study, work and modernize. For instance, in Zimbabwe, widespread violence and poverty contribute to a declining economy. One beacon of hope is the money trade, which takes place almost completely electronically. An innovative mobile payment system called Ecocash facilitates financial transactions for customers with mobile phones. To be effective, this process relies on consistent power infrastructure.

One incident in July 2019 exposed the vulnerability of Zimbabwe and its markets. A power outage occurred, and Zimbabwe’s Econet generators failed to power up, resulting in a mobile money blackout. This consequently had detrimental effects on the country’s economy, as the majority of financial systems halted. Over 5 million transactions occur daily through mobile money markets, adding up to around $200 million. Interruptions to power cause Zimbabweans to lose millions of dollars.

Microgrids are the answer. Generated by Powerwalls from Tesla, these self-contained systems of solar panels and batteries can provide power across the globe. Above all, no community is too remote to benefit. Tesla’s Powerwalls will alleviate uncertainties that unfavorable weather, unstable prices and fuel shortages cause. Although they require an investment of $6,500, solar-powered batteries replace archaic diesel-powered generators to ensure stability and diminish global poverty.

StarLink: High-Speed Internet Access Across the World

A lack of internet and mobile applications make life harder in developing countries. Without educational, communication and health tools, the cycle of poverty cannot be broken. According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, an estimated 750 million people over the age of 15 cannot read or write. Access to educational tools and resources through the global internet can reduce drop-out rates and improve education levels.

Elon Musk’s StarLink internet would deliver high-quality broadband all over the globe, reaching communities that historically lack an internet connection. The internet can bring education, telemedicine, communication and truth to people oppressed in developing countries. It gives isolated and overlooked communities a chance to become more secure. Using Starlink is straightforward: Plug in the device and point it toward the sky. The costs and benefits of Starlink can be shared across multiple families. The Starlink project strives to place a total of 42,000 satellites in space by the end of 2021, enabling internet access and helping to diminish global poverty.

A Sustainable Future for All

Musk’s focus on energy technologies benefits everyone, including the world’s poor. One obstacle to ending global poverty, especially in extreme cases, is that the poorest populations are usually the most remotely located. However, with Musk’s innovations, even remote rural communities can advance with modern technology.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Water Disparities in NigeriaIn Nigeria, clean water does not always receive treatment as a public good available to everyone. Instead, access to clean water depends on the neighborhood a person lives in. As a result, the dangers of waterborne diseases affect low-income areas disproportionately. Additionally, clean water is a privilege pertaining to socioeconomic status rather than the public good it should be. Water disparities in Nigeria often affect those who need the most help.

The Problem of Water Contamination

Adriel Garrick, who grew up in Nigeria, knows about water inequality. Garrick told The Borgen Project that “When [she] was young [she] had a friend diagnosed with Typhoid,” an infection that drinking contaminated drinking water or food causes.  She also said that “[Her] friend did not know he was drinking polluted water, and he was in the hospital for about three weeks, then later passed away.”

Death from water contamination is not unusual. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, as of 2015, 42.7% of Nigeria’s rural population and 19.2% of its urban population lacked clean, reliable drinking water. Diarrheal diseases, usually from contaminated drinking water, are the fifth leading cause of death in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s rural population is in a worse situation than the urban population for one reason: wealth. Wealth is a massive determinant of who gets clean drinking water there.

Water Supply System in Nigeria

According to Chidozie Nnaji, a researcher at the University of Nigeria, Nigeria does not treat drinking water as a social right. “The government provides water for the highly placed and charges them peanuts, but the same gesture is hardly extended to the generality of the masses who have to provide (purchase) their own water,” Nnaji told The Borgen Project. “Water is perceived as a social right for the highly placed, but as an economic good for the rest of the people. What an irony!”

Nigeria has a privatized water supply, contributing to disparities between the access of the wealthy and the poor. “Privatized water supply in developing countries is known for little infrastructure investments, neglecting low-income areas, and prioritizing profit over service quality,” Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, an associate professor at the University of Dammam, told The Borgen Project.

Not only can privatized water add to economic disparities, but it is also often unhealthy. Water vending is not a sustainable solution, according to Abubakar.

“Water vending is supposed to be a stop-gap solution to water outages or for households not yet connected to piped water supply,” said Abubakar. “Water vendors have now become the primary source of water for numerous households, . . . they should not be allowed as a long-term solution. . . . Water vendors and packaged water are expensive and not free from contamination.”

UNICEF’s Solution to Clean Water

The United Nations Children’s Fund has been working with the Nigerian government since 2005 to implement the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. The program aims to provide clean water to all of Nigeria and implement hygiene education and sanitation facilities. WaterAid is a global federation of nonprofits. It has an initiative working with the Nigerian government to provide clean water and sanitation to families who need it most.

Safe, clean water is a necessity for all people, not a privilege. Given the disparities in access to clean water in different economic sectors, it is clear that Nigeria is experiencing a crisis that will not be resolved until the country as a whole is able to claim clean water and the physical health that depends upon this resource as an essential human right.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in Libya
Libya is an arid country that has been facing sanitation and water inadequacies for decades due to its geographic location. The Sahara Desert covers most of Libya, and political turmoil has embroiled the country for years, aggravating its problems. Many humanitarian groups that act in the region, like UNICEF, have aimed to improve access to clean water and sanitation in Libya. Despite new funding, the region requires significantly more work.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Libya illustrate its problems with sanitation and water access, as well as different organizations’ efforts to improve the quality of life in one of the driest and most turbulent countries in the world.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Libya

  1. Ninety-five percent of Libya receives 100 millimeters or less of rainfall annually. This makes Libya one of the most arid countries in the world. Libya has consistently suffered from water scarcity and ranks 20th among the top 36 water-stressed countries. Political instability and military conflict have held the country back from meeting the water security and sanitation needs of its people. Currently, only 60% of all households in the country are connected to a reliable water source.
  2. The man-made river project (MMRP) provides 95% of Libya’s water. Despite being one of the largest civil engineering constructions in the world, the pipeline provides water that is considered unfit for drinking. Safer, bottled water is hard to come by. As such, many Libyans rely on the pipeline’s poor-quality water for drinking.
  3. Libya’s dependence on the pipeline creates risks for the country. Both people looking to sell parts on the market and political groups looking to gain influence in the capital have disabled wells throughout the MMRP.  In May 2019, a militant group forcefully shut down all pipelines to Tripoli for three days, depriving the city of water. These strains, as well as inadequate chemical treatment and equipment shortages, have damaged water quantity and quality. Badr al-Din al-Najjar, head of the National Center for Disease Control, declared that “all water is contaminated,” and “there is no drinking water” in the country.
  4. Unsafe drinking water increases Libya’s risk of waterborne illness. In July 2019, UNICEF spokesman for Libya Mostafa Omar estimated that nearly 4 million people out of Libya’s 7 million people would not have access to safe water in the event of a pipeline disruption. Diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and diarrhea may spread as a result of this lack of sanitation in Libya.
  5. Bacteria often contaminates each of Libya’s water sources. In fact, coliform bacteria has contaminated piped, well and transported water sources at a certain level. Piped water presents the largest risk, making up 55% of contaminated water samples. Additionally, 26% of contaminated samples came from well water, with the remaining 19% coming from transported water. In this environment, finding a reliable clean source of water is a struggle for many Libyans.
  6. UNICEF delivered drinking water to 106,000 Libyans in response to heightened needs in 2019. Approximately 41,000 of these people were located in conflict-affected areas. UNICEF also established services providing sanitation in Libya for 166,000 people and delivering hygiene items and information to 57,000 Libyans.
  7. This lack of water and sanitation has a particularly negative effect on girls. Girls who bring water to their homes or travel to use a latrine risk sexual assault when they venture out. Additionally, poor sanitary conditions make menstrual hygiene difficult to maintain, especially at school. In 2018, the Humanitarian Response Program invested $5.3 million in helping school-age children with a focus on helping girls navigate these problems.
  8. On average, 71 students share one toilet in Libyan schools. The Ministry of Education standard is 25 students per toilet. In these school bathrooms, there is soap 49% of the time, and 17% of schools have soap on occasion.
  9. In Libyan schools, 54% of water contains potentially harmful bacteria. Some of these bacteria raise serious concerns. For example, E.Coli has emerged in 10% of water samples. UNICEF and the National Center for Disease Control have prioritized funding projects that brought water and sanitation improvements to schools. Such projects benefited conditions for 10,000 school children only months after their implementation, improving sanitation in Libya.
  10. In 2019, there were 267,000 people in need of safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and hygiene-related items and information. In 2020, only 242,000 people are in need of UNICEF’s WASH services. However, the effects of COVID-19 and continued violence through the pandemic are likely to create more work for humanitarian groups over the next few years.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Libya address concerns that have existed for years. Clean water is scarce, and many citizens drink water unfit for consumption. Military conflict has destabilized the country, and many Libyans are having increased difficulty finding clean water and taking proper sanitary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the incredible circumstances in the country, however, many organizations working to ensure that thousands of Libyans receive access to the resources they need.

Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr