Child Poverty in Venezuela
Poverty in Venezuela has reached a historic high during the current crisis. Researchers from one of Venezuela’s top universities found this year that about 96% of the population lives in poverty, while 70% live in extreme poverty.  This makes Venezuela the poorest country in the region. With a vast majority of the country living below the poverty line, child poverty in Venezuela is a growing concern.

Child Poverty in Venezuela

Children are often the most vulnerable to poverty. The extent of child poverty cannot be measured through family income alone; the entire context of their living conditions must be evaluated. UNICEF has developed a tool to assess more accurately how children are impacted in settings of poverty through a process called Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA).

MODA has a defined list of indicators that researchers use to evaluate child poverty in each country. Indicators change based on which are the most relevant to that particular country. Indicator categories include water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, education, child labor and more.

The challenge with analyzing the full extent of child poverty in Venezuela is the lack of reliable information available to researchers. The Maduro regime has continuously hidden figures from international databases to hide the full extent of the Venezuelan crisis. Nevertheless, researchers are examining child poverty with the broad indicators of the MODA tool. Besides low income, hyperinflation and national shortages of foods and products, water and power are two of the main factors causing multidimensional child poverty in Venezuela.

Water

Venezuelans have suffered shrinking access to water. According to a study by nonprofit Venezuelan Observatory of Public Services, 86% of Venezuelans do not have reliable access to water. The same study found that 11% do not have access to a water service at all.

In addition to being crucial for adequate hydration, water is also essential for sanitation. Without access to running water, personal hygiene and health suffer. In 2020, water became even more important to protect from COVID-19. Using the MODA tool, not having access to showers/baths, a protected water source, or a place for handwashing are indications of multidimensional child poverty in Venezuela.

Power

Power outages are becoming more common in Venezuela due to the ongoing crisis. Gas-powered backup generators are available for those who can afford them; for those who cannot, wood and charcoal become imperative for cooking and heating.

Without power, there is also no internet. The internet has been particularly important in 2020, as many children are now attending school online. A lack of access to power has thus affected children’s ability to attend school, furthering the education gap between the rich and the poor. According to MODA, a lack of access to electricity and the internet are indicators of multidimensional child poverty in Venezuela.

Save the Children

In response to the situation, there are many groups looking to help Venezuelan children. The nonprofit Save the Children is one of these groups. In its mission, the organization recognizes the need for clean water, personal safety and access to education.

While the nonprofit does not have access to Venezuela, they have set up centers in Colombia and Peru for families that have been forced to migrate. Entrance into Venezuela remains difficult, as its leader, Nicholas Maduro, is against humanitarian aid. In an attempt to help Venezuelans in need, humanitarian organizations were leaving relief trucks on the Venezuelan-Colombian border, but Maduro rejected this help.

Moving Forward

Whether or not international humanitarian organizations will be able to effectively address child hunger within Venezuela in the coming years remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the existence of such programs is paramount to those Venezuelans seeking relief from the oppressive conditions in the crisis. And, until the government situation changes, programs like Save the Children may be the only way to help ease child poverty in Venezuela.

Luis Gonzalez Kompalic
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cape Verde
Cape Verde is a country comprising a group of islands near Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. In Cape Verde, almost half of the population does not have access to clean water. As a result, the government founded initiatives to improve its water, sanitation and hygiene processes for everyone. Here are 10 facts about the water and sanitation situation in Cape Verde.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cape Verde

  1. Cape Verde Compact II was a project that reached completion in 2017. The project cost $41.1 million and aimed to improve the services that delivered water to Cape Verde houses. The project also increased access to piped water and sanitation, creating a new water utility. The project creation started with a theory that increasing access to piped water would increase household productivity, especially for low-income families.
  2. A significant number of people in Cape Verde do not have access to sanitation systems. To expand, 54% of people in the country’s rural areas and 16% in urban areas do not have access to flushing toilets or other sanitation improvements. Moreover, the government does not have enough money to assure everyone has access to clean water. In Cape Verde, 20% of the population does not have access to a shower, meaning they have to use rivers and lakes to take baths.
  3. The shortcomings of the water and sanitation sector affects women. Women typically have the task of bringing home clean water. The United Nations Children’s Fund found that women in underdeveloped countries spend more than 200 million hours daily collecting water to provide for their families. Because women have to focus on bringing water to their families, they are more likely than men to stop receiving an education. If the country created new institutions that could provide water without having to walk miles to get it, women would have the same opportunities as men to get an education.
  4. There have been many improvements in the water and sanitation sector over the last two decades in Cape Verde. But Cape Verde still faces significant challenges in overcoming its water and sanitation crisis. Cape Verde relies on the energy-intensive process of desalinization for clean water. Only 59% of people have access to clean water in their homes or on their property. Just 20% of the population has access to a sewer, and 27% of the population has to resort to open defecation.
  5. In 2012, the government of Cape Verde started making reforms in the sanitation sector. The government created a Social Access Fund to help families access clean water more easily. The Social Access Fund has provided more than 3,000 new connections to the water network and more than 2,000 sanitation facilities. The government believes that more than 600,000 people would benefit from this program. The government also believes that if the country keeps making progress in the next 20 years, more than 80% of the population would have access to clean water.
  6. The government launched a National Agency for Water and Sanitation with the Office of Environment and Gender and Social Integration. The office works with departments to support data to improve access to clean water and affordability. The new department started working in 2013, and since then, the country has made a lot of progress.
  7. Aguas de Santiago, a corporation installed on the island of Santiago in 2017, is alleviating the country’s sanitation issue. Almost half of Cabo Verde’s population lives on the island of Santiago. With this new corporation, the Office of Information, Education and Communication has the data they need to know the number of families that do not have access to clean water. With this new corporation, the government is receiving real data and making changes in the country’s sanitation program.
  8. Sal is the driest inhabited island in Cape Verde. Sal receives less than 9 inches of rain on average each year. The island does not have enough water for the whole population, and it depends heavily on the desalinization process. The process is costing the island a lot of money, and the government is unsure of how long they will be able to afford it.
  9. Carlos Jorge Santos, the director-general of Oasis Atlantic Group’s hotel operations in Cape Verde, hopes that sooner than later, Cape Verde’s beaches will earn the prestigious Blue Flag certification. The Blue Flag is essential because it gives the country reputation so tourists would visit the country more. The Blue Flag means that all the beaches are safe and clean, improving Cape Verde’s tourism sector, local economies and its sanitation programs. Additionally, through this certification, the government would be able to build more water fountains and deposits so the whole country has greater access to clean water.
  10. Water consumption was deficient in the city of Santiago. In 2018, the average family in Santiago consumed 40 liters per person per day. Low-income families, who are less likely to have a connection to the piped water network, consumed less water than non-impoverished households at 24 liters per person per day. In Cape Verde, 30% of the population lives in poverty, meaning the families’ majority consume 24 liters per day.

Cape Verde is making a lot of progress in providing clean water to the population, but there is a lot that the country needs to do. Currently, more than half of the people do not have access to clean water in their homes and have to walk miles to gather clean water. Nevertheless, these 10 facts about sanitation in Cape Verde show improvement.

– Ainhoa Maqueda Castillejo
Photo: Flickr

Boosting Health in the Developing WorldThe health of those living in developing countries links to impacts caused by lack of access to food, clean drinking water, shelter and healthcare. Recent inventions have come about with the aim of boosting health in the developing world.

Flo Menstrual Kit

More often than not, girls in developing countries either cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products. This makes it extremely difficult for them to go about their day, particularly if they are in school. Flo is a menstrual product that allows the user to wash, dry and carry a reusable menstrual pad with dignity. The concept was developed by Mariko Higaki Iwai. The Flo menstrual kit was designed with the following issues in mind:

  • School: Due to social stigma, girls worry that people will find out that they are menstruating at school. This fear is compounded by a lack of private restrooms in most schools in developing countries. This can cause girls to miss school or drop out entirely.
  • Hygiene: Reusable pads that go unwashed can cause reproductive infections and illnesses.
  • Privacy: It is difficult to find a private place to wash a reusable pad in rural areas and in schools.
  • Stigma: Menstruation is highly stigmatized and it can create a lack of confidence in girls who do not receive enough support surrounding the subject.

Flo addresses these issues, allowing girls to have productive days and stay in school while normalizing menstruation.

Hemafuse Autotransfusion

Hemafuse is a handheld device used for the autotransfusion of blood during an operation. This mechanical device was created by Sisu Global Health, a woman-led small business originating in Baltimore, Maryland. After members of Sisu Global Health witnessed the “soup ladle” method of blood transfusion in a Ghanian hospital, they wanted to create a safe alternative accessible to all. The device was originally invented to treat ruptured ectopic pregnancies, however, the device can also be used to replace or augment donor blood in an emergency situation. This device is imperative for developing countries as standard autotransfusion technology is very costly and these countries often do not have a ready supply of blood.

Kite Patch for Malaria

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, approximately 405,000 people died from malaria. The majority of these deaths were young children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is just one of several deadly diseases spread by mosquitoes. Others include the Zika virus, West Nile virus and dengue. The purpose of the Kite Patch is to eradicate malaria and reduce the amount of mosquito-borne diseases across the globe.

The Kite Patch is unique in that it does not use toxic DEET, poisons, pesticides, insecticides or any other harsh chemicals. The Kite Patch is long-lasting and it can be applied to clothing as opposed to the skin. It works by manipulating and interrupting the smell-neurons and sensor arrays insects use to find humans. The company has started the Kite Malaria-Free-World Campaign to help rid the world of malaria forever.

Child Vision Self-Adjustable Glasses

According to the Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW), in developing countries, over 100 million youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in are nearsighted. The CVDW estimates that 60 million of these youth do not have access to vision correction options. The CVDW attributes five reasons for this lack: awareness, access, affordability, attractiveness and accuracy. First, people may not know that they have poor vision or that it can be corrected. Second, rural areas tend not to have shops where glasses can be purchased. Third, glasses are expensive and in order to be fit for them, one must attend multiple appointments. For many, this means missing work which is often a luxury that they cannot afford. Fourth, adolescents are often concerned about their appearance and risk being mocked for wearing glasses since they are not the norm. Finally, many people with glasses in developing countries are ill-fit for them due to poor testing or untrained opticians, which can harm their already poor vision.

The Child Vision initiative aims to address these five reasons with self-adjustable glasses that can be used by youth aged 12 to 18. The initiative will utilize school-based distribution programs to provide children in the developing world with glasses.

Pocketpure Portable Water Purifier

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), inadequate access to safe drinking water affects one in three people globally. Pocketpure is the invention that just might change that. In response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, George Page founded the Portapure company with the intent to provide access to clean drinking water for all. Portapure’s first invention was Pocketpure, a reusable, on-the-go device that can filter dirty water and make it clean enough to drink. It is essentially a collapsible collection cup with a water treatment apparatus and filtration unit that removes viruses, bacteria and other unsafe particles. With proper distribution, this device has the potential to provide clean and safe drinking water to millions of people around the world. Pocketpure is one of the inventions boosting health in the developing world.

While providing accessible healthcare for all is no easy task, these inventions show that there is work being done to combat the global health crisis. One invention at a time, innovators, creators and free-thinkers are boosting health in the developing world.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Malawi
Situated in Southern Africa in between the borders of Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, Malawi is one of the countries with over 50% of the population living below the poverty line. Many reciprocal factors drive such high poverty rates – the country’s low agriculture productivity, insufficient infrastructure development and the lack of new technologies’ adoption, as well as vulnerability to natural disasters. Although Malawi is already undergoing a series of governmentally-induced five-year consecutive plans called The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, there are other actors coming up with innovative solutions tackling the poverty eradication in Malawi.

5 Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Malawi

  1. E-Madzi Automated Water Kiosks: One in three Malawians – 5.6 million people – do not have access to running water in their households and their only source of clean water is water kiosks. Although this is a common solution across the country, most kiosks are only open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening. Moreover, people can only pay for the service in cash and the waiting time is usually quite long. That is why the Lilongwe Water Board and the World Bank financed and installed E-Madzi water kiosks, which are fully automated and usable with an e-card. The project launched in June 2017 with only four kiosks in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. However, the area has obtained 35 more during 2020. The automated kiosks give access to water at any time of the day, consequently decreasing attendance and water waste, as well as reducing 65% of the water costs. This fact makes daily water sourcing more convenient and secure.
  2. Hippo Roller: It is very common for Malawians, mostly women and children, to have to carry significant amounts of water from its source, such as a water kiosk, to the household. The Hippo Roller is a 90-liter water transport device enabling transportation of up to five times more water than standard 20-liter bottles. First introduced in Malawi in 2014, the Hippo Roller has allowed families to improve their health and hygiene, irrigate more crops for their own use or to generate more income. Moreover, the Hippo Roller saves women and children time so that they can go to school or obtain paid employment.
  3. Wonderbag: In many rural and remote areas of Malawi, cooking food on an open fire is the most common way of nourishment. This natural cooking process, though, is very time consuming and detrimental to both human health and the environment, as it releases burning charcoal and fuel into the atmosphere. In fact, smoke-related diseases kill over 4 million people every year. Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker that allows the food to cook for up to 12 hours, all thanks to a foam-insulated bag securely wrapped around a cooking dish. The Wonderbag does not require a stove, fire or any form of additional heating. This way, Wonderbag has made it possible to minimize health issues from indoor air pollution by reducing the amount of wood, charcoal and burning fuels by 70%, as well as save 1,300 hours per year, during which girls and women can develop productive skills and increase their potential and autonomy. Furthermore, factories and sewing collectives that work together with Wonderbag on its production, provide local women with paid employment opportunities. According to Wonderbag’s founder and CEO, Sarah Collins, Wonderbag has made it possible to minimize health issues from indoor air pollution by reducing the amount of wood, charcoal and burning fuels by 70%. She told The Borgen Project that “Women save up to $18 per month on charcoal as they only need to use $2 worth per month, and not $20. This is a reduction of over two trees per household per annum.” Additionally, records have determined that using Wonderbag saves on average 1,300 hours per year, during which girls and women can develop productive skills and increase their potential and autonomy. Furthermore, factories and sewing collectives that work together with Wonderbag on its production, provide local women with paid employment opportunities.
  4. Socially Progressive Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme: Researchers from the University of Strathclyde Glasgow have been using satellite images and machine learning to predict the most efficient water points in Malawi. Such satellite observations are proving to be effective as they not only are precise and accessible in a matter of hours but also offer long-term measurements through accessing passed data and implementing the historical evolution of its impact.
  5. Second Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Programme: The Government of Malawi and the World Bank Group created the Second Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Programme to link farmers with nearby markets through rural road improvement. It benefits 200,000 households by bridging the gap between actual and possible crop yields, as the majority of agricultural workers tend to live in remote areas with few roads and means of transport. With better and more accessible roads, it is easier for local farmers to actually reach markets, sell their produce and regularly increase their earnings. Since its launch in 2018, the Programme has succeeded in improving 1,000 km of rural roads and employing more than 14,500 people, with 56% being women.

Looking Ahead

Poverty in Malawi is an issue that entails much more than the lack of income. It manifests itself in malnutrition, low hygiene, limited access to education, low chances for productive development, discrimination and the lack of social participation. Creative approaches and the implementation of innovative solutions toward poverty eradication in Malawi has allowed the country to improve its current social and economic situation efficiently and for the long-term.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

SDG 6 in Kenya
Water and sanitation in Kenya have been lacking, but the country is improving them through the introduction of new inventions and initiatives. The UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. It is a blueprint for how to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to reduce poverty and improve sustainability. Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to ensure that everyone has available clean water and sanitation. Here are some initiatives that are helping SDG 6 in Kenya come to fruition through sustainable development.

Water Pans

Water pans are able to provide people with water in arid areas. Building them involves building a dam before covering it with a dam liner. This container collects runoff rainwater in order to hold it until the next rain season.

Without water pans, residents would have to walk long distances to water facilities. These water facilities have a history of corruption. They are also especially dangerous for women who are at risk of undergoing sexual extortion for water or experiencing sexual assault on the walk.

The water pans provide accessible water, which allows farmers to feed their animals and water crops easily. As a result, farmers are able to grow more because they can spend more time farming rather than water collection. Water pans are more than just a solution for water insecurity but also a solution for hunger.

Water pans are a solution to the lack of water in warmer climates. They are becoming more popular on farms across Kenya. The installation of water pans for residents could help reach SDG 6 in Kenya.

Fresh Life Toilets

Sanergy is a startup that builds fresh life toilets, an affordable alternative to sewage systems. A fresh life toilet separates solid waste in order to make fertilizer. This means that there is no need for a sewage system and that people can reuse waste sustainably.

Fresh life toilets are a solution to pit latrines, which do not last as long and can have an unsanitary emptying process. Communities sometimes lack accessible designated areas to dispose of waste and can end up emptying the waste into drainages and waterways. By using the waste for organic fertilizer, communities can also avoid polluting waterways.

These units include handwashing stations, soap, water and feminine hygiene disposal. Sanergy has built over 3,379 fresh life toilets in Nairobi’s urban slums.

Entrepreneurship for Women

Maji Mamas is a nonprofit that trains women in Kenya to become entrepreneurs in the water industry. The organization focuses on women because, in the developing world, women are frequently in charge of the collection and cleaning of water, as well as caring for the sick.

The organization believes that women in these communities have the knowledge and experience to tackle water and sanitation issues. Maji Mamas thinks that just building infrastructure is not a sustainable solution to the clean water crisis and that by training women to come up with solutions and create their own businesses, the women can go on to provide clean water to their communities.

The nonprofit trains women in the production of Stabilized Soil Blocks (ISSBs), building water tanks and the logistics of running their own businesses. It also provides interest-free loans and labor to start Kenyan women on their businesses while continuing to support them as their businesses expand.

Maji Mamas has offered training on water and hygiene to 2,500 community members. The women in the program have made 2.7 times the current annual income of most women in Kenya.

Kenya should eventually be able to meet the UN’s SDG 6 for clean water and sanitation. Water pans, fresh life toilets and efforts from Maji Mamas are all providing community support and resources to further the process of accomplishing SDG 6 in Kenya.

– Stephanie Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Fluorosis in IndiaFluoride is a vital compound for the growth and development of the human body. Not only does it promote the strengthening of tooth enamel, helping to protect teeth from cavities, but it is also thought to aid in the development of the bones. However, when consumed in any more than minute quantities, the same compound can lead to a myriad of health issues ranging from the browning of the teeth to severe developmental issues leading to the deformation of the skeleton. Fluorosis in India is an issue raising concerns for the health of the country’s people.

India’s Water Supply

These health problems are among those faced by people who rely on India’s heavily fluoridated groundwater, or roughly 80% of the nation’s 1.35 billion people. Water is often sourced directly from the ground by wells, hand pumps or water plants with little to no filtration, leaving dangerous levels of naturally occurring fluoride to be consumed. In fact, fluoride levels have been recorded as high as 15 parts per million, far above the World Health Organization’s maximum recommendation of 1.5 parts per million.

Fluorosis and Other Health Problems

Today, skeletal fluorosis, or the build-up of fluoride in the bones, remains the leading side effect of excessive fluoride consumption and can occur in concentrations as small as 1 part per million. Effects of the disease range from joint pain and stiffness, to the calcification of the ligaments and permanent skeletal deformation. Of India’s 32 states, 17 have been identified as areas of endemic fluorosis, leaving 25 million people impacted and 66 million at risk.

Fluorosis in India is most concerning in children, as excess fluoride can have permanent harmful effects on developing bones, leaving some children bedridden and unable to walk. Additionally, local doctors are often unaware of the disease and do not have the means to treat it, leaving families to spend hundreds of dollars on ‘witch doctors’ offering magical cures.

Organizational Efforts

In response to the prevalence of fluorosis in India, rural villages and urban areas have been the subject of a variety of efforts by local governments and humanitarian organizations alike to purify groundwater and treat those affected.

Since the 1990s, UNICEF, alongside the Satya Sai Organization, has been working to implement defluoridation into the regular process of water collection. The organizations donated a total of 24,000 self-sustaining defluoridation units to five provinces across India and implemented rainwater collection systems in 50 schools throughout the country, providing students with safe drinking water. Likewise, defluoridation units were delivered directly to households, giving families easy access to safe water.

SARITA’s Efforts for Defluoridation

Similarly, the Society Affiliated to Research and Improvement of Tribal Areas (SARITA), has been working since 2005 to provide households with effective defluoridation units in some of the most rural and underserved areas of the country. Alongside community activities to raise awareness about the often unheard of condition, SARITA provided defluoridation filters at little to no cost to villages across 12 states.

The organization was unique in its outreach methods as it deliberately sought to serve the most ostracized members of society, such as the ‘untouchables’ or the lowest and most collectively shamed demographic in India’s social caste system. As SARITA puts it, it is “unusual for government programs to start assistance in isolated hamlets”, meaning the wellbeing of this demographic is rarely of concern in government assistance efforts.

Fluoride Mitigation Support Centre

Doctors and health centers across the nation are also making efforts towards the treatment and cure of fluorosis in India. Although a cure has yet to become widely available, the Fluoride Mitigation Support Centre worked with a group of 20 children in 2013 in an attempt to reverse advanced skeletal fluorosis through calcium, Vitamin C and Vitamin D supplements. Over the course of a year, “dramatic changes were observed in the children”, with one previously bedridden child able to walk again.

The positive effects of widely available defluoridation and fluorosis treatment are quite evident. Increased government support for these existing efforts is needed to put an end to fluorosis in India.

– Jane Dangel
Photo: Flickr

The Adventure Project's Initiatives in IndiaThe Adventure Project (TAP) is a nonprofit that addresses global issues affecting people living in poverty. With innovative entrepreneurial solutions, the organization improves the lives of millions of people in developing countries by addressing issues relating to health, hunger, clean water and environmental safety. The Adventure Project’s initiatives in India involve clean cookstoves and water handpumps.

Clean Cookstoves in India

A particular area of concern for the organization was open fire cooking in India, Many people in India cook over open fires, which leads to about 4 million people dying each year from breathing in toxic cooking smoke. As toxic as the smoke is to people in India, it is just as detrimental to the environment as the percentage of carbon gases in the environment rises. The Adventure Project’s solution to this is clean cookstoves. These environment-friendly stoves save a family 20% of their daily expenses because of the 50% decrease in charcoal use per day. Furthermore, the use of one stove saves six trees from being cut down and also reduces carbon emissions by 1.5 tons.

Handpumps for Water Access

The Adventure Project wanted to create a solution to help with access to clean water in India. Wells provides a source of water and the people in India use handpumps to collect and carry clean water from the wells. The issue is that handpumps often break, and as long as a handpump is broken, people cannot access water. WaterAid partnered with The Adventure Project to run a handpump mechanic business in northern India. The two-year-old business, which trains both males and females, teaches budding mechanics how to fix well handpumps. When a handpump breaks down, villagers call the mechanic shop and someone bikes over to fix it. This means that people are able to fix their own handpumps and assist other villagers with theirs. The business also provides an income for the locals employed there.

Breaking Gender Barriers

Many women are breaking gender barriers by working alongside men in the handpump mechanic business. As the first female well mechanic in Mahoba, India, Ram Rati is inspiring women to follow their dreams. Rati grew sick of the broken handpumps in the village and decided to become a handpump mechanic herself. In her village, traditionally only men ride bikes. At 40 years old, she broke this gender barrier as well by learning how to ride a bike in order to travel around the village and fix handpumps.

By implementing clean cookstoves and creating a handpump mechanic business, The Adventure Project’s initiatives in India contribute to alleviating global poverty.

– Isha Bedi
Photo: Flickr

GoliathonGoliathon is a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey, that uses obstacle courses to raise money for another organization, charity: water, which is based in New York. These two organizations jointly work to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Water: A Universal Human Right

In 2017, 2.2 billion people worldwide did not have access to clean water, which is roughly one in 10 people. The lack of access to clean water is due to the contamination of water as well as the location of water. With 144 million people sourcing their drinking water from untreated lakes, ponds and streams, disease is a massive concern. Unsafe and untreated water is responsible for the transmission of diseases like cholera and dysentery. Diarrhea alone claims almost 485,000 lives a year. The matter of location is equally vital. Efforts to create safe water sources mean little if they are not easily accessible for those in need. More than 200 million people must walk more than half an hour to reach a safe water source.

The U.N. recognizes access to water as a universal human right. In the effort to solve this crisis, the General Assembly argues that water must be safe, acceptable and affordable and has to be within 1,000 meters of the home. The value of water is a key reason why Goliathon has chosen to work with charity:water.

charity: water

Founded in 2006, charity: water is committed to providing clean drinking water to developing nations. The majority of its work has been centralized in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, with a few projects located in Central America. These projects include well construction, water purification systems and rainwater harvesting.

Founder and CEO, Scott Harrison, recognizes the opportunities offered by technological advancements. He sees the solution to the water crisis as a possibility. He believes “It’s just a matter of getting the right resources to the right people.”

Charity: water prides itself on transparency, promising that 100% of proceeds go toward hands-on development of the projects.

Goliathon

Goliathon was founded by a group of friends who value athleticism and altruism. Their mission statement is “It’s not a race. It’s a mission.” This mission statement reflects that the water crisis is not one problem to fix but a collective mission to undertake. Goliathon’s fundraising for charity: water has resulted in several completed water projects in Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Malawi. Three more water projects have been funded and are currently under construction.

By signing up to take part in Goliathon obstacle courses, participants raise money for charity: water efforts. The courses are not a competition but a challenge that encourages everyone to be an advocate for global issues like water access.

The obstacle courses are open to all and vary in difficulty to appeal to both beginners and the more experienced. The Goliathon team has created several different obstacles for participants to overcome, each unique in design and requiring equally clever solutions. A particularly notable challenge in the course is the water carry challenge, which has participants cart jerrycans full of water as a way of connecting to those in developing nations who must do the same.

Impact of Goliathon and charity:water

Goliathon’s October 2017 event resulted in $50,000 raised for charity: water efforts in Ethiopia. Completed in September 2019, the project oversaw water spring protection and the creation of safe pipe systems. Over 1,600 people in Ethiopian communities were helped.

The most recent Goliathon event held in October 2019 had $34,000 raised for BioSand Filters in Cambodia. These BioSand Filters offer a simple and low-cost solution as a form of filtration. Their effectiveness is amplified by charity: water committing to educating the families that use them, ensuring a healthy cycle.

COVID-19 has prevented Goliathon from hosting any events in 2020. However, the Goliathon team is optimistic and is planning for a possible event in June 2021, with protocols in place if necessary.

– Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Guinea Worm Disease
“[I want the] last guinea worm to die before I do.” Jimmy Carter may soon get his wish. The former President of the United States has spent the last 30+ years on a number of humanitarian missions through his namesake nonprofit—The Carter Center—but people may undoubtedly see one particular mission as ranking among its magna opera. That mission is to eradicate Guinea worm disease (GWD), and frankly, those worms are unpleasant at best.

What is Guinea Worm Disease?

GWD is a parasitic infection in which extremely small worms enter the human body through contaminated water, leading to crippling, painful blisters about a year later when the matured female worm emerges. It has been infecting people since ancient times, and in the mid-1980s, an estimated 3.5 million cases existed across at least 20 countries, including 17 in Africa. In 2019, however, there were only 54 cases in humans.

Success in Reducing GWD

This is thanks largely to the efforts of The Carter Center, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. This partnership has been leading the charge against the disease both in introducing preventative measures in hotspots on the ground in Africa and by raising awareness in the developed world since 1986. Since no vaccine or other modern treatment exists for Guinea worm disease, The Carter Center’s strategies most often include working with health ministries and community-based volunteer groups in order to stop the spread of GWD and bring attention to it via health education.

The attention is important because of the rapid ability of the disease to spread. One missed case can lead to 80+ new infections over one year and delay a country’s ability to control the disease for just as long. This is partly why the WHO has strict criteria when assessing the disease in a given area.

When Can One Consider a Country Free of GWD?

A country must have zero new cases for at least three years for it to receive a declaration of being free of GWD. Despite the rigorous criteria, some countries continue to encounter problems confronting the disease. Chad, for example, has reported almost 2,000 infections in dogs in 2019—a testament to the disease’s stealth and endurance over the years.

In fact, “years” may be an understatement—GWD has emerged in Medieval Middle Eastern and Ancient Egyptian texts under a variety of labels, with some Egyptian mummies even showing evidence of the worm’s presence in their remains. The Old Testament even refers to it as a ‘fiery serpent’ (citing the on-fire feeling when the creature emerges through the skin).

The Correlation Between GWD and Sanitation

In more recent years, the disease received highlight in the early ‘80s as an international threat to clean water—which is where the fight to eliminate the disease originated. Even today, GWD exists primarily in countries—notably Chad and Ethiopia—that consistently rank among the poorest in the world (and are thus most lacking in access to clean water).

The Carter Center has sought to combat this shortfall as well, specifically by introducing a straw-like pipe filter that allows people in affected countries to drink from any water source without fear of contamination.

The eradication of the disease would mean the end of widespread, debilitating illness across several predominantly African nations. Although the fight has gone on for decades, the organizations working to eliminate it now say that the end is in sight. Even Jimmy Carter made his wish—that GWD would go before him—as he was battling cancer a few years ago.

Now, the eradication of all diseases of this sort will be the target of the U.S.’s End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which entered into law earlier in 2020. The goal of the act is to facilitate and coordinate an effective, research-based international effort to end neglected tropical diseases, such as GWD, with special emphasis on impoverished nations.

If the world meets international goals, GWD would become the second human disease (behind smallpox) and the first parasitic disease to experience eradication. It would also be the first disease to disappear without the use of a vaccine or medicine.

– Bardia Memar
Photo: Flickr

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

The Problem

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

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

mWater

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

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

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

Akvo Flow

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

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

Open Water Data

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

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

The Future of Apps Improving Access to Clean Water

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

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr