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 GabonGabon, officially known as the Gabonese Republic, is a coastal country about the size of Colorado, home to 2.1 million people. Independent of French imperial rule for only 60 years, the country maintains strong ties to European and American markets. Gabon neighbors the Atlantic Ocean to its west and many rivers inland, from the Ogooue to the Ivindo. Despite its recent development, however, poverty and access to basic sanitation still plague about one-third of the population. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Gabon: both the present and plans for the future.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Gabon

  1. The country is working toward providing clean water to all. Gabon’s first Libreville Integrated Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Program aims for universal access to sustainable forms for attaining drinking water and sanitation services by 2025. This program plans to expand the drinking water network out from the capital; by doing so, drinking water will reach about 300,000 more people in surrounding areas. The cities of Akanda, Owendo and Ntoum will all benefit from this infrastructure.
  2. Every home could soon have its own sanitation equipment. The use of shared sanitation in Gabon, or sanitation services utilized by two or more households, has significantly dropped from 36% of the population in 2003 to 27% in 2017. This is largely due to the increase in infrastructure for these services and outreach programs implemented by the government and international agencies.
  3. Defecating in public is uncommon, but back on the rise. Open defecation in Gabon is presently low, with 3% of the total population in 2017 compared to other countries like Niger (68%) and Ghana (18%). However, this figure actually shows an alarming increase from 2000, when a mere 1% of the population practiced open defecation.
  4. Disparities in access to water and sanitation are interconnected. In 2017, from the organized efforts of the WHO and UNICEF, it was reported that 90% of Gabon’s urban areas had access to drinking water but only 49% of households had access to basic sanitation services. In rural areas, availability drops significantly to 55% and 37%, respectively. Such disparities can be attributed to the lack of infrastructure and the wealth gap seen between the two areas.
  5. Education is helping to improve sanitation. Total Gabon and French organization Sensibilisation, Sante, Sexualite (3S) have been spearheading vital health programs in schools since 2017. These comprehensive programs aim to decrease the infant mortality rate and unsafe abortions. This will be done through education on sexual health, female hygiene and sanitation. As of 2017, over 40,000 people have learned the importance of family planning, contraception and pregnancy management. The program has also trained 42 young peer educators, who will become instrumental in further spreading valuable lessons on sanitation.
  6. Poor sanitation leaves Gabon’s citizens vulnerable to food and water-borne illnesses. According to a 2020 report from The World Factbook, people in Gabon are at a very high risk of food or waterborne diseases like bacterial diarrhea; however, deaths caused by diarrheal diseases have dropped by 22.8% from 2007 to 2017.
  7. Industrial pollution contributes to sanitation issues. In many underdeveloped countries, pollutants from excessive chemical use in agriculture and logging severely contaminate waterways. With Gabon’s robust timber industry, this phenomenon is especially apparent. Luckily, though, the country has dedicated one of its three pillars for a better future to environmental sustainability: “Green Gabon,” has diversified the job sector to reduce strain on the timber industry, lessening the amounts of air and water pollution byproducts. This translates into better conservation efforts, drinking water, disease and sanitation in Gabon.
  8. Drainage systems offer hope for improved sanitation. The Nzeng Ayong Watershed Management Project in Gabon incorporated a water drainage system in urban areas to improve sanitation in Gabon. As part of the National Indicative Program of the European Union, these drainage pipes and sanitation framework provided easy transport of wastewater. This helps prevent water-borne diseases and floods for 30,000 people in Libreville.
  9. COVID-19 is exacerbating current sanitation problems. Due to the global pandemic, many in Gabon are suffering a hard hit to their economy and the resulting unemployment. Nearly 250,000 additional people are now unable to pay their water bills, severely restricting access to drinking water. Gabon’s Budget Support Programme in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis not only intends to cover bills for those 250,000 people but also to distribute food aid to 60,000 people in its first phase alone.
  10. International aid organizations are getting involved. The World Bank and UNICEF have provided significant aid to Gabon. The World Bank has contributed $9 million to improve the country’s sanitation by supplying equipment like ambulances, personal protective equipment (PPE) and diagnostic kits. This money will also fund proper medical training and two new COVID-19 diagnostic centers. UNICEF has focused on supporting children in Gabon during COVID-19: the organization has funded sanitation kits, COVID-19 awareness campaigns, HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives and other educational efforts to 950 children without parental care. Mental and psychological resources have also been extended to 6,608 kids. Safe and accessible sexual abuse reporting systems have reached 811 people.

Universal sanitation and related basic needs are clearly part of an intricate web that entangles a host of other internal problems. With the rising influence of existing and emerging domestic and international programs, these investments will improve sanitation; this will ultimately move Gabon toward a healthier future.

– Mizla Shrestha
Photo: Flickr

Like Cambodia and Vietnam, the country of Laos is located in Southeast Asia. Being a landlocked country means that much of its water resources come from the Mekong River. Water sanitation has been an issue in the past, and now widespread action is being taken. There are many organizations that are coming together to bring clean, usable water throughout Laos. Here are 10 facts about water sanitation in Laos.

10 Facts About Water Sanitation in Laos

  1. The Creation of WASH FIT: In 2017, The World Health Organization partnered with UNICEF to create WASH FIT, which stands for “Water and Sanitation for Health Facility Improvement Tool.” Participants involved go into different hospitals to hold training programs and assess the current sanitation situation. The program provides information about safe water collection, along with supplies to build sanitation facilities. Through the WASH FIT program, sanitation in many Laos health centers and hospitals has increased by more than 50%. This has created a safer environment for both staff and patients.
  2. Increase in Safe Drinking Water: As of 2019, only 48% of schools in Laos had access to clean water. As more organizations – such as Abundant Water and Mercy Relief – continue to help better sanitation in Laos, the Lao PDR plan to keep increasing the percentage of individuals who have access to clean water.
  3. ICRC Brings Water to Urban Villages: Finding clean water and bringing it back to homes often requires strenuous work and a long trek. Of those traveling to get water, 79% are women. Many of the water sources that are used contain water-borne diseases, making much of the water in Laos dangerous to consume. The humanitarian group International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aids these women by drilling boreholes, bringing clean water closer to homes.
  4. Laos is Home to Third Largest River in Asia: Though the water from the Mekong River is not suitable for drinking, it is the only source of water for many of the surrounding villages. Because of this, many people suffer from water-borne diseases, such as schistosomiasis. To decrease cases of schistosomiasis, The World Health Organization and The Ministry of Health are working together to bring clean water and sanitation facilities to villages. This will limit the need for water from the Mekong River.
  5. Hanwha Launches Project to Clean Mekong River: Like many rivers globally, the Mekong River contains an enormous amount of harmful pollutants. The Hanwha group in Vietnam started a campaign called Clean Up Mekong. They use solar-powered boats clean up trash as they sail down the river. Though the cleanup started in Vietnam, it will directly affect many places. The river flows not only through Vietnam and Laos, but much of Asia including Cambodia and China.
  6. Clay Water Filters are Used to Produce Clean Drinking Water: Thanks to an Australian organization called Abundant Water, clay water filters have been created and distributed to 12 different villages. These filters are used to produce clean drinking water. The organization then taught a five-week training program to local potters on how to create clay filters of their own. As a result of Abundant Water’s work, over 22,000 people have accessed safe drinking water.
  7. Increase in Access to Sanitation Facilities: In more rural areas of Laos, individuals may not have access to sanitation facilities, causing open defecation to be a major concern. The open defecation rate is the second-highest in the area. This has caused an increase in the spread of harmful diseases. Lao PDR and the World Bank have been working to supply rural areas with facilities to reduce open defecation. As of 2015, there is a 28% increase in the availability of sanitation facilities in urban areas and 39% in rural areas.
  8. Further Water Availability for Schools: Schools have suffered firsthand from the lack of water. Mercy Relief arrived in 2012 to install water filtration systems for schools throughout Laos. Through this work, more children have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities now. They also use the water to start gardens to grow fruits and vegetables for the children and school staff to take home or sell at local markets.
  9. More Than 40 Water-Gravity System Installations: World Vision International has aided in the effort to build water-gravity systems that bring fresh water to rural villages. As of 2014, World Vision has supplied local villages with 46 water-gravity systems to help improve sanitation in Laos and lower the spread of harmful diseases.
  10. Start of Water Management Committees in Rural Village: An organization called Plan International has gone into northern Laos, bringing water tanks, pipelines and other water supplies. The organization has also started water management committees that are in charge of maintaining the water facilities. By showcasing the great impact water management committees have had on this particular community, the hope is that companies assist as other villages carry out similar plans.

Though there is still a long way to go, progress has been made. Companies and organizations around the world are working together to improve water sanitation in Laos.

– Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

clean water in Mexico
Water is fundamental to human survival, yet half of the population of Mexico lacks drinkable water. These seven facts highlight how limited access to clean water in Mexico can intensify poverty.

7 Facts about Access to Clean Water in Mexico

  1. Water Scarcity: Over 50% of people in Mexico face water scarcity. Mexico has an insufficient water supply that cannot sustain a population of 125.5 million people. As a result, an enormous 65 million people are struggling with water scarcity. This issue intensifies during Mexico’s driest month of April as people face droughts preventing accessible water.
  2. Natural Disasters: Natural disasters negatively affect access to clean water. Climate change brings hotter temperatures and droughts that can possibly dry up Mexico’s vital water sources. Earthquakes can destroy water purification plants and break pipelines, leading to floods of toxic waste. These sudden events can lead to an unpredictable water crisis for large numbers of Mexican citizens.
  3. Water Systems: An aging pipe system can also cause an inadequate water supply. Around 35% of water is lost through poor distribution, while faulty pipelines lead to pollution. Plans of the neighboring purification plant should be reconsidered as the city of Tijuana is overwhelmed with toxic sewage water from failing pumps.
  4. Mexico City is Sinking: The populous capital is sinking up to 12 inches annually due to the lack of groundwater. Consequently, floating houses pollute waterways and lead to further destruction of infrastructure. The city plans to modernize hydraulics or implement artificial aquifers to combat water scarcity.
  5. Rural Mexico: Rural regions are often overlooked in favor of cities. Water systems that run through rural towns are riddled with pollutants, making the water undrinkable. The town of Endhó dangerously uses Mexico City’s polluted water for farming because it does not have access to clean water. Some households have no running water, so they drink from polluted lakes to avoid the expense of bottled water. To prevent these dire conditions, government agencies are working to expand waterworks throughout rural areas.
  6. Water Laws: Water laws in Mexico are not enforced. The Mexican government is responsible for regulating access to clean water, but the laws are often disregarded. Citizens demand water for agriculture, which results in over-pumping of groundwater. Environmental problems such as 60% of groundwater in use being tainted are preventable by upholding Mexico’s Environmental Standard.
  7. Children’s Health: Children are vulnerable to arsenic and fluoride that contaminate the drinking water. Mexico’s regulations allow µg/L of arsenic in the drinking water which considerably surpasses the World Health Organization’s (WHO) suggestion of a maximum of 10 µg/L. This poses a dire situation in which 6.5 million children drink this hazardous water putting them at risk of severe health consequences including cancer.

These seven facts concerning water quality in Mexico focus on the importance of having clean drinking water. Access to clean water is necessary in order to maintain good health. The nation is working to fix its outdated infrastructure to bring improvements necessary to solving the water crisis in both urban and rural regions.

Hannah Nelson
Photo: Pixabay

WATSAN in rural India
India utilizes underground water more than any other country in the world. In fact, nearly 25 percent of all water that the globe extracts is in India. Within this, 90 percent of those residing in rural areas use this groundwater as the sole source of replenishment. Problems such as open defecation and the high cost of filtered water lead to a lack of sanitation and access to clean drinking water in rural India. One company, WATSAN in rural India, is targeting this through the creation of a clay-based water purification system.

What is WATSAN?

Chandrasekaran Jayaraman founded WATSAN in India in 2009. A portmanteau of the words ‘water’ and ‘sanitation,’ WATSAN is working to provide clean water and sanitation systems through low, cost-effective methods to locations in rural and urban India. Its water purification devices have successfully fulfilled the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 6 and has further progressed the mission to provide potable water to all.

The Filtration System 

WATSAN’s water filtration system, the ‘CPO Natural Terafil Water Filter,’ works in a simple yet complex way.  WATSAN’s filters do not use chemicals to purify the water; instead, they rely on natural materials to do the job. Built from nano-clay particles, the Terafil candle contains pores that are smaller than harmful bacteria and microbes. When polluted water pours through the candle, the harmful bacteria and iron particles remain on top while the clean water continues passing through the filter.

WATSAN in rural India has installed unique water filters for those that fall below the poverty line. This ensures that everyone has access to their filter without any complicated assembly. WATSAN’s design also allows for easy storage, ensuring that their filters take up a minimal amount of space.

The Impact

Due to the continued consumption of polluted water, a multitude of waterborne illnesses infects many people living in rural India. WATSAN has crafted a specific formula to alleviate these issues. With its filtration system, WATSAN in rural India has been able to deliver clean drinking water to over 16,000 homes in just a single year. This has effectively eliminated the number of people who waterborne illnesses affect.

Specifically, 25 million people across India have been living with no option but to consume fluoride-saturated water over the accepted parts per million, leaving many susceptible to several illnesses. The Terafil Water Filter filters minerals such as fluoride out and ensures that the water people consume contains the necessary parts per million and prevents diseases such as skeletal fluorosis and severe diarrhea. This exemplifies how simple solutions can dissolve large-scale issues.

WATSAN alone has provided products to over 2.15 million households in over 18 states in rural India. Going forward, WATSAN has committed itself to providing over 100 million rural families with its products over the next three years. Overall, WATSAN is just one of many innovative companies giving back to communities in rural India through its commitment to sanitation and potable water. Although access to clean resources in India is a persistent problem, effective work is combatting this. The Terafil Water Filter is a perfect example of a simple solution with the ability to create change.

Laurel Sonneby 

Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Sanitation in Sudan

Sudan is the third-largest country in Africa and boasts a rich history that traces back to antiquity. Decades of unrest and civil war have crippled the economy and seriously stunted the development of domestic infrastructure, including basic sanitation. In recent years, the Sudanese government, along with the international community, has taken steps towards addressing these challenges. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Sudan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Sudan

  1. Open Defecation: More than 30 percent of the population practices open defecation, which is more than any other North African nation. This practice is most prevalent in rural areas where nearly 70 percent of Sudan’s population resides. Open defecation poses serious risks to clean water sources and exposes a large portion of the population to diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis and intestinal parasites.
  2. Waterborne Illnesses and Poor Sanitation: The most common result of absent clean water sources is dysentery. In Sudan, diarrhea causes around 12 percent of child deaths. Cholera outbreaks are common, the most recent being in October 2019 and infecting nearly 300 people.
  3. Menstrual Hygiene: People in Sudan treat menstruation with a lot of stigma and shame. Many women resort to unsanitary devices to conceal menstrual bleeding. Unsafe water also increases the chance of infection. Female hygiene resources and education in rural areas have been instrumental in reducing illness, infection and childhood mortality rates. UNICEF has helped develop gender-segregated bathrooms at schools to provide private space for girls to assist with menstrual management.
  4. Water Treatment Facilities: In the last 10 years, Sudan pledged $1 billion in funding for the development and maintenance of clean water sources, wells and pumping stations with the help of the international community. The use of these improved water sources has increased by 55 percent.
  5. WASH: Sudan has targeted rural areas with the WASH (water and sanitation hygiene) initiative with the help of NGOs like Near East Foundation (NEF), USAID and UNICEF. They hope to ensure clean water access to all Sudanese households by 2025 by drilling wells and developing water sanitation facilities.
  6. International Community: WHO and UNDP have been key in their funding of NGOs in Sudan, specifically UNICEF. In fact, 2.3 million Sudanese gained access to clean water between 2013 and 2015 because of their efforts.
  7. Civil Unrest: Sudan has experienced multiple civil wars and a 30-year-long military dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir. Due to these events of civil unrest, many areas of state development suffered underfunding or neglect. In April 2019, protests forced Omar al-Bashir to resign his post. This has instilled new hope and desire for social-civilian infrastructure to address public health and sanitation.
  8. Poor System Supply Chains and Limited Government Resources Diminish Clean Water Access: Sudan has worked to improve clean water access in recent decades, but while 68 percent of households have access to some form of clean water, nearly 30 percent of rural clean water treatment systems are inoperable or understaffed due to deficiencies within the government. Years of civil war and public unrest have significantly crippled supply chains and government oversight.
  9. Hygiene Education: Only 25 percent of Sudanese use soap when washing their hands, a statistic that USAID has focused on inverting. Nationwide campaigns have emerged to educate the public on hand-washing. Additionally, UNICEF issued educational resources to more than 14,000 schools and numerous mosques, ultimately reaching around 4.2 million children.
  10. Sudan National Sanitation and Hygiene Strategic Framework (SNSHSF): The SNSHSF emerged in 2016, a cohesive consulting force consisting of government and private sector individuals and committees to bring modern improvements to Sudan’s sanitation infrastructure. Funded by UNICEF and WHO, this organization has been key to developing and implementing strategies to ensure basic sanitation needs for the public.

While these 10 facts about sanitation in Sudan show the country’s challenges regarding open defecation, handwashing and water treatment, it is clearly making efforts to improve. With continued efforts from Sudan’s government, the international community and NGOs, the country should eventually be able to grant basic sanitation to all.

Tiernán Gordon
Photo: USAID

facts about sanitation in South Africa
South Africa, the southernmost country in Africa, is home to over 58 million people and recognizes 11 official languages. People also often refer to it as the “rainbow nation” for its wide diversity in culture. Today, people often link South Africa to its challenges with water supply and sanitation, and conversely, its recent achievements in both categories. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in South Africa.

10 Facts About Sanitation in South Africa

  1. Access to clean water is scarce. Droughts, infrequent rainfall and a shortage of resources are all causes of South Africa’s water crisis. In 2008, 5 million South Africans reported lacking access to safe, drinkable water. While this number has steadily declined over the years, with an improved 88.8 percent of households having access to piped water in 2016, some rural regions must rely on groundwater alone to meet their needs.
  2. Sanitation is slowly improving. While the rate of improving sanitation is still slow, about 82 percent of households recorded having access to either flush toilets or ventilated pits in 2017. This is a 20 percent increase since 2002, meaning lives are improving. Thanks to the volunteer work and successful methods of several NGO projects like AMREF and WaterAid, more and more people are gaining access to clean water and reliable toilets.
  3. Rural areas suffer the greatest lack of water. Dams supply a majority of the water in South Africa’s urban cities; however, rural areas often have to depend on rainfall that is becoming increasingly sporadic. Lack of water facilities has caused 74 percent of rural South Africans to be entirely dependent on groundwater that is often unclean. Additionally, the growing rural population is causing even more strain on the water crisis; 19 percent of people did not have a reliable source of clean water in 2006.
  4. Poor sanitation compromises clean water. Several major rivers stretch through South Africa, but sewage waste often contaminates its waters. Outdated infrastructure, poor management and lack of resources contribute to the contamination, rendering the water undrinkable and a public health risk. Contact with the contaminated water could lead to waterborne illness or death.
  5. Waterborne illnesses are still a threat. With large amounts of water contaminated with effluent, the risk of contracting a waterborne disease remains high. Waterborne illnesses affected 60 percent of the country’s rural regions in 2005. In 2008, high volumes of deadly bacteria, including E. Coli, were in the water supply on the southern coast, most likely caused by human waste contamination. However, through improving infrastructure and allowing better access to safe, drinkable water, organizations like AMREF have decreased the rate of child mortality due to waterborne illnesses.
  6. There is a Free Basic Water Access policy. South Africa is one of the few countries to explicitly state in its constitution that every citizen has an entitlement to a certain amount of free water. The Free Basic Water Access policy that is currently in place highlights this constitutional right, yet the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry does not properly monitor water usage and the country loses well over 20 percent of all available water supply due to damaged or broken pipes.
  7. Shared toilet facilities can be unsafe. Households that use shared toilet facilities often face unsafe conditions. Sixteen percent of households reported having their physical safety threatened in these facilities, and 24 percent complained of poor, unsafe lighting. Poor hygiene, lack of water and lack of maintenance in these shared facilities only attribute to the health risks of communities.
  8. There was a water crisis in Cape Town. The Cape Town Water Crisis was an extreme water shortage from 2017-2018 that caused the South African government to place water restrictions on citizens in an effort to conserve water supply. The term ‘Day Zero’ shocked the world when Cape Town officials declared that the city of 4 million people would be completely out of water in just three short months. Fortunately, through the allocation of water, tariffs and stricter enforcement, the South African city was able to pull itself out of the crisis and change its ways to avoid another ‘Day Zero’ in the future.
  9. Poor facilities are compromising girls’ education. Many South African girls and women find themselves unable to manage their menstruation in a safe, private place. Often times, school-aged girls miss out on their education because of the lack of clean, private restrooms at school. Out of 130 schools, 82 percent of students said the school facilities were not sufficiently private. This means that girls are missing school because of the humiliating conditions. In an effort to combat this dilemma, organizations like WaterAid are installing decent, private toilets in schools so girls can better manage their periods.
  10. NGO projects, like WaterAid, are helping. There are many nonprofits that are striving to improve the country’s situation. WaterAid, founded in 1981, is working to help solve South Africa’s sanitation issue. WaterAid teams with other projects to implement clean water, flush toilets and increased hygiene across the country. In 2016, WaterAid was able to provide 24.9 million people access to clean water, 24 million with safe toilets and 16.7 million with increased sanitation.

While these 10 facts about sanitation in South Africa show that the country still has several measures to make in terms of upholding human dignity, cleanliness and safety, its government and several organizations are taking action. With the help of these projects, improvements are happening every day as the country continues to take steps towards a cleaner, safer future.

– Hadley West
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country located in Central Africa, has been the victim of oppression, colonization and enslavement by European nations dating back to the year 1890. Violence and war continued for decades as a result. The Central African country currently lacks some essential sanitation resources, which has led to the spread of diseases such as cholera within the nation. Part of this is because half of the people of the DRC receive improved drinking water from wells and public standpipes. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in the DRC.

10 Facts About Sanitation in the DRC

  1. In 2018, only 29 percent of people in the DRC had access to basic sanitation services. There is 42 percent of people in the DRC currently using unimproved methods of sanitation. This includes pit latrines and bucket latrines.
  2. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is an indisputable crisis in the availability of clean and pure drinking water. UNICEF reports that despite the fact that 50 percent of Africa’s water reserves exist there, there are still millions of people living without pure drinking water. In fact, more than half the population of the DRC lacks clean drinking water.
  3. Many people and schoolchildren have benefitted from the national program, Healthy School and Village. This national program aims to provide clean drinking water to villages in Africa to prevent diarrheal diseases. Waterborne diseases, like cholera, claim the lives of thousands of people of the DRC per year. UNICEF reports that as many as 7 million people and 983,000 schoolchildren have seen an improvement in their quality of life from this program since 2008.
  4. Women in the DRC and other sub-Saharan African countries are bearing the burden of having to deliver clean drinking water to their families. Women and girls in the developing world, such as the DRC, spend up to 90 percent of their valuable time collecting water. The women and girls in the DRC rarely finish their schooling due to this need for water. In the DRC, the participation of boys in the secondary school system has been 25 percent higher than girls since 2009.
  5. In 2011, a program called We Are Water successfully raised 20,000 euros in an effort to give accessible drinking water to the DRC. The program estimates that with the funds raised, it will be able to minimize the cholera epidemic. It is giving 20,000 people from 30 different villages clean water to drink and maintain their hygiene. This will only increase the efforts for creating better sanitation in the DRC.
  6. The U.N. Refugee Agency’s Cash for Shelter project has given funds to people in the DRC so they may build their own homes with real functioning toilets. Most people can only dream of owning a toilet because they are living on a mere $2 a day. Through this program, they do not have to construct makeshift pit latrines. They can now create a sense of security and ownership for themselves. Since its inception in 2016, the UNHCR’s cash-based interventions have reached more than 20 million people.
  7. There are many initiatives that bring clean drinking water to the people of the DRC like Concern Worldwide. It has provided the village of Mulombwa with its very own water pipe, which has revitalized the village in so many ways. Throughout its 50 years, this program has reached 24.2 million people in 23 different countries.
  8. The proportion of people drinking surface water, which includes contaminated lakes and rivers, was 11 percent, as of December 2018. The use of unimproved water sources like surface water is nearly universal in rural areas, according to the World Bank. Urban areas have 81 percent access to improved water sources, while it is as low as 31 percent in rural areas.
  9. According to the World Bank, access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene services is low, improving only by 3 percent. In urban areas, however, access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is much higher.
  10. There is a trend of constant outbreaks of cholera in various regions of the DRC due to contaminated drinking water. The infection can lead to severe dehydration and diarrhea which, if people leave unchecked, could lead to death. From November 2015 to February 2018, there were 1,065 cases of cholera in the capital Kinshasa alone, according to the World Health Organization. Of these 1,065 cases, there were 43 confirmed deaths.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has seen little improvement in water quality and sanitation services. Thankfully, people and organizations are consistently working on improving everyday life for the people of the DRC. Whether it be funding Congolese families to have a functioning toilet in their homes or building a protected well for an entire village, there are several ways these organizations can make an impact

William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in India
In recent years, India has invested tremendous resources to mitigate its public health pressure, especially with respect to sanitation. The problem of the Ganges catches most eyes, however, uneven distribution of precipitation and demographic density cause issues as well. Due to the lack of appropriate access to clean water and related infrastructures such as toilets, waterborne diseases cost India more in actual societal and economic losses than the average level across the world. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in India.

10 Facts about Sanitation in India

  1. The Ganges River provides water access for around 400 million nearby dwellers, and unfortunately, cities directly inject over three-quarters of untreated sewage into the river. The government approved Namami Genge program has achieved operation of 75 sewage treatment plants, a river surface cleaning action plan and a desire to rejuvenate the river from heavy pollution.
  2. Open defecation and communicable waterborne disease are highly concerning in India. Water relates to 21 percent of diseases in India. Around 99 million people have no access to safe water and 500 children in India each day cannot survive through their fifth year on the earth due to diarrheal disease.
  3. Lack of adequate and appropriate toilets used to contribute to the main reason for open defecation in India. Only 32.7 percent of its rural households previously had access to toilets. This figure has now grown to 98.8 percent as 92 million newly constructed toilets cover most of the rural area. Research suggests that a great decrease is emerging while the coverage rate of toilets is rising.
  4. Mental and societal reasons determine the preference for open defecation. Research suggests that even in rural households with toilets or latrines, some of the household members prefer open defecation because they believe it is more pleasurable and desirable compared to the use of available toilets.
  5. Women’s risk of being sexually assaulted is higher when private and safe toilets are not available. At least 50 percent of sanitation structures remain unused or not used properly. Many women (300 million) have no or limited access to safe bathrooms. In some extreme cases, the problem puts females’ life at stake because of the unfamiliarity of toilet facilities.
  6. Vulnerability against seasonal changes undermines the capacity to provide sanitation in India. In the monsoon season, water treatment plants in low lying basins must shut down to avoid flash floods and power outages, while some water scarcity villages will only use the toilets during this period. In turn, villages cannot maintain sustainable water supply when periodic drought strikes.
  7. Water supply is the cornerstone of the sanitation system, yet the network is incomplete in both urban and rural areas. In rural areas, villages are draining unsafe underground water for daily usage, and in cities, poor water management rises the potential pressure for water shortage.
  8. Limited water access in rural regions directly impedes children’s possibility to receive an education. In general, the shortage of water in rural areas gives people the added burden of carrying the water home. Instead of attending school, children are supporting their families with such undesired labor.
  9. The Swachh Bharat (Clean India Mission) contributed incredible achievements. India built about 1.5 million toilets in 2019 and over 100 million toilets during the past 5 years. In total, when the mission completed in October 2019, 60,000 villages were open-defecation free. The Individual Household Latrine (IHHL) coverage reached 100 percent of the state’s households.
  10. Partnership with Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) represents an outstanding international intervention of sanitation improvement in India’s local communities. It secured over $5 million in funding from the private sector. Fueled by this funding, 175,000 people have access to safe water and 25,000 communities are open-defecation free.

Today in India, diseases from untreated water and unhygienic defecation impact society not only through triggering the public health crisis, but also impacting females and children. Limited drainage systems and a lack of water preservation systems are two issues that could prevent India from fully integrating sanitation into rural areas. Fortunately, the Indian government’s campaigns keep sanitation in India on the top of its to-do list. The imperfections cannot overshadow the progress that India has made in promoting its sanitation.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in Papua New Guinea
Nestled on the eastern coast of the Island of New Guinea, just north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is home to the third-largest rainforest, over 839 spoken languages and countless commodities like cocoa, coffee and palm oil. The country boasts a diverse topography ranging from coastal towns and river valleys to mountainous highlands. The tribal communities within its borders are as diverse as the landscapes they inhabit. However, there is a lack of clean water in Papua New Guinea.

Lack of Clean Water and Sanitation Facilities

Despite its ecological diversity and recent economic development, the country still lacks one of the most vital resources of all: clean water. The consequences of the clean water and improved sanitation facility shortage are both dire and systematic. This affects current populations and the future prosperity of the country. The country ranks second-lowest in access to safe water in the world because of its wide range of challenging geographies which make accessing some rural areas nearly impossible. According to the World Bank Systematic Diagnostic, only 13 percent of rural areas have access to improved facilities. In addition, only 33 percent of rural areas have access to clean water in Papua New Guinea.

Consequences

Rural areas experiencing substantially lower levels of access are more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses such as dysentery, cholera, malaria and diarrhea. These illnesses are leading causes of the high infant mortality rate, which according to UNICEF’s most recent estimate is about 38 deaths per 1,000 live births. According to 2016 estimates, the mortality rate of diarrheal diseases from exposure to unsafe WASH services is 16.3 per 100,000.

Even in less severe instances, these shortcomings cause malnutrition and stunted growth. It is also a cause of socioeconomic obstacles such as lack of education due to infection. Additionally, this leads to reduced social mobility for communities in rural areas.

Water Access

The prevailing means of getting water is to carry it up from the river in jerry cans. This can be time-consuming and often dangerous for the women and girls burdened with the task. Some larger institutions with adequate roofing such as the Madan Coffee Plantation, hospitals and various schools are equipped with rain catchment systems. Those institutions will occasionally allow surrounding communities to access the water reserves at certain times during the day. The dry season lasts from June through September, during which even these communities rely on the river to supply their water. Larger water systems may also include sky hydrants. The sky hydrants utilize piping to bring water up from the river before sending it through a filtration system. Then, it will send the water back down to the communities in need. These systems are far less common as they require substantial financial resources for initial investment and cost of maintenance.

Sanitation Facilities

Lack of improved sanitation facilities is even more widespread and arguably more detrimental to the health of Papua New Guineans since many will take to the river as an alternative. When the Borgen Project interviewed Laura Elizabeth Combee, a nurse who volunteers with Water Hands Hope, about the water conditions in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, she said that “You just see people living in bamboo walls and you see people carrying water from the side of the mountain. And maybe the water is fine, but what are the people on top of the mountain doing? Do you know? So, you don’t know what is contaminating the water.”

One of the most effective alternatives is ash and hay toilets or composting toilets. This catches excrement in two separate compartments before respectively covering them with either ash or hay. This process allows for more sanitary water sources and allows populations to use the remnants as a fertilizer for agricultural purposes. While highly efficient, the use of these is not widespread as there is a lack of information and knowhow.

Water Hands Hope

One of the organizations working to remedy the shortage of clean water in Papua New Guinea is Water Hands Hope. Founded in 2014, the mission of this small Honolulu-based NGO is to use a network of local communities and volunteers to develop and implement WASH infrastructure, deliver community-based educational services and provide medical assistance and clinical work.

Laura Elizabeth Combee uses her medical knowledge to promote, educate and report on water sanitation in rural areas of Papua New Guinea. Two regions in which she volunteers are the Wagi Wan community surrounding the Madan Coffee Plantation and the town of Kundiawa, both located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Participants in Water Hands Hope

During educational sessions, Water Hands Hope advises participant groups to boil water. This process would rid it of any parasites, viruses and protozoa. Additionally, it is the leading cause of waterborne illnesses.

Returning participants aware of the risks associated with unsterilized water grieve that without electricity, they often have to complete other more pressing tasks during the limited daytime, such as tending to the gardens for nourishment or working on the plantation. Lack of electricity is one of the main developmental obstacles that people in the country face.

Even if water systems are in place, there are plenty of hindrances that might deny people access to clean water in Papua New Guinea. Sometimes people have limited water access due to a lack of maintenance or a piece going missing and causing the whole system to be dysfunctional. Other times, the reasons might be because of culture or tradition.

Victoria-Maxine Haburka
Photo: Flickr