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

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

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

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

The 2014 Water for World Act and WASH Programs

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

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

Current Challenges to Water Security

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

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

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

How WASH Programs Help

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

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

US Investments and Improving Access to Water and Sanitation

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in TanzaniaTanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, however, according to the World Bank, poverty from 2007 to 2018 was reduced by 8% overall. There are multiple reasons why the largest east African country is in such despair such as food scarcity, poor access to education and proper healthcare. This article will discuss five facts about the causes of poverty in Tanzania.

Causes of Poverty in Tanzania

  1. The population rate is continuously increasing faster than the poverty reduction rate in Tanzania. This is causing millions of people to live in poverty and survive off of $1.90 a day or less. According to the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Brief, from 2011 to 2018, there was only a 1.8% decline in poverty. To combat this issue, according to the brief there should be more opportunities available for those living in rural areas. This is because rural areas are where the poverty rate is the highest.

  2. A lack of a proper education lowers the chances for sustainable employment. A primary issue related to education in Tanzania is the decline in enrollment of children in primary school. According to a report for out of school children in Tanzania by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), out of the 1.3 million children aged 7 years old in Tanzania, 39.5% do not attend primary nor secondary school. However, as children get older, the more likely they are to attend school.

  3. Severe and life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria impact millions of the Tanzanian population. Many families have to pay out of pocket to receive continuous treatment. Recurring payments pressure already low-income households, adding to one of the causes of poverty in Tanzania. To mitigate the diseases affecting millions living predominately in rural areas, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided treatment to decrease the severe heath conditions’ growth and spread.

  4. Out of a population of 57.3 million people in Tanzania, access to clean water isn’t available for four million of them. Additionally, 30 million people don’t have access to proper hygiene. This causes women and young females primarily to carry massive amounts of water for a great distance in order to provide it for their families.

  5. The labor force is continuously declining in Tanzania. This can be partially attributed to a lack of government support in initiating sufficient employment opportunities, especially in rural areas. Due to poverty being the highest in rural areas because of poor living environment circumstances, many tend to move into urban areas. Unfortunately, unemployment persists due to people lacking skills for the jobs in their new urban environment. Access to proper education and an increase in attendance in primary and secondary schools will help expand opportunities and skills for more promising and long-lasting employment.

Progress Eradicating Poverty

The key to eradicating poverty in Tanzania is education. However, for more children to become educated, there needs to be an increase in access to education and school attendance. As of 2020, Tanzania’s literacy rate is 70.6%. However, the literacy rate has fluctuated over the last decade, not ensuring continuous growth.

Nevertheless, one organization, “Room to Read” has taken the necessary steps to ensure 14.3 million children are literate. The organization helps young children to be educated, literate and aware of personal health and proper forms of family planning. Their work primarily targets young girls. Room to Read distributes its resources not only to Tanzania but also to over 12 other countries around the world. Suppose Tanzania’s government recognizes the importance of education, a better healthcare system, and an increase in employment opportunities. In that case, the causes of poverty in Tanzania will end sooner than expected. This in turn could help set an example for other impoverished countries.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

The country of Jordan is the fifth most water-scarce country in the world, following Iran, and is labeled at an “extremely high” risk level. With water scarcity comes multiple risk factors, including water-borne illnesses caused by unsafe drinking water, diseases from a lack of sanitation and death by dehydration. In addition, water scarcity contributes to an increase in sexual exploitation and rape, as children, especially young girls, need to physically travel miles every day through deserts and dangerous terrain to retrieve water for their families. This then contributes to a decrease in education among girls and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in areas in Jordan and globally. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Jordan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Jordan

  1. Climate change affects sanitation in Jordan. In most areas of the country, populations are not located near major water sources and water must be transported from distances up to 325 kilometers away. With the rise of climate change causing flash floods, unpredictable and extreme weather patterns and increased temperatures, Jordan faces difficulties accessing necessary sanitation services.
  2. Jordan faces severe water scarcity. According to UNICEF, “Jordan’s annual renewable water resources are less than 100m3 [meters cubed] per person.” This is 400 meters cubed below the threshold of 500 meters cubed, which defines water scarcity.

  3. As a result of an increase in population and industrial and agricultural capacity, Jordan is dealing with severe aquifer depletion. All 12 of Jordan’s main aquifers are declining at rates exceeding 20 meters per year, well beyond their rechargeable volumes. This is especially alarming as 60% of Jordan’s water comes from the ground.

  4. Those in vulnerable and rural areas lack sanitation resources. Proper hygiene norms, such as handwashing and showering, are taught and practiced in households. However, those in more vulnerable and rural areas often lack soap and body wash to stay clean and healthy.

  5. A large percentage of the population in Jordan don’t have access to water. Only 58% of households have direct access to a sewer connection. In comparison to the nearly half of the population in Jordan, only 0.46% of the United States population does not have access to proper plumbing services. This is an especially prevalent issue in rural areas in Jordan, where only 6% of households have a sewer connection.

  6. The Syrian refugee crisis has greatly increased the population in Jordan. As Jordan borders Syria, it has become a safe haven for more than 670,000 refugees of the Syrian civil war. Having accepted the second-highest amount of refugees in the world compared to its population in 2018, this sudden increase in population means added pressure on resources and infrastructure, as well as an increase in air pollution and waste production.

  7. The water network in Jordan has inadequate infrastructure, needing major rehabilitation. Pumps and sewer lines are old and aging. Unfortunately, Jordan’s already scarce water supply is paying the price, with up to 70% of water transported from aquifers through old pumps being lost in the northern areas of Jordan due to water leakage.
  8. The increase in population, agriculture and industry in Jordan has led to an increase in pollution and toxicity in Jordan’s water supply. Upstream abstractions of groundwater have led to an increase in salinity. Unregulated pesticides and fertilizers used for farming have exposed the water supply to dangerous nitrates and phosphorus through runoff. In addition, it is reported that about 70% of Jordan’s spring water is biologically contaminated.

  9. Foreign aid plays a positive role in improving sanitation in Jordan. To mitigate the aforementioned effects threatening Jordan’s water supply and working towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, USAID works in conjunction with the government of Jordan to build sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure, train hundreds of water experts in Jordan, promote water conservation and strengthen water governance.

  10. Profound progress is seen in the increase in access to water, hygiene services and sanitation in Jordan. From 2000 to 2015, 2,595,670 people gained access to safely managed water services and 2,212,419 people gained access to safely managed sanitation services. In addition, homelessness in Jordan is very rare, meaning open defecation and the illnesses associated with homelessness are less prevalent.

Despite Jordan’s desert climate, clean water and efficient sanitation are achievable and make up the groundwork of global prosperity. Sanitation in Jordan is of the utmost priority in ensuring that Jordan can become a durable consumer and competitor of leading nations.

 Sharon Shenderovskiy
Photo: Flickr