Water in Rural AfricaIn the continent of Africa, around 418 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 779 million people live without basic sanitation. Narrowing in on sub-Saharan Africa, lack of clean water access occurs due to inadequate infrastructural investments, relentless droughts, a growing population and poor sanitation, which results in the contamination of water supplies. This leads to further problems such as the transmission of diseases including diarrhea, cholera, dysentery and typhoid, placing pressure on health care facilities. Water insecurity can also reduce life chances, especially for girls, as many have to walk long distances in search of water instead of attending school. This increases gender inequality and exacerbates the cycle of poverty. SafeWaterAfrica is an EU-funded project, first introduced in 2016, that aims to provide access to clean water in rural areas of Africa.

The SafeWaterAfrica Project

The SafeWaterAfrica initiative, coordinated by Fraunhofer IST, focuses on targeting water security sustainably and cost-effectively using a combination of pre-existing and new technology. It has developed an innovative water treatment system that will provide easier and safe access to water by efficiently removing harmful pathogens and pollutants. This will also create opportunities for jobs within communities as locals can operate the system, utilizing it as a source of reliable income.

There are two demonstrator plants already working in the water-stressed regions of Mozambique and South Africa, each successfully providing “100mof WHO-quality water per day” from river water. South Africa’s unit is near Johannesburg and has been in operation since September 2018. In Mozambique, the unit is in Ressano Garcia and first started providing safe water in April 2019. Due to the environmental and economic benefits of the project, it received the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label award from the Solar Impulse Foundation.

How It Works

Initially, the water undergoes pre-treatment where a salt coagulant converts pollutants into a precipitate which column filtration easily removes. The water is then disinfected and purified using “carbon-based electrochemical oxidation” where the water flows through electrochemical cells with diamond-coated electrodes. Next, two electrodes apply a low voltage current, producing ozone which works to decompose harmful microbes and pollutants, thereby making the water safe to drink. The plants are self-sufficient, sustainable and relatively low-cost because sunlight powers the systems through solar cells and batteries which also protect the environment.

Looking Forward

SafeWaterAfrica has provided accessible sources of safe water, enabling people to spend less time collecting water and increasing school attendance. This initiative has been of particular benefit to girls, as it enables them to pursue greater opportunities for future employment and escape poverty. The flexibility of the technology makes it easy to install in remote and rural areas across sub-Saharan Africa, allowing it to reach those most in need of a safe water supply.

Improved sources of water also lead to less expenditure on health, as people are less likely to become ill due to diseases resulting from that contaminated water. According to the WHO, globally, “more than 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries” and around “2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.” In light of these facts, projects such as SafeWaterAfrica play a vital role in encouraging development, improving health and livelihood and maximizing future opportunities through the provision of safe water.

– Isla Wright
Photo: Flickr

Water For PeopleRecent statistics published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 25% or more of the global population lacks immediate access to clean drinking water, and almost 50% of the global population lives without safe sanitation at home. In light of this, Water For People, a U.S.-based international aid agency, aims to make clean water accessible to every person on the planet. Founded in 1991, the organization celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021. In that time, the organization has made remarkable progress and changed millions of lives around the world.

How Does Water For People Work?

Since 2011, Water For People’s strategy has centered on the concept of “Everyone Forever.” Recognizing the limitations of short-term solutions to the problem of water insecurity, the organization emphasizes developing secure, sustainable water supplies and equipping communities with the knowledge and resources necessary to maintain their water infrastructure over time. Its goal is to ensure that “every family, clinic and school in a district” has reliable access to clean drinking water and sanitation services forever: the progress continues rather than fading away in a couple of decades.

The organization concentrates on several core priorities. The number one priority is clean water. Working with local authorities, the organization manages water systems, arranges water supply chains and builds new facilities. It also works to implement safe sanitation and hygiene. In addition to helping families access affordable toilets, Water For People supports the development of local sanitation businesses and waste management systems and educates communities on safe sanitation and hygiene practices. In 2019 alone, the organization educated 269,361 people about safe hygiene, which included providing menstrual hygiene training and resources to help keep girls in school.

Where Does Water For People Help?

Since 1991, the organization has aided communities in more than 40 countries around the world. In 2011, the organization decided to narrow its focus to provide optimal support. Currently, Water For People operates in nine countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania and India.

In each of these countries, the organization targets districts most in need. While it is actively adding new districts within these countries, the organization’s largest presence is currently in India, where its work in 10 districts has provided more than 1.5 billion people with continuous access to drinking water. In Bolivia, the organization has secured the water supply for 82,706 people across eight districts, and, in Guatemala, for 102,607 people across four districts. With three districts each in Honduras and Peru, it has helped guarantee reliable access to clean water for 55,216 Hondurans and 40,000 Peruvians, respectively.

In Africa, the organization operates in four countries. It has established reliable water services for more than a million people in Rwanda, which has five districts. In Malawi, the organization operates in three districts, providing water for 1,435,599 people. Its work in Uganda has secured clean water for almost half a million people across two districts. Water For People is having a growing impact in Tanzania, where it has been working to improve water access for rural communities in Mpwapwa and began adding new districts in 2022.

What Are the Prospects?

In 2015, the United Nations set a sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): Clean Water and Sanitation. The goal is to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation services for everyone around the world by 2030. Water For People, in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), developed the “Destination 2030” plan to help achieve SDG 6 on time. The joint initiative aims to speed progress toward universal safe water access and sanitation services by helping at least 200 million people in 20 countries.

The organization’s Three Year Strategic Plan for 2022-2024 is a stepping stone in this plan. Focusing on subgoals grouped under Purpose and Foundation, it outlines the immediate strategy to impact at least 12 countries, reach 25 million people nationally and help six million people locally.

During its 30 years of operation, Water For People has achieved concrete results. Working for both quality and quantity, the organization continues to set specific, achievable goals and move toward them.

– Anna Konovalenko
Photo: Flickr