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Yemen uses rainwater harvestingThe ongoing water scarcity crisis in Yemen continues to grow. Currently, the country stands as one of the most water-scarce regions in the world. With conflict and climate change making it increasingly harder to obtain fresh water sources, access to safe drinking water is a major concern for people living in Yemen. The World Bank and its partners started a promising project where Yemen uses rainwater harvesting techniques to provide accessible and clean drinking water to local people.

Yemen’s Water Crisis

Yemen is a water-stressed region, and the ongoing conflict has significantly exacerbated the crisis. A rapidly depleting store of groundwater resources in Yemen is negatively impacting the country’s economy, which mainly relies on irrigated agriculture. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that Yemen’s groundwater overdraft is twice the recharge rate, resulting in declining and unsustainable water reserves. Moreover, the Yemeni Civil War has significantly disrupted crucial infrastructure. The displacement of 4.2 million people in Yemen and extreme water mismanagement have worsened the water crisis.

The United States Agency for International Development states that about 20.7 million people in Yemen lack clean water and essential health services, leading to several dangerous diseases such as cholera. Outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhea have been major health problems in Yemeni communities since the outbreaks began in October 2016. According to the Red Cross, approximately 2.5 million cases have been reported, with more than 4,000 deaths in the Yemen cholera outbreak.

Rainwater Harvesting Solution

With 60% of Yemenis living in rural areas, the country’s biggest infrastructural challenge is providing water access to remote communities. According to the World Bank, people in Yemen undergo hardship in gathering water for daily use by traveling to far-off wells.  The World Bank and its partners collaborated with Yemeni communities to build rainwater harvesting systems.

Rainwater harvesting is not a complex process. Cisterns are built, usually from stones or other materials easily accessible in Yemeni villages, and placed on roofs to collect rainwater. The collaborative effort constructed numerous cisterns in three towns: Al-Adn, Al-Anin and Hawf. The project resulted in the villages being able to store large quantities of water that was free of contaminants.

Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting cisterns have provided safe drinking water and resulted in employment opportunities for locals. The World Bank offered cash-for-work programs in villages, allowing locals to build cisterns and gain valuable work experience. Cisterns have also eased the burden on the women and children in the villages. Haliya Al-Jahal, one of the women the World Bank interviewed, said, “We no longer have to go through the struggle of fetching water from remote areas.” The cisterns, as Al-Jahal states, have “put an end to [their] misery.”

The Future of the Program

The Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) has supported the construction of about 1,279 public and 30,686 household harvesting cisterns across Yemen. This has resulted in providing 900,000 cubic meters of clean water to communities. YECRP has shown more promising results where Yemen uses rainwater harvesting to improve areas such as public health, agricultural production and economic gains.

– Umaima Munir
Photo: Flickr

Water action planOn June 1, 2022, the White House unveiled its Action Plan on Global Water Security, spearheaded by Vice President Kamala Harris. The White House aims to help achieve water security domestically and abroad, citing the connection between water and U.S. national security interests. In particular, five countries that need the water action plan will benefit from gaining access to clean water and reducing deaths.

Three Pillars

The White House said it views water security as “sustainable access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as water to sustain ecosystems and for agriculture, energy and other economic activities.” 

The water action plan focuses on three pillars to implement its goals:

  • Increasing the U.S. role in attaining universal water security and ensuring sustainability without increasing carbon emissions.
  • Encouraging sustainable practices for managing and building water resources and ecosystems to build economies and cooperation.
  • Utilizing cooperation among organizations like the G-20 Summit and the U.N. to achieve water security.

While the plan did not specify nations, five countries that need the water action plan especially are Angola, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Papua New Guinea.

Angola

Angola is a southern African country with a population of roughly 35 million. Only about half of Angolans have access to basic sanitation and clean water. In 2020, the U.N. reported that access to both had stagnated, hampering the efforts to achieve SDG 6 by 2030.

Malaria deaths account for over 11,000 deaths in 2020. In addition, Angola has one of the highest child mortality rates, with 71.5 of every 1,000 live births dying before age 5.

Water treatment is just one way to curb malaria and child mortality in the country. Investments from the water action plan could fund water treatment and basic sanitation services, especially in rural areas.

Somalia

Like Angola, Somalia is on the U.N.’s list of least developed countries (LDC). Clean water and sanitation services are not easily accessible in the eastern African country, as only 32% of the population used a sanitation service in 2020. In a country of roughly 15 million people, this amounts to more than 10 million people without that access.

Somalia is also amid a severe drought. The U.N. estimates that Somalia is heading toward the fourth year in a row without a successful rain season. This has devastated Somalia, with over 100,000 people relocating to find access to water.

The White House highlighted the link between global water security and national security. Somalia is a prime example: In 2014, at the height of its civil war, the terrorist group al-Shabaab used “water terrorism” to further the conflict between the citizens and the Somali government. By cutting off such a crucial resource, tensions flared, and anger toward the government grew, furthering the war.

Somalia could benefit from the water action plan’s funding to expand water access and treatment, which could have a resounding impact.

Ethiopia

Somalia’s neighbor to the west shares its water insecure status, as well as being one of 46 LDCs, according to the U.N. Ethiopia has been the focus of foreign aid for decades, stemming from the Ethiopian Civil War in the 1970s.

Ethiopia met its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for clean drinking water, the precursor to SDG 6. Since 1990, it has slashed the percentage of people without access to clean drinking water in half, with 57% of people having access to clean drinking water. This success comes from the government-run water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program.

Still, Ethiopia struggles with sanitation and waterborne illnesses, contributing to child mortality rates. According to UNICEF, the lack of treatment and sanitation of water contributes to 60% to 80% of communicable diseases in Ethiopia. In terms of child mortality, this level of water insecurity leads to 70,000 deaths of children under 5 years of age each year.

Uganda

Uganda is also on the U.N.’s LDC list. Uganda has stagnated on SDG 6, with only 55.9% of the population having access to drinking water.

Sanitation is one of the critical issues surrounding Uganda’s water crisis. In Uganda, 8.8 million people practice open defecation, contaminating the natural water supply. According to the nonprofit Water.org, 28 million Ugandans lack access to safe sanitation services, which plays a vital role in SDG 6.

The White House’s water action plan could help enrich existing aid programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development, giving 750,000 Ugandans access to clean water and providing resources to become open-defecation free.

Papua New Guinea

Though not on the LDC list, the Sustainable Development Report finds that Papua New Guinea still needs essential water services. Only 45.3% of Papua New Guinea’s citizens have access to clean drinking water, and only 19.2% have access to sanitation services. The U.N. reports that only 30% of the population can access soap and water at home for a hand washing facility.

According to UNICEF, 30% of the population use surface water daily. This likely correlates with illness and poverty among those who contract waterborne diseases.

Solutions 

The White House Action Plan on Global Water Security could help these five countries in desperate need of aid to create stability and health through water and sanitation services. The World Bank estimates that global WASH programs and infrastructure would cost $35 billion to maintain each year, according to a White House report.

While more funding is called for, USAID committed to $1.2 billion in aid for three years to strengthen global water security. The water action plan is a step in the right direction and provides a starting point for these five countries and others to achieve water security.

– Emma Rushworth
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Drought in AfricaThe Horn of Africa is suffering from its worst drought in 40 years, a crisis that has killed millions of livestock and plunged millions of people into food insecurity. In response to this historic drought in Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged almost $1.3 billion in assistance to the regions hardest hit by the drought.

A Record-Breaking Drought

The past four rainy seasons in the Horn of Africa—a region which includes Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya—have seen below-average rainfall. The most recent rainy season, from March to May 2022, was the area’s driest rainy season in 70 years. The U.N. expects that the upcoming rainy season from October to December 2022 will also be dry.

This unprecedented drought has had dire consequences for those living in the Horn of Africa:

  • As of July 2022, the U.N. estimated that 18.6 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are facing food insecurity due to the drought and this figure could rise to 20 million by September.
  • The International Rescue Committee warns that 3 million people are at risk of starving to death in the region.
  • 7.1 million children are acutely malnourished, with 2.1 million children falling in the category of acutely malnourished.
  • More than 11.6 million people lack access to sufficient water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.
  • An estimated 7 million livestock have died and an additional at 22 million are at risk of dying due to the drought.

Immediate Impacts of the Drought

In addition to the immediate impacts on food and water insecurity, the Horn of Africa’s drought has impacted the lives of those living there in more indirect ways. With more than 1.1 million people displaced as a consequence of the drought and women and girls traveling as much as three times as long as they did before to find water, the Horn of Africa has seen an increase in gender-based violence and school drop-out rates.

Approximately 15 million children in the region are now out of school and an additional 3.32 million children across the region are at risk of dropping out because of the drought. The drought has also had negative impacts on hygiene practices. As drinking water has become scarcer, people have started to ration their water, using more water for drinking and cooking and less for hygiene. Consequently, the drought has put people at a higher risk for infection and water-borne diseases.

While the drought on its own has had disastrous effects, Russia’s war on Ukraine has compounded the crisis the Horn of Africa is experiencing. Regionally, 84% of wheat is imported, and 90% of that imported wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine. Due to the combined effects of smaller harvests and war-induced inflation, the cost of food has risen 66% in Ethiopia and 36% in Somalia.

The United States Offers Help

In July 2022, USAID announced an additional $1.18 billion in aid for countries hardest hit by this historic drought. This brings the total U.S. assistance for the crisis up to $1.86 billion in 2022 alone — the greatest contribution of any single country.

The most recent round of funding will go towards measures that will provide immediate assistance to those suffering the consequences of the drought as well as efforts to help the Horn of Africa build resistance against potential future droughts. Funding will support the delivery of emergency food supplies including a grain called shogun, split peas and vegetable oil. To help the high number of children suffering from malnutrition as a result of the drought, USAID will help screen communities for malnutrition in children and provide nutritional supplements for those found to be most at risk.

USAID also plans to use a portion of the funds to help farmers by providing medical services and food to animals as well as working with agricultural communities to develop more drought-resistant farming techniques. Addressing some of the secondary consequences of the drought, USAID will also direct funds toward disease prevention and gender-based violence reduction efforts.

A Look Ahead

While this unprecedented drought has been devastating for the Horn of Africa, the U.N. estimated in July that an additional $1.8 billion in aid was required to address the crisis. The recent announcement by USAID in July covers almost two-thirds of this requirement and has the potential to help the millions who have suffered the dire consequences of the drought in Africa.

Anna Inghram
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

Water Crisis in South Sudan
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has faced adversity and troubled times since its founding. Its separation from Sudan was accompanied by significant conflict, beginning with the advent of civil war in December 2013. The widespread conflict led to many humanitarian crises and the country did not see peace until a cease-fire was issued in August of 2018. Five years later, the effects of this conflict persist and can be seen in the nation’s water crisis. Here are six facts about the water crisis in South Sudan.

6 Facts About the Water Crisis in South Sudan

  1. Only 41 percent of people in South Sudan had access to clean drinking water in 2019. In urban areas, residents often live too far from water sources to walk and are forced to rely on deliveries, driving up the cost of water. This forces many lower-income families to go without. Outside the metropolitan areas, water wells are not reliable either. During the conflict, armed groups destroyed the wells of many communities, hoping to defeat them. Now that the fighting is over, these wells remain destroyed, and even if they are within walking distance, people may not have access.
  2. Having to travel long distances to obtain clean drinking water also creates health and safety concerns for women and children in South Sudan. Walking long distances every day to access water increases the risk of severe dehydration as well as violence and kidnappings.
  3. The conflict has also displaced more than two million people, driving them into other countries or away from their available water sources. People settled in rural areas are heading to the cities, putting further pressure on already strained water sources and worsening the water crisis in South Sudan.
  4. According to data from 2016, one in three people use contaminated water daily. This water may come from the Nile or from swamp areas, both of which present immense risks of bacterial infections. When the choices are either to be thirsty or drink dirty water, people have to choose the water. As a result of the contaminated water, there were 20,000 reported cases of cholera in South Sudan between June 2016 and the start of 2018.
  5. Most water in South Sudan is not put towards domestic use. 97 percent goes to the agricultural industry, and in these strenuous times, a lack of water presents challenges for their main industry. 80 percent of the South Sudanese support themselves through farming, and without enough water to grow crops, their nutrition and economy suffer.
  6. A total of 871 million dollars has been given to South Sudan so far, but this only meets half of the goal to solve the crisis. Still, significant work is being done by humanitarian organizations, including Oxfam, which is working on the ground to improve access to clean drinking water. Its goal is to make long-lasting, sustainable changes to how water is accessed in order to end the water crisis in South Sudan.

While there is still progress to be made, there have been decreases in the percentage of people without drinkable water, especially in urban areas. Moving forward, as clean water reaches more remote areas, water accessibility in South Sudan will become more stable, greatly improving livelihoods.

Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Water resources in GabonWater quality in Gabon is abundant, but unevenly distributed and strained by high rates of urbanization. Gabon has one of the highest levels of water availability in the world, at 127,825 cubic meters per capita, per year.

Eighty-seven percent of Gabon’s 1.8 million people live in urban areas, such as Libreville and Port-Gentil. As the urban population increases, so does the demand for a fixed water supply. Gabon’s low capacity for drinking water production and lack of storage and maintenance facilities leads to frequent water shortages in Libreville and other urban areas.

Water quality in Gabon is different in urban and rural areas. In 2015, 92 percent of urban areas and 59 percent of rural areas had access to improved water resources. ‘Improved’ drinking sources include piped water on property and other improved sources of drinking water, according to the World Health Organization.

Despite its status as an upper middle-income country, 34 percent of the population lives in poverty. Rural, poverty stricken areas suffer deprivation from drinking water resources in Gabon, and 58 percent of the population does not have access to improved sanitation facilities. In 2015, sanitation rates in urban and rural areas were 43 and 32 percent, respectively.

Access to sanitation facilities is very low in Gabon. Inadequate wastewater and rainwater networks and deficient solid waste management explain the disparity.

Inadequate sewage and waste management led to negative health outcomes. Insufficient sanitation and lack of access to improved water sources are associated with the increased risk of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a class of infectious bacterial and parasitic diseases. In Gabon, a large proportion of the population is at risk of infection from soil-transmitted helminthiasis, lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis.

The infrastructure for drinking water and sanitation were identified as priority areas for reform in the Gabonese government’s 2016–2020 Country Strategy Paper. Long-term success for water and waste management requires understanding how wealth distribution and social gradients affect water quality in Gabon. The CSP addresses social and infrastructural issues and broadened the scope of the development plan. It plans to build a sustainable water and sanitation infrastructure.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr

Drinking Water
Despite having the largest freshwater resources in Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has long faced significant challenges in maintaining and furnishing potable drinking water to its citizens. More than 50 million Congolese face the daily trial of acquiring clean water, due to issues ranging from inadequate infrastructure to poor sanitation.

According to a 2015 UNICEF and World Health Organization study, almost 700 million people worldwide did not have access to clean drinking water — most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Much of this water quality problem falls within the spectrum of sanitation. The DRC’s rate of urban expanse far outstrips its ability to furnish infrastructure that would deliver clean drinking water to those living in developing areas. In more rural communities, however, the opposite is true — water-furnishing infrastructure is almost non-existent, which puts these Congolese at a higher risk of consuming contaminated drinking water.

Many living in these areas use water from local streams and rivers, unaware that the same water source has been contaminated upstream with chemicals, bacteria and parasites. The people of the DRC share the experience of 2.4 billion people worldwide who do not have access to sanitary toilets.

However, many communities have addressed the water quality problem head-on, developing resourceful solutions to provide this necessity. Hand-drilled wells, for instance, are a much cheaper (although laborious) method of accessing fresh water in rural Congolese villages. UNICEF, via its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (WASH), has been working tirelessly with the Congolese government to spread these solutions. They aspire to provide clean water to 4 million people by the end of 2017.

Large-scale efforts have positively impacted the water quality in the DRC. The U.N.’s Environment Program (UNEP) helped to complete a community-led catchment management project on the Lukaya River basin in 2016. These projects work with the natural processes of the local ecosystem, providing drinking water to 400,000 people living in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa.

Despite a history of instability and conflict, the people of the DRC have made great strides in improving their water quality. Organizations such as UNICEF and UNEP bring great support to this cause, and if global interest continues, general health and welfare in these areas will drastically improve as well.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

four_girls_for_families
In 2010, a trip to Cambodia changed the lives of four young girls. As two girls witnessed the health problems caused in Cambodia due to unsanitary drinking water, they both decided to start a mission to help families protect their health. Four Girls for Families began when sisters Rae (11 years old) and Emmy (eight years old) Specht traveled to Cambodia with their family during the winter of 2010.

While in Cambodia, both sisters were introduced to the harsh living standards of the local people. The two sisters decided to make a difference when they discovered that 75 percent of deaths in Cambodia were the results of drinking unsanitary water. Once they arrived in the United States, the Specht sisters began to brainstorm with their friends Clara Walker (10 years old) and Maddie Joinnides (11 years old). Four Girls for Families was born.

With the aid and support of their parents, the four girls began to create homemade jewelry, crafts and T-shirts to raise awareness about unsanitary drinking water in developing countries. The money the girls raised during their sells was used to buy water filters that would be delivered to Cambodians in need.

The water filters used by Four Girls for Families are designed to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and are given to individual families. In a country where 65 percent of the population does not have access to clean drinking water, water filters play a vital role in protecting the health of families.

Nearly five years later, Four Girls for Families has become a non-profit organization that still continues to provide water filters to rural places in Cambodia. From 2011 to 2014 Rae and Emmy Specht, Clara Walker and Maddie Joinnides have raised nearly $40,000 and supplied 2,000 water filters to families.

This past year, the organization has gained more support in its hometown of Bellport, New York, which has allowed Four Girls for Families to provide 300 water filters to families this past spring. Four Girls for Families relies on fundraisers and profits from their online shop. As the organization gains more acknowledgement and support, all four girls continue to think of ways to provide more water filters to Cambodia.

Erendira Jimenez

Sources: Four Girls for Families, YouTube, Bellport
Photo: Four Girls for Families

FRANK-water-saves-livesjpgKatie Alcott, young social entrepreneur and founder of FRANK Water, started the charity and social enterprise by producing and selling her own brand of bottled spring water and using the profits to afford clean drinking water worldwide.

After being diagnosed with dysentery, Alcott launched FRANK Water, creating it as both a registered charity (No. 1121273) under the name “FRANK Water Projects” and as a social enterprise that donates all its net proceeds to FRANK’s Projects.

FRANK Water has impacted more than 200,000 people in more than 128 communities. The goal is to provide clean, accessible drinking water to the 748 million worldwide who need it the most.

FRANK is working in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, various states in India. In 2014, nearly 95 communities totaling to 176,063 people received safe water and sanitation. By 2015, 80 new communities will welcome FRANK, which will serve 17,800 people.

Much of FRANK’s work is teamed with local community-based organizations. Currently, FRANK’s India partners are SAMERTH, CURE India, People Science Instirute, Bala Vikasa, VJNNS and Gram Vikas.

In Chhattisgarh, India, FRANK Water is working with tribal Baiga communities so that they can access clean drinking water in the Kabirdham District. Since Chhattisgarh’s formation as a state in 2000, its local people have been severely exploited for their minerals and forests. They are without basic services, so FRANK Water works with them to develop advocacy methods, plans and roads for change. For two years, FRANK and its local partner SAMERTH have worked with 12,000 people across 36 communities.

In eastern Andhra Pradesh, the remote tribal regions of the eastern Ghats are left without basic water services. This lack of water devastates health, agricultural dependencies and other activities, causing the tribal people to develop at much slower rates. FRANK and one of its partners, VJNNS, are working to establish 10 gravity-fed water systems that will give 10 communities safe water through the earth’s natural gravitational pull. This will serve nearly 3,000 people.

FRANK Water also works in Madhya Pradesh, where fluoride is rampant in its natural water sources. Too much fluoride can lead to yellowing teeth and fluorosis, an incurable disease. FRANK is helping to establish projects to reduce the fluoride concentrations in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, which is currently at 1.0 to 1.5 mg/l. These projects work with the communities to build lasting solutions such as low-tech rainwater harvesting. In three years, FRANK and PSI’s work will have provided safe drinking water to 3,000 people, while also training local communities on how to monitor water quality.

FRANK Water’s Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh projects similarly combat the issue of inaccessible clean water in rural and slum areas.

Improving access to water and better sanitation are FRANK’s main objectives. FRANK has worked in India for nearly 10 years, securing water access and sanitation with its local partners. The programs focus on its projects, advocacy and research and development, aiming to improve poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions.

FRANK is frank. The safe water proponent is transparent and self-reflective. While small, it “packs a punch.”

Lin Sabones

Sources: FRANK Water 1, FRANK Water 2, FRANK Water 3, Vimeo
Photo: Trendhunter

Katya Cherukumilli Takes On Poverty in India

Living in poverty often means consuming contaminated drinking water. Assembled by the Blum Center for Global Engagement, Katya Cherukumilli earned recognition in June 2015 at the University of California Irvine’s Designing Solutions for Poverty challenge. She has been addressing and innovating ways to cheaply eradicate fluoride from drinking water by using a remediation solution in groundwater. In doing so, she is helping to protect those without any other source for cleaner water.

Katya Cherukumilli developed a cheap way to use bauxite, a material that produces alumina and aluminum, in order to filter out fluoride in drinking water. She is a PhD student at the University of California, Berkley, set to complete an Environmental Engineering Degree in 2017. Her work with the Gadgil Lab for Energy and Water Research found a cheap solution to the problem concerning fluorosis.

The Gadgil Lab is located at the University of California, Berkley. Its mission is to alleviate poverty using research and engineering studies. Katya Cherukumilli is working specifically with fluoride removal. Having been born near the district of interest, Nalgonda, she feels, according to Alex Chan with Daily Pilot, “This is something that is very close to my heart. Access to clean water does not seem like something people should die for.”

According to Gadgil Lab, drinking excessive levels of fluoride, above 1.5 mg/L, can cause anemia, discolored enamel and bone deformities, also known as skeletal fluorosis. Affected groundwater exists on a global scale in places like Sri Lanka, China, Est African Rift Valley, northern Mexico and Argentina.

With 200 million people drinking toxic water, 66 million in India are at risk. A site is open for examining the water in Telegana, where contamination is the most acute and fixated. Ten percent of this district has been affected and 10,000 are permanently deformed.

Groundwater in the Nalgonda District in India has a toxic amount of fluoride that causes deformities with excess intake. Skeletal fluorosis patients reside here. Granite rocks underground are breaking apart and contaminating drinking water with fluoride.

A toxic level of fluoride in drinking water is a problem that has been known for six decades. When rural areas cannot reach safer alternatives, the problem continues. Responding to this issue takes time and manpower. Areas where innovations are costly, difficult to set up or culturally ineffective make it difficult to introduce defluoridation. Gadgil Lab lists a few requirement guidelines addressing the issues.

Any technology useful to the cause must be local, affordable, and appropriate for the culture. It should require minimal maintenance and must function very successfully in the rural area.

To satisfy these requirements, Cherukumilli has been researching bauxite ore. She found that remediating groundwater fluoride needs to be more cost-effective. Cherukumilli is refining bauxite in order to minimize expenditure per person per year from $50 to $1.

Her method to reduce cost includes improving sustainability, so less material is required. Also less energy and carbon costs are needed to solve the issue.

Forty community leaders, scientists, business partners and investors at the competition agreed her progress in this field of study has absolute potential. It will protect the less fortunate from further disfigurement that affects them socially, economically and medically. Her presentation at the Irvine’s Designing Solutions for Poverty challenge received the popular vote among three others.

– Katie Groe

Sources: GADGIL Lab 1, GADGIL Lab 2, The Orange County Register, The Daily Pilot, GADGIL Lab 3
Photo: Daily Pilot