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Water SecurityThere are 326 million trillion gallons of water on planet earth. However, only 1% of that is clean and accessible. This means there is enough water for everyone on the planet and more. Nonetheless, 1 in 5 children still do not have basic water security.

Lack of Water Security Hurts the Poor Most

Globally, 80 countries harbor children living in regions considered to have low water security. The poorest children are the most likely to live in these regions. Of the top ten most affected countries, nine are in the poorest continent on earth: Africa. A staggering 58% of children in Eastern and Southern Africa face a difficult path to get water on a daily basis. In some regions, families have to travel for up to 30 minutes to get water at all. Consequently, the lack of water security increases the risk of dehydration and takes time away from families who could be working. The risk for water deprivation is also increased, which is lethal. Furthermore, impoverished children face another issue related to poor water security.

An Infectious Problem

In regions with poor water security, bacteria and viruses often contaminate the water. Water contamination leads to diarrheal illness, taking more children’s lives than many of the most common causes for death. It is the second leading cause of death for children worldwide. The illness causes the person affected to lose so much fluid that they die from dehydration. In total diarrheal infections take the lives of 525,000 children each year.

The Water Packet

Water security is a concerning problem that industry giant P&G has been tackling one liter at a time. In 2004, P&G initiated its Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, a revolutionary initiative based around a simple yet effective invention called a purifier of water packet. Created by company scientists, it has the ability to transform 10 liters of dirty water into crystal clear drinking water in thirty minutes. First, the four-gram packet is placed in dirty water and then the whole container is stirred thoroughly. During the stirring, any particles in the water group together into thick clusters. Then the stirring ceases and the particles are allowed time to settle at the bottom. Throughout the whole process, the packet disinfects the water from contaminants. Lastly, the water is run through a cloth which catches the remaining particles and all that is left is drinkable water.

Brittaney Stapleton, Volunteer Relations Coordinator at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical garden informed The Borgen Project about her time at a P&G event where she was shown a demonstration of the packet. She said that during the event the attendees were taken to a beautiful piece of land with a murky brown reservoir of water. “I wouldn’t have touched that water with a ten-foot pole,” she remembered. “So they opened the packet and I don’t remember exactly how long they had to do it but they just stirred with a big stick and after a period of time, the water was crystal clear. There was no debris. It was crystal clear and it looked like something you would see in a Brita filter. Just clear.”

Looking Towards the Future

Throughout the lifetime of the program, a total of 18 billion liters of water have been purified, with P&G planning on purifying billions more in the future.

Brittaney added that they geared the demonstration towards showing people how easy it is to change lives. “It made you feel that much better to know even if you could only give a little bit it’s making a huge impactful difference. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a millionaire, you can be just middle of the road and you can still help.”

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Developing Countries
Sanitation in developing countries is a very pressing issue. Globally, almost 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation and almost 1 billion of these people practice open defecation. Poor sanitation not only leads to the rapid spread of disease, but can also affect education and the environment.

Though improper sanitation affects both rural and urban communities, open defecation is more common in rural communities, often resulting from traditional beliefs or a lack of education.

While traditional beliefs are important, some beliefs can be damaging in terms of sanitation. For instance, some communities in Madagascar believe that using an outhouse can cause an expecting mother to lose her child. There is also a common belief that defecating in the ground is disrespectful to those who have died and been buried.

These myths create an environment where poor sanitation practices like open defecation are commonplace. Unfortunately, these practices can lead to contaminated food and water sources. Consuming contaminated food or water causes high rates of bacterial diarrhea, which is the second largest killer of children under the age of five in the world.

To fight the effects of beliefs that lead to poor sanitation in developing countries, education programs must be implemented. In fact, in addition to avoiding deaths due to diarrhea, communities benefit in multiple ways from hygiene and sanitation education.

According to the World Health Organization, when educated about the link between sanitation, hygiene, health and economic development, communities have a higher demand for improved sanitation facilities. Additionally, when children are not sick from consuming contaminated food or water, they are able to attend school more often and focus on their studies.

For children in developing countries, every moment of schooling can have a large impact. It has even been found that one additional year of schooling can increase a woman’s income potential by up to 20 percent in developing countries.

Yet in order for education effectively improve sanitation in developing countries, it must be implemented correctly. Education has the largest impact on children, and they can take hygiene practices home and show them to their family members. When children eventually grow up to be parents, they can raise their children with the hygiene practices instilled in them.

Education is even possible in illiterate communities. One organization offers sanitation education in the form of puppet shows.

Global sanitation has a lot of room for improvement, but by implementing simple yet effective hygiene and sanitation education programs, the world could take an important step forward in the fight against not only poor sanitation in developing countries, but global poverty as a whole as well.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

healthcare and income inequality
While Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, one of the main dialogues focuses on the disconnect between the rural poor and accessible healthcare. Though this is not uniquely an Ebola problem nor a West African one, the rural poor populations have exacerbated this epidemic.

Many rural Africans, particularly in regions of East Africa, are still treated by local healers, many of whom are not certified and perpetuate myths about illnesses. With these healers, who are affordable for many lower income families, improper health care treatments are provided. Thus healthcare and income inequality spur one another on in turn.

Without access to the more costly but effective doctors, illnesses like Ebola and HIV/AIDS run rampant due to misdiagnoses and improper courses of treatment. Even with hospital care, the cost of travel to medical centers (usually over long distances), compounded with the cost of treatment and prescriptions, is often too great for people to pay.

Instead of getting proper treatment, poor populations are forced to settle for secondary, substandard care. In the cases that they are able to get free assistance, the demand is often too great to be supported by rural clinics, which are often sporadic in nature.

Part of the problem of such pandemics is the inaccessibility of rural patients. Because of the lack of money these people have for travel to the cities, doctors are instead forced to go out into the rural regions and try and find the people affected with the disease. But because newcomers are unfamiliar, villagers meet the doctor at times with hesitancy and confusion.

With the increase in medical technology and quality healthcare, poverty still remains a barrier to access – for both sides. The inability to access and properly treat a large proportion of the infected public has caused epidemics to be much worse. In order to help prevent future outbreaks, global health officials are reevaluating how to prepare and eliminate the poverty barrier in future cases.

Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Reuters, Southern Times Africa
Photo: knowledge.allianz