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Access to Clean Water
Around 844 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. The lack of access to clean water affects all aspects of life from drinking to agriculture and hygiene. Furthermore, the lack of clean water perpetuates gender inequality and traps communities in poverty. However, the world has made significant progress. Between 1990 and 2015, the percent of the world’s population with access to clean water rose from 76 percent to 91 percent. That means that millions of people have felt the benefits. Here are six ways that access to clean water changes lives.

6 Ways Clean Water Changes Lives

  1. Improved Sanitation: Around 2.4 billion people worldwide do not have access to toilets or basic sanitation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, just 24 percent of people in rural areas have access to a modern toilet. With no running water, villagers must go out into isolated fields in order to find privacy, leaving women and girls especially at risk of attack. A lack of bathrooms also means that girls often miss school while they are menstruating. When communities gain access to improved sanitation systems, quality of life improves, women and girls are safer and girls are more likely to go to school consistently.
  2. Improved Health: Currently, 80 percent of illnesses in developing nations are related to contaminated water and poor sanitation. This particularly affects children due to their weak immune systems. One-fifth of all deaths which occur under the age of 5 are from water-borne illnesses. When children are sick, they cannot go to school and often another family member has to miss work to take care of them. When people are healthy, children can go to school and adults can have steady employment, leading to continued economic development. The elimination of deaths from water-related illnesses alone would lead to an added $18.5 billion in economic gains for affected countries. Families also save money on health care costs with the elimination of water-borne illnesses.
  3. Increased Gender Equality: Eighty percent of the time, women and girls are responsible for collecting water when it is not available at home. Worldwide, women collectively spend 200 million hours daily collecting water, sometimes walking six kilometers a day. This means they have little time to work, go to school and take care of their families. The long walks also leave women vulnerable to assault and rape. Additionally, the long journey and heavy loads can be dangerous for pregnant women. Access to clean water at home increases the educational and economic opportunities available to women and girls. With increased water access, women could have time to work or even start small businesses. Additionally, girls could go to school, which would have a life-long impact. In fact, for every year a girl spends in school, she increases her anticipated income as an adult by 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Education: Walking to fetch water can take hours every day. Children, particularly girls, are often responsible for doing it. Access to clean water changes lives because when children no longer have to spend most of their day fetching water, they are free to go to school. Drinking dirty water can also cause students to fall behind in their studies as they deal with the symptoms of water-borne illnesses. Education generally becomes a low priority as people struggle to survive. With clean water at home, children can stay in school and build better futures for themselves.
  5. Food Security: Without clean water, it is difficult to grow crops and prepare food. While one might think of water mostly as something to drink, worldwide, people use 70 percent of water resources in agriculture. Eighty-four percent of people who are without modern water systems also live in rural areas, where many rely on subsistence agriculture. Improvements in water management lead to increased agricultural production and allow community members to start small gardens to grow food to eat or sell.
  6. Escaping Poverty: When people no longer have to spend a significant portion of their days fetching water, children have time to go to school and adults can work and learn trades. When people no longer get sick from water-borne illnesses, they can go to school and work uninterrupted. Clean water also allows people to grow more food and practice better sanitation. Access to clean water has a proven position impact on development. The World Health Organization estimates that every dollar that people invest in water and sanitation brings an economic return of between $3 and $34. The U.N. estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours a year retrieving water. In fact, the world loses $260 billion of potential income each year due to a need to find water.

Many groups succeded in bringing clean water to communities and showing how access to clean water changes lives. For instance, Water.org helped more than 21 million people gain access to clean water through small loans. Millions worldwide spend more than 20 percent of their income on water, as a lack of clean water at home means they must go to a water merchant or pay exorbitant rates to have someone install plumbing. Giving people small loans allows them to quickly pay for plumbing, which eliminates costs in the future.

The Water Project addresses the water crisis by directly donating clean water sources. This organization builds and repairs wells, installs rain catchment tanks and constructs sand dams to improve irrigation. So far, the Water Project has helped close to 500,000 people gain access to clean water for drinking and agriculture.

The World Bank, UNICEF and the World Health Organization determined that providing basic water and sanitation infrastructure to those that need them would cost $28.4 billion a year for 15 years. Right now, the U.S. spends around $600 million on the military each year. A readjustment of federal priorities, taking into account the ripple effects which clean water has on communities, could make a drastic difference for the world’s poor.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

The beautiful Caribbean isle of Saint Lucia is known for its natural amenities: a lush interior rainforest, volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and coastal reefs. More than 1.2 million tourists flocked to the tiny island in 2018 alone. Despite the country’s up-and-coming image as a sunny vacation spot, there are far more nuances to the daily lives of native Saint Lucians. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

  1. Tourism – Around 65 percent of Saint Lucia’s GDP is generated through tourism. The foreign-dependent nature of the tourism industry proved troubling for Saint Lucians, especially when the 2008 global financial crisis spurred a reduction of commercial flights to the island. However, recently the country began a new effort to boost cruise and yachting tourism through dock expansions and marketing campaigns. The total number of visitors increased by 10.2 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone.

  2. Education – According to UNICEF’s most recent data, Saint Lucia has a primary education gross enrollment rate of around 93 percent of children. The country’s secondary education enrollment rate is around 85 percent. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the country became a partner of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2016. The GPE is helping Saint Lucia strengthen its education system. The group has already disbursed more than $1.6 million dollars for teacher development, curriculum standardization and learning assessments.

  3. Hurricane Risk – Saint Lucia sits on the southeastern side of the Caribbean. That means it generally fares well during severe weather seasons because storms strengthen as they move northwards. For example, during Hurricane Maria in 2017, Saint Lucia only suffered minor road damage. Many neighboring islands, especially those to the north, faced complete devastation. However, the Saint Lucian economy does rely significantly on agricultural exports, which are often damaged in severe weather. For example, tropical storm Kirk damaged more than 80 percent of the island’s banana industry.

  4. Banana Industry – Saint Lucia’s agricultural industry employs over 20 percent of the island’s workforce. Bananas are the main export crop. Black Sigatoka Disease is also a serious concern. This disease damages the leaves of banana trees, rendering them unable to grow healthy fruit. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is one organization that reached out to Saint Lucians, as well as other Caribbean nations, to provide expert support. The FAO holds training sessions in the management of the disease, including proper selection and administration of fungicides.

  5. Crime – Unfortunately, Saint Lucia’s homicide rates are notably high. In 2017, they peaked at nearly six times the global average (which is 6.2 per 100,000 people). The government of Saint Lucia recently released the county’s Medium Term Development Plan for 2019-2022. The plan established a goal of reducing serious crime by 45 percent. Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet shared that the country will strive to meet that goal by improving prisoner rehabilitation services, the court infrastructure and resources for investigators.

  6. Public Health – Saint Lucia is among the healthier of the Caribbean countries, with an average life expectancy of nearly 75 years. That said, the country does have several serious health care issues. According to a 2016 survey, 92.5 percent of Saint Lucians felt “deprivations related to health insurance coverage.” Additionally, there are only 0.11 physicians per 1,000 people living in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.3 health workers per 1,000 are necessary to cover primary healthcare needs. As a result, Saint Lucia is in need of change.

  7. Public Debt – Saint Lucia has a high level of public debt of 77 percent as of 2012. That is detrimentally high for a developing nation. The unemployment rate remains over 20 percent, as it has been since 2013. However, the recent spike in visitors to the island has encouraged Saint Lucians to capitalize on tourism. Industry officials expanded high-traffic port Pointe Seraphine to accommodate larger ships. The ministry of tourism also introduced new international marketing campaigns. The campaigns proved productive in the 10.2 percent visitor increase in 2018.

  8. Poverty – According to UNICEF, 25.1 percent of individuals and 18.7 percent of households live in poverty in Saint Lucia. This is largely due to the lack of diversity in the island’s domestic job market. Additionally, this is a result of an over-reliance on foreign markets. Economic expansion will be crucial in reducing poverty on the island and improving living conditions in Saint Lucia. Country officials are capitalizing on the increase of cruise and yachting tourism to create new jobs on the island.

  9. Sanitation – While some parts of Saint Lucia have relatively robust infrastructures, that is not the country-wide truth. There are several communities, largely in the north, that do not have access to electricity, potable water, flushable toilets or reliable roads. In 2015, the CIA World Factbook estimated that nearly 10 percent of Saint Lucians use unimproved sanitation systems. Consequently, there is a higher risk of preventable diseases. This is an example of poor living conditions in Saint Lucia.

  10. Erosion – The wearing away of mountains, hillsides and beaches is a dangerous problem for Saint Lucians. This is a result of particularly bad hurricanes, like with Hurricane Tomas in 2010. It is also due to poor agricultural practices, as erosion is a chief environmental concern on the island. Mudslides can ruin arable land, contaminate drinking supplies and shut down rural roads. Coastal erosion can damage houses and harm wildlife. Organizations like UNESCO promote better land management practices to mitigate these ill-effects.  The Saint Lucia National Trust also began a project in November 2016 to reduce coastal erosion through beach stabilization. The process is still ongoing.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia demonstrate how this island is more than just a scenic visitor spot. It is a complex country, balancing tourist growth and educational improvements with agricultural and infrastructural instabilities. With the right developmental strides, Saint Lucia can ensure the prosperity of all its citizens.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in India

Period poverty is often described as a lack of access to menstrual education and sanitary products. With 800 million women and girls menstruating daily, this is a subject that concerns half the population around the world. However, the issue is particularly prevalent in India where only 42 percent of women have access to sanitary pads. What is being done to alleviate this common problem? Here are the top five facts about period poverty in India.

Top Five Facts About Period Poverty in India

  1. Increased risk of disease: In India, an estimated 70 percent of all reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Women often use dirty rags as a replacement for sanitary pads. Even rags that are cleaned can still develop bacteria if not dried properly. Furthermore, 63 million adolescent girls in India, do not have access to a toilet in their homes. Without a clean and private space to change menstrual products, girls are less likely to properly manage their own hygiene
  2. Cultural stereotypes have a huge impact: Menstruation in India is often seen as a shameful conversation. Studies estimate that 71 percent of girls have no knowledge about menstrual health until after their first period. Women are often described as “dirty” while menstruating and are commonly separated in the home when dining, praying or participating in other activities. Some studies suggest that this is due to gender norms that become more prevalent at puberty. In addition, there is no required curriculum surrounding menstrual health in school.
  3. The high cost of sanitation facilities: Third on the list for the top five facts about period poverty in India is the expense of menstrual products. Approximately 70.62 million people in India live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 dollars per day. The average Indian woman needs 300 rupees ($4.20) per month for menstrual products. For low-income households, the cost of sanitary pads is often unattainable. Furthermore, Since most adolescents do not have access to toilets at home, girls are more likely to pay for restrooms in public, which is another unaffordable expense.
  4. Period poverty in India affects education: On average, girls miss six days of class each month due to shame surrounding their periods or a lack of sanitary products. This contributes to the number of girls in India who drop out of school each year, around 23 percent. Girls that leave school are stunted in their careers and are more likely to become child brides. India has the highest number of child brides in the world, with 15.5 million children being married by the age of 18.
  5. Removal of taxes: While some parts of period poverty seem daunting, other parts seem hopeful. In 2017, the Indian government labeled menstrual products as luxury goods. Quickly after the announcement of the new tax, the public gathered to campaign against it. In July of 2018, the government removed the tax, thus making sanitary products more accessible to low-income households.

Working to Improve Conditions

The good news doesn’t end with the removal of taxes. Many positive strides have been taken to address the issues of period poverty. Binti is one organization in India (as well as 11 other countries) aiming to minimize the issue. The nonprofit is fighting for menstrual equality through education, distribution of sanitary products and government advocacy. The World Bank and WASH partnered together to create Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness about the importance of sanitary products for women and girls around the world.

Documentaries have also aided in global education surrounding period poverty. For example, “Period. End of Sentence.” partnered with Action India (a nonprofit aiming to create gender equality) to create a documentary about the situation. The Netflix original was successful in fundraising enough money to install a vending machine of menstrual products in Hapur, India. It was also awarded an Oscar for “best documentary short film, gaining public recognition for its efforts.

Ultimately, when looking at the top five facts about period poverty in India, one can see it is a very prevalent issue. Menstrual inequality is often caused by shame around the conversation as well as the high cost of feminine products. This creates challenges in education and an increased risk of disease. However, many positive strides are being made, and governments are starting to see that this is a cause worth advocating for.

Anna Melnik

Photo: Flickr

11. Improving Girls' Education with Menstrual ProductsIn Kenya alone, one million girls drop out of school after they start their period for the first time, but ZanaAfrica is working towards improving girls’ education with menstrual products. The ZanaAfrica Foundation is working to help adolescent girls in Kenya to stay in school by providing sanitary pads and reproductive health education.

When young adolescent girls do not have access to sanitary pads, they are more likely to skip class while they are menstruating and eventually drop out of school altogether. Without sanitary pads, girls often resort to using unhygienic materials to cope with their periods, which makes them more susceptible to diseases.

A corresponding lack of reproductive health education makes girls more susceptible to unplanned pregnancies, forced early marriage or female circumcision. The combination of all these factors makes young adolescent girls more likely to drop out of school and fall into a cycle of poverty.

ZanaAfrica is supporting young adolescent girls in their education and their potential to participate fully in society. The Kenyan government is also improving girls’ education with menstrual products. In 2004, Kenya repealed the value-added tax on pads and tampons. Since 2011, the government has used $3 million of the annual federal budget to distribute free sanitary pads to low-income schools.

The government’s involvement, alongside ZanaAfrica, other NGOs and the media have also improved the societal stigma surrounding menstruation. Even the language people use to talk about sanitary pads has shifted in the past few years. Men used to refer to sanitary pads as “this thing that is used by women,” whereas now they are not afraid of the word “pad.”

The Kenyan Ministry of Health has been in the process of developing a national menstruation management policy. While progress is slow and serious questions about implementation hang in the balance, the government’s willing involvement is vital to improving girls’ education with menstrual products.

While the development of management policies is a great step, ZanaAfrica is making significant impacts in the lives of girls across Kenya. In 2016 alone, ZanaAfrica supplied 10,000 girls with sanitary pads, underwear and reproductive health education. Ninety-five percent of girls who participated in the program reported feeling better about their ability to manage their periods and stay in school. Of 400 participants, 100 of them moved to the top 10 percent of their class.

Improving girls’ education with menstrual products gives young adolescent girls the resources they need to manage their menstruation and understand the reproductive health, while they continue to have the opportunities at school to learn, grow and participate fully in society.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

waterless bathWorldwide, nearly 2.3 billion people lack access to basic sanitation and water services. A waterless bath created by a South African student has the potential to help alleviate this issue.

Inadequate access to clean water leads to devastating disease outbreaks like trachoma, which can lead to permanent blindness. The invention, called DryBath, is a waterless alternative to bathing that comes in the form of a cream and could help eliminate the threat of these water-borne diseases. By gaining the ability to bathe, people in poverty-stricken areas can drastically decrease the number of trachoma cases, which currently blind about 1.8 million people globally.

The South African student and inventor of DryBath, Ludwick Marishane of Limpopo, South Africa, created the alternative after a friend’s comment regarding bathing. Marishane eventually realized the potential for the waterless bath in developing areas. In his Ted Talk, Marishane elaborated on DryBath’s potential capabilities.

“Anyway, we realized that we could save 80 million liters of water on average each time they skipped a bath, and also we would save two hours a day for kids who are in rural areas, two hours more for school, two hours more for homework, two hours more to just be a kid,” Marishane said.

The effects of eliminating the need for bathing water has a wide array of positive results as Marishane mentioned. Not only does it decrease the risk of disease, but by removing the long walk for water that many children must embark on each day, DryBath allows children to spend more time on their education.

According to Business Insider, after Marishane’s first few marketing experiments, he realized that to reach people in developing areas, the waterless bath must be sold in smaller packets that cost about 50 cents per pack.

“One of the things we learned was that poor communities don’t buy products in bulk. They buy products on-demand,” Marishane said during his Ted Talk. “A person in Alex doesn’t buy a box of cigarettes. They buy one cigarette each day, even though it’s more expensive.”

With limited internet access, Marishane used his Nokia cell phone to research and write a 40-page business plan for his invention. The young entrepreneur was able to successfully create a product that made real progress to health in developing nations. While his initial intention was not so, he realized the potential and worked to develop the waterless bath.

“After seeing that global impact, we narrowed it down to our key value proposition, which was cleanliness and convenience. DryBath is a rich man’s convenience and a poor man’s lifesaver,” Marishane said.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr