Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently introduced an important piece of legislation that may drastically improve the opportunity for every person in the developing world to access to clean water, toilets, and better hygiene practices.

The Water for the World Act of 2013, introduced by these two congressmen, is a bill that is trying to ensure that the world’s abject poor receive the attention they need from the United States in the attempt to seek improvements in clean water access and hygiene. It is important to note that this act does not seek to create new agencies or programs, but to improve the efficiency of existing programs. The emphasis is not on higher dollar amounts, but more strategic approaches in trying to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Worldwide water sanitation holds important implications for those suffering in precarious conditions, as well as the global economy. The World Bank notes that water sanitation and hygiene programs are a great return on investment: For every $1 spent, $4 is returned in economic productivity, which contributes greatly to the world economy. If people do not have to worry about access to clean water, they can spend more time becoming educated, caring for their families, and contributing to both their economy and the worldwide economy. This would amount to over $220 billion being added to international trade each year.

Improvements in water sanitation, access, and hygiene that the Water for the World Act will try to effect will also significantly reduce transmissions of diseases such as pneumonia. Indirectly, rates of education will improve, as less people worldwide will suffer from malnutrition and diarrheal disease due to dirty water. As literacy rates increase, the rising middle class in developing countries will fight for more transparent and accountable governments. More responsible governance around the world is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, but it cannot ever be realized if world populations are without access to clean water and sanitation.

Global water, sanitation, and hygiene programs currently constitute less than 1% of the budget of the United States Agency for International Development. Due to the bipartisan leadership of Poe and Blumenauer, their act will place a greater focus on enhancing the capacity of the U.S. government to provide for the world’s poorest, a much needed shift in policy which will stretch this 1% to help more people around the world.

Rahul Shah

Sources: Huffington Post, WASH Advocates, USAid

Sadly, 40% of the world’s population lack access to basic latrines.

The lack of sanitation is a major world public health issue. Water contaminated by sewage can propagate lethal epidemic diseases such as cholera which develops in fecal secretions. Today, 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation facilities.

Without toilets, people must resort to relieving themselves in plastic bags, which they throw as far away from their home as they can; a phenomenon known as “flying toilets.” In some areas, flying toilets have become a a public health concern.

In slums especially the scarcity of toilets has become particularly worrisome. Dozens of people share the same toilet, and the poor maintenance and virtually nonexistent hygiene of these places makes people more than reluctant to go. Landlords are also not willing to build more facilities, preferring instead to build more houses and rooms that they can rent to earn an income.

Women and children are the most vulnerable to the lack of hygiene. According to Peepoople, “one child dies every 15 seconds due to contaminated water from human excreta.” Just as bad, the lack of privacy makes women prey to rape and sexual harassment, especially at night when they have to look for sanitation facilities. When adolescent girls have their period, they have to stay home from school because they cannot take care of their hygiene.

Peepoople, an organization aimed at providing millions of people with sanitation facilities in the respect of their dignity, has implemented an innovative solution to curb one of the world’s most serious problems. It has created the PeePoo.

The PeePoo is a bag that “contains five grams of urea, which breaks down waste into ammonia and carbonate,” thereby transforming potentially harmful waste into harmless fertilizer. Biodegradable and designed for the world’s poorest, PeePoo bags only cost $0.03 each.

In the Nairobi slums where Peepoople operates, an incredible micro-economy has emerged after the introduction of the PeePoo bags. For instance, the bags can be used as garden fertilizer, thereby fostering local agriculture and plantation, but they can also be returned to a collection point for a reimbursement of $0.01 per bag.

Seizing the opportunity, some have even made a living off the reimbursement fee. For instance, Mama Lucy, mother of three, told Al Jazeera, “I didn’t have a regular job before the Peepoos were introduced, but I saw an opportunity when people did not want to drop off the bags themselves. Now I do two rounds a day to pick Peepoos from people’s houses. On a good week I earn about a thousand shillings ($11).” Since the introduction of the PeePoo, the number of sexual crimes has also decreased in the Silanga village, according to Mika Mitoko, project manager at Peepoople.

Involving no investment or infrastructure, the PeePoo has proved that easy and cheap solutions can save millions of lives. To learn more about Peepoople, visit their website at:

Lauren Yeh

Sources: Peepoople, Al Jazeera


Nepal, a South Asian country nestled in the Himalayas between China and India, ranks low on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. With a population of more than 27 million, the number of Nepalese who live in multidimensional poverty is high — estimated at 44% by a report by the UNDP. However, with the dedication of the Nepal Government, steady progress has been made in development, and Nepal’s 2011 Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan recognizes the needs of not only adults and children, but also of people with physical disabilities.

The Master Plan addresses a key factor of development: sanitation and hygiene. It is estimated that the toilet coverage (access to a working toilet) in rural areas is only 37%; only one in three persons has access to a toilet. Even though in urban areas toilet coverage is approximately 78%, only 12% of urban households are actually connected to the systems or to drains. These systems are rarely designed for sewage treatment; instead they dispose waste into rivers. As a result, diarrhea and sanitation-related disease is high in Nepal, affecting not only adults but also children, whose growth and overall health are adversely affected.

The Master Plan addresses these sanitation concerns by focusing mainly on ending open defecation through promotion of toilet access and use in every household. Basic Sanitation Packages aim to teach children and adults alike about proper sanitation practices, and a key strategy to make this work is to emphasize it in school through the School Sanitation and Hygiene Education programs.

However, a significant part of sanitation and hygiene, and one that may not be openly visible, is accessibility for those with disabilities. Part of the Master Plan emphasizes the need for toilets that are easy to use by people of different ages, genders, and physical abilities. The features of the latter include handrails, ramps, space for a wheelchair, and proper support to use the toilet.

Not only is this a step forward for sanitation and hygiene, but it also represents a move away from the stigma that often accompanies disabilities. An IRIN news report showcased the change in quality of life for a Nepali woman who had to rely on her grandsons to help her before she had access to a toilet. “Now with a toilet I have independence and control over my own life,” she said.

Since the beginning of the Master Plan was implemented, seven of Nepal’s 75 districts have been declared Open Defecation-Free (ODF). The guidelines in order to be declared ODF specify that all households and public facility must have a toilet that is accessible to people of different abilities. By the end of this year UNICEF estimates that six more will join that number.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: IRIN News, World Bank Blog, WASH In Schools (UNICEF)

"Who Gives A Crap": A New Company Helping Sanitation Globally

 For 40 percent of the world, there is no need to stop and imagine what it is like without access to personal sanitary systems. There is a significant lack of running water and proper sewer systems, which leads to the spreading of diseases from fecal matter and other contamination. In an effort to combat this issue, Australian entrepreneur Simon Griffiths took the logical approach and went straight to the paper, literally.

Who Gives A Crap was started on a fundamentally different notion that charities and donations should not be an extra burden or request on consumers and the public. Instead, work with the purchases people already make and funnel those funds towards the cause.  “I realized we couldn’t simply ask people to give 15 times more, or have 15 times as many people on the street stopping people and asking them to support a cause,” Griffiths says. “We had to completely change the way that we funded social impact.”

Enter toilet paper, one of the most used necessities in the developed world. Through Who Gives A Crap, half the profits from the sale of its toilet papers go towards building toilets and improving sanitation systems around the world. In partnership with WaterAid, both organizations are also spending time in rural areas in developing countries helping people not only learn about the importance of hygiene and public facility maintenance. They are also helping communities use the available resources to build sustainable toilets.

The business model Griffiths has used for his company is similar to the one Ethos Water along with other companies use. It is a recognition that fundraising, donations, and charitable giving should not add to an individual’s finances but simply be a part of it. This way, not only will people be more willing to buy a brand whose proceeds go towards charity but organizations will not have to strain themselves trying to sell an unnecessary gift or perk to unenthusiastic donors.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.EXIST