Sanitation in Africa

According to, “One flush of your toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day’s washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking.” This is the case in the second largest continent on Earth: Africa. It is home to bountiful wildlife, hot sun, and cultural life; but unfortunately, clean water and sanitation are not as boundless of a commodity. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Africa to explain the depth of the issue.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Africa

  1. One of the starkest of the 10 facts about sanitation in Africa is just how widespread the problem is. Of the 54 countries in Africa, 16 have less than 25 percent sanitation coverage. While statistics vary depending on the country, the bottom line is that it isn’t an isolated issue. Nearly 45 percent of all people in Africa will face unclean sanitation conditions in their life.
  2. Not only is this an uncomfortable way of life, poor sanitation is a key cause in many of the prevalent diseases in Africa. Diarrhea, cholera, dysentery and typhoid are all transmitted by unclean water and account for a large majority of infant deaths. More than 315,000 children in Africa die annually from diarrheal diseases that result from a lack of sanitation. Providing clean water and proper sanitation could reduce diarrhea by 15 to 20 percent.
  3. A lack of clean drinking water causes more than disease. Multiple problems like swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and comas are extreme results of continuous dehydration. Additionally, daily life becomes much harder to live when basic needs like hydration are not first fulfilled. It’s hard to think and perform at your best when you are constantly thirsty.
  4. When water is available in most rural African villages, it is often in far away locations. This leaves children and women forced to walk many miles a day in order to access water. The United Nations estimates that Africa loses nearly 40 billion hours per year due to collecting water- roughly equivalent to a whole year of labor from France’s entire workforce. This is time that could be dedicated to education or pursuing careers if enough clean water was easily accessible for all.
  5. Most of Africa has yet to see a strong private sector develop for water and sanitation. Having a sturdy and ethical private sector would lead to a growth in affordable sanitation services for many people.
  6. Many issues with poor sanitation lie in the age-old cultural practices common in rural regions of Africa. Open defecation is one of the biggest of these. Though this is largely because of a lack of toilets and waste management systems, even when these systems are put into place, people’s beliefs must change with the infrastructure. Proper education and awareness is necessary to overcome sanitation habits ingrained in many people’s daily routine.
  7. Ultimately, governments of each individual African country must prioritize providing clean water and sanitation to their population for largescale progress to be made. It is encouraging to note that South Africa has made this a high priority goal and has already seen an improvement of 62 percent to 82 percent of households gaining access to improved sanitation.
  8. Having a lack of clean water makes life physically unbearable. Finding clean water takes precious time of out people’s lives. Drinking unclean water causes diseases and more physical discomfort. As a result, poverty in areas of poor sanitation remains stubborn. People cannot escape the vicious cycle of poverty without first having their basic needs met. Only when clean water becomes freely available can people in these places of Africa have enough time, energy and health to pursue a poverty-free future.
  9. One of the greatest bright spots in 10 facts about sanitation in Africa is the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Created by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge asks innovators to create affordable solutions to poor sanitation in developing countries. As a result, 20 different engineering companies created low-cost and sanitary toilets. These projects still need work being implemented on a large scale, but nevertheless they offer hugely promising results for our future world.
  10. Along with this hopeful initiative, other improvements to sanitation in Africa have been made. Open defecation has dropped from 32 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2006. Additionally, between the years of 1990 and 2006, 146 million people in Africa gained access to sanitation. Finally, in 2006, 354 million of the 1.2 billion people in Africa used an improved sanitation facility.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bangladesh
Bangladesh, a small South Asian country located to the right of India, is known for its lush greenery and extensive waterways. Home to one of the longest continuous beach on the planet and the world’s only mangrove forest, the country is characterized by its natural beauty. However, with more than 1,100 people living in each square kilometer, the country faces unique challenges. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Bangladesh:

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bangladesh

  1. Nearly a quarter of Bangladeshi people are living below the national poverty line, according to 2015 World Bank data. That roughly works out to almost 41 million people. In addition, according to the Food Security Portal, “Bangladesh’s high poverty and undernutrition rates are exacerbated by frequent natural disasters and high population density.”
  2. The capital city of Dhaka is home to almost 9 million people. More than 2 million of these individuals either live in slums or are without any proper shelter.
  3. A dramatic influx of refugees from Myanmar means that people have no choice but to live in dangerous and over-crowded situations. According to the World Food Programme, “slopes in the camps are unstable and are at risk of collapsing during monsoon rains.” UNICEF estimates that 693,000 Rohingya (over half of whom are children) have been driven into Bangladesh since April 2018.
  4. Health care conditions and services are lacking. According to the World Health Organization, the number of hospital beds per 1,699 people is just four. Additionally, only 3 percent of Bangladesh’s entire GDP expenditure is allocated to health care.
  5. Though access to drinking water access is widespread, half of it fails to meet safety standards. In addition, the only city in the country that has a sewer system is Dhaka, and it only serves 18 percent of the city. According to the World Bank, in urban areas of Bangladesh, only about a third of the population has access to piped water.
  6. Roads suffer from extreme and frequent traffic jams due to the country’s incredibly high population density. According to Internations, “this makes driving in the cities very difficult and unpleasant due to issues with air pollution, dangerous driving and common road rage incidents.”
  7. Bangladesh has reduced its total fertility rate from 5 (children per woman) in 1966 to just 2.44 in 2016. A regional frontrunner, Bangladesh is on track to reach a total fertility rate of 2.1, the amount where, without migration, a country’s population is neither increasing or decreasing.
  8. The country is making strides in terms of development. The economy is growing which has led to improvements in primary education, gender equality, as well as improved rates of child and maternal mortality.
  9. Rates of open defecation have improved significantly. In 2015, just 1 percent of the population engaged in open defecation compared to 34 percent in 1990. Though the rate of growth is slow at only 1.1 percent annually, the current rate of improved sanitation is at 61 percent.
  10. Poverty and extreme poverty are declining, and currently stand at 31.5 and 17.6 percent respectively. Rates of poverty have almost halved since 1990, with 44.2 million people considered impoverished in 1991 and 24.1 million in 2015.

While continuing to deal with unique circumstances due to its high population density and geography, Bangladesh is making strides towards improving living conditions for its people. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Bangladesh only capture part of a diverse and developing country and indicate that, for the country’s people, the future is bright.

– Chelsey Crowne
Photo: Flickr

Waste as FuelIn countries with limited resources, there are many challenges associated with waste. This provides a unique opportunity for using waste as fuel.

A lack of proper sanitation is one of the leading issues plaguing urban areas leading to water contamination, disease and spread of infection. Toilets are in high demand and low supply: they generally use excess water and have to be connected to established sewage systems. According to the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 44 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa relies on shared or unimproved sanitation facilities and 26 percent practice open defecation.

Improved sanitation facilities are defined by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs as facilities that ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact. Open defecation is a leading cause of diarrhea which causes more than 750,000 deaths of children under five. Countries with improved sanitation prove that it is costlier to economies to avoid improving sanitation. Every $1 spent on sanitation in the United States brings a $5.50 return by preventing sanitation-related health concerns.

In addition to sanitation concerns, the International Energy Agency estimates that 2.5 billion people cook with charcoal from forests or agricultural waste as fuel. Burning coal to heat homes and cook food safely would require excellent ventilation to avoid respiration of the chemicals involved in burning charcoal. Air pollution from inefficiently burning charcoal can kill nearly 4.3 million people in a year. 82 percent of the energy in urban households of Kenya is provided by charcoal.

Sanivation, a company in Kenya, is now processing human waste into a renewable fuel source for local communities. It isn’t a new concept, however, it has proven to be an accomplishment in rural villages with limited resources.

A dairy farm in Pennsylvania has solved its waste issues by using livestock waste as fuel. The 700 cows produce 7,000 gallons of manure a day. The owner of Reinford Farms made the decision to employ a digester. A digester is a place underground that fosters microorganisms to break down the manure it contains. As the manure and food waste breaks down, the microorganisms produce a number of gases, the most plentiful being methane. The methane is sent to an engine that powers and heats the facilities of the farm.

Sanivation has taken advantage of similar processes to transform human waste into fuel. The company does not have 7,000 gallons of manure to burn like Reinford Farms and therefore relies on its own collection of waste. The company provides free toilets and installs them in homes, only charging a fee to collect the waste to be processed.

The processing of collected waste is done as follows.

  • Step One: Treatment
    The excrement is loaded into a large container. Using a solar concentrator, Sanivation applies heat to the waste to sanitize and remove harmful pathogens.
  • Step Two: Mixing
    The waste is checked for safety and combined with charcoal dust or sawdust in Sanivation’s agglomerator.
  • Step Three: Formation
    The mixture is cooled and dried into solid, highly flammable briquettes. These briquettes are then gathered for sale, making use of waste as fuel.

As environmental concerns remain at the forefront of global consciousness, companies like Sanivation are solving multiple issues with simple ideas. Sanivation provided a renewable energy source that improves health and sanitation while participating in the economy it serves. Research conducted by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health determined that the world’s collective waste could power up to 138 million households. Sanivation is looking to improve its processing methods in the future, ultimately processing up to 30 metric tons per month of waste as fuel.

Rebekah Korn

Photo: Pixabay

India-Most-Unsanitary-PlaceHow exactly did the country of India suffer from extremities relating to insanitary conditions? Since the beginning of this year, controversy has erupted over data analysis of an air pollution crisis so drastic that life expectancy has been reduced by an average of 3.2 years.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data report, India is the number one country in terms of having the most catastrophic levels of outdoor air pollution. This is an issue that has not been met with proper treatment. What’s more, 13 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are located in India.

For decades, the issue has reportedly derived from a culmination of treacherous chemical particles; “smog” is included among them as the leading pollutant. However, a 2014 BBC News report by Shannti Dinnoo argues that the issue of unsanitary conditions probably stems from cultural causes.

As noted in Dinnoo’s findings, open defecation is a socially accepted daily ritual. When children learn how to walk and talk for the first time, their parents also teach them how to defecate out in the open, and that doing so is acceptable.

The normalized practice most frequently happens among financially-deprived families: toilets are luxuries usually only available to wealthy people. However, as was unearthed in an accompanying BBC News reading, it was found that these people fail to properly sanitize their toilets.

Last year, UNICEF used the phenomenon of public defecation to structure a theory in which the organization correlated the insanitary issue with the prevalence of malnutrition, which alters growth and immunity in children under the age of five.

Children are not the only sufferers of the extreme consequences caused by the horrendous air and hygiene issue.

As documented in Dinnoo’s BBC report, outdoor defecation places women at risk, because they are more likely to be in a susceptible state of sexual assault. This is especially concerning when one considers the rapid rate of rape crimes within the country.

Additionally, the lack of sanitation has potentially inflicted adverse effects among pregnant Indian women, where premature births and low birth weight are more likely to occur.

At the time, with minimal assistance in aiding India’s pollution issue, various individuals have spoken out to produce public awareness in encouraging Indian governmental powers to sustain quality air control. Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy Rohini Pande, alongside University of Chicago collaborators, addressed the public a few months ago and strongly recommended the Indian government to enforce stricter regulations.

Other individuals stepping up to promote awareness include economist Michael Greenstone, who shared suggestions with Internet website on tactics India should follow, such as the proposal of an effective emission trading system alongside the idea of penalizing citizens who purposely pollute (a factor that is rarely enforced, let alone rarely considered).

On February 21, 2015, United States Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the launch of a program called AirNow. This would monitor foreign countries’s air quality, specifically that of India, to assist foreign service officers and U.S. military personnel by providing them with information about the air they’re breathing in efforts to “mitigate some of the harmful impacts,” according to The Indian Express.

Already, a small form of action has made a difference for children between the ages of 11 and 15. On July 7, 2015, The Indian Express revealed that UN efforts in alleviating India’s climatic disaster have reduced open defecation by 25 percent.

This reduction has been attributed to the enforcement of stricter regulations and federal emission standards. Overall, people hope to improve respiratory functions for adolescents and young teenagers because that general age is considered the “critical period” of vital lung development.

– Jeff Varner

Sources: The Indian Express 1, BBC News 1, The Indian Express 2, Harvard Kennedy School, VOX, The New York Times, BBC News 2
Photo: Global Press Journal