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accessibility in IndiaAs of 2020, 50% of people in India had access to the internet, a figure growing most quickly in rural regions. In 2019, there were 264 million internet users in rural India compared to the 310 million internet users in urban India. The rapid growth of internet adoption outside of Indian cities can be accredited in part to the initiatives of the Digital India campaign, including efforts to integrate the country’s cloud infrastructure, promote open data platforms, fill connectivity gaps and offer affordable data plans. Overall, internet penetration rates across the country have more than doubled over the last five years. Through the use of technology and the internet, platforms have been created to increase resource, service and opportunity accessibility in India.

The Digital Revolution Increases Accessibility

In a country where 80% of the impoverished live in rural areas, widespread internet availability is vital. More than just a source of entertainment, the internet increases accessibility of products and services that otherwise might not be affordable or available. Recognizing the potential for digital technologies to cut across geographic and economic barriers, numerous private and public organizations have developed platforms designed to increase accessibility in India. Whether connecting buyers to faraway sellers or simply helping individuals locate public toilets, these innovative tech platforms champion access and promote inclusion in India.

Google Toilet Locator

In 2012, more Indian households had a cellphone than a toilet. A lack of access to toilets leads to rampant open defecation with consequences ranging from water pollution to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera. In a country where technology has grown faster than public services, the government turned to tech for assistance in its campaign to eradicate open defecation and improve waste management. In December 2016, India’s Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) partnered with Google to introduce a Google Maps toilet finder tool as part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission. As the government works to construct millions of toilets around the country, the Google Toilet Locator helps Indians to more easily find them. The app even allows users to leave ratings and reviews for public restrooms.

Tractors-as-a-Service

In September 2018, Aeris Communications partnered with Hello Tractor to launch “Tractors-as-a-Service” in India, The service provides on-demand tractor rentals to Indian farmers. In India, agriculture is an essential source of export earnings, employment and food. Tractors play a crucial role in increasing agricultural productivity but less than 30% of farmers utilize such expensive, high-capacity equipment. Hello Tractor’s software, which can be accessed through mobile and web applications, offers a “pay-as-you-use” model based on time in the field and area covered. The app enables small farmers to reap the benefits of commercial model tractors at lower costs while increasing the profits of tractor owners by allowing them to rent out their machines during idle times.

IndiaMART

IndiaMART is India’s largest online business-to-business marketplace, connecting buyers with suppliers of products and services ranging from pharmaceuticals to industrial machinery to wholesale foods. IndiaMART offers more than 67 million products and services to more than 100 million buyers. Importantly, the platform gives small and medium-sized enterprises in India a place to promote their business. There are about 60 million small and medium-sized businesses in India but only around 10 million of them have any web presence, according to the most recent data. IndiaMART allows these companies to expand their market reach and sell through the platform for a subscription fee.

A thriving e-commerce economy allows for goods and services to reach a consumer base that is less affluent and lives outside of traditional urban markets, thereby increasing market accessibility and enhancing the welfare of rural and lower-income populations.

Unified Payments Interface

In the financial sector, the National Payments Corporation of India developed the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), an instant real-time payment system regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. The platform allows users to access multiple bank accounts from even the most remote locations, routing funds and making payments under one seamless application. Digital finance platforms such as UPI are crucial in promoting financial inclusion and empowering individuals with tools such as loans and savings accounts.

Both private and public digital platforms have been deployed to increase accessibility in India and reach those who may otherwise be excluded from resources, services and opportunities.

Margot Seidel
Photo: Flickr

Telemedicine Clinics in GuatemalaNew telemedicine clinics in Guatemala are providing vital resources to women and children living in remote areas with limited access to healthcare specialists. This advancement in healthcare technology increases Guatemala’s healthcare accessibility and follows a trend of a worldwide increase in telemedicine services.

Guatemala’s New Telemedicine Clinics

Guatemala’s Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS), in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization, launched four new telemedicine clinics in Guatemala in December 2020.

The clinics were designed to improve accessibility to doctors and specialists for citizens living in rural areas, where unstable or lengthy travel can deter patients from getting the care they need. Lack of staff is another barrier telemedicine hopes to overcome. Special attention will be given to issues of child malnutrition and maternal health.

The funding of the program was made possible through financial assistance from the Government of Sweden and the European Union. aimed at increasing healthcare access in rural areas across the world.

Guatemala’s State of Healthcare

Roughly 80% of Guatemala’s doctors are located within metropolitan areas, leaving scarce availability for those living in rural areas. Issues of nutrition and maternal healthcare are special targets for the new program due to the high rates of child malnutrition and maternal mortality in Guatemala.

Guatemala’s child malnutrition rates are some of the highest in all of Central America and disproportionately affect its indigenous communities. Throughout the country, 46.5% of children under 5 are stunted due to malnutrition.

Maternal death rates are high among women in Guatemala but the country has seen a slow and steady decline in maternal mortality over the last two decades. The most recently reported maternal death rate is 95 per 100,000 births.

Guatemala does have a promising antenatal care rate, with 86% of women receiving at least four antenatal care visits during their pregnancies. By increasing the access to doctors through telemedicine clinics, doctors can better diagnose issues arising during pregnancy and prepare for possible birth difficulties that could result in maternal death.

Guatemala’s COVID-19 rates have also impacted the ability of patients to seek healthcare. The threat of the virus makes it difficult for those traveling to seek medical treatment due to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Trends in Worldwide Telemedicine

The world has seen a rise of telemedicine clinics as the pandemic creates safety concerns regarding in-person visits with doctors. Doctors are now reaching rural communities that previously had little opportunity to access specialized medicine. Telemedicine is an important advancement toward accessible healthcare in rural areas. While the telemedicine clinics in Guatemala are limited in numbers, they set an important example of how technology can be utilized to adapt during a health crisis and reach patients in inaccessible areas.

June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

Affordable Housing In IndiaIndia is among the world’s poorest countries, with more than two-thirds of its residents living in extreme poverty. Recently, however, a changing economy centered around industrialization has prompted many rural residents to move to urban areas of the region. The interregional migration has led to an accumulation of slums and poor villages on the outskirts of cities. The problem prompts a powerful need for affordable housing in India. In recent years, new organizations have begun to answer this call with unique responses to alleviate the problem.

3 Ways India is Implementing Affordable Housing

  1. Big bank support for finances: One of the major banks leading this movement, the National Housing Bank of India, extends housing loans to low-income households. This allows for affordable housing at the lowest level while also expanding the Indian housing market. The bank’s project has positively impacted 15,000 households across 17 states in India, including households primarily managed by women. The expanded access to these loans is not the only aspect of this plan. Higher loans are also given out to poorer people to ensure that housing transactions are faster and more effective. These loans also help invest in important infrastructures like schools, temples and communal facilities.
  2. Government home-building initiatives: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has launched a “housing for all” campaign since his election. The urban focus of the plan pledges to build more than 12 million houses by the year 2022. Although only 3.2 million urban homes have come to fruition so far, more funding to continue the project is on the way. These efforts ensure that 40% of India’s population, now living in urban areas like Mumbai, has access to cheaper apartment buildings. The new housing spaces target a variety of people, including first-time buyers, older individuals and those aspiring to move to urban areas, a demographic that largely includes impoverished communities.
  3. Targeting traditional real estate developers: In addition to building affordable housing, the Indian Government is also taking steps to target real estate members who generally focus their efforts on higher-end living spaces. To combat this practice, the government gives more incentives for interest rates on middle-to-low class homes. Many major real estate companies only switched to marketing affordable housing (as late as 2018) after the introduction of these benefits. This trickle-down effect experienced in the real estate sector will in turn fuel the industry. In other words, it has a multiplied effect on India’s economy. The shift in the country’s housing market will make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

Affordable Housing Means Less Poverty

The combination of nongovernmental and governmental support in India is rapidly leading to positive changes in the country. The future of affordable housing in the region is on track to provide commodities to millions of people. With increased funding and more initiatives, India is a leading example of how affordable housing can raise standards of living and boost the economy, essentially alleviating poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in AngolaA whole 54% of Angola’s population of 30 million are multidimensionally poor or suffering from multiple deprivations in four categories: health, education, quality of life and employment. Angolan children under the age of 10 experience even more pronounced poverty and 90% of rural Angolan populations are multidimensionally poor. The overall poverty rate is 41% and the rural poverty rate at 57% is nearly double that of urban areas. Poverty in Angola is a significant issue especially within the context of the rural-urban divide.

The Rural-Urban Divide

In rural areas, Angolans are less likely to be employed and those who do work are mostly in subsistence agriculture. They also have fewer assets and cannot afford “luxuries” like attending school. Additionally, people in rural areas are more likely to be sick or to die early than those in urban settings.

In urban areas, 44% of households are employed and the majority of the rest are involved in informal economic roles like craftsmen, street vendors or informal shop owners. Despite access to employment, labor conditions are poor and incomes fluctuate. This means that people in rural areas are overall more destitute but they actually have a more predictable situation and at least have access to enough basic food and water to survive, while those in urban settings can experience periods of serious shortages.

Overall, poverty in Angola is multifaceted. In rural areas, it is materially severe but there are stronger safety nets in the form of access to land and agriculture. Urban poverty is less materially severe, with better access to employment and social goods, but people are more vulnerable to sudden shocks. The issue is not that only rural Angolans suffer from poverty but that the country at large is suffering and in need of a comprehensive plan to address all the different aspects of poverty in Angola.

World Vision International

World Vision has operated in Angola since 1989 to aid sustainable development in vulnerable areas, focusing on child protection, land ownership and health services. Overall, it has increased access to clean water for more than 50,000 Angolans and improved the health status of more than 1.5 million Angolan children and 25,000 Angolan mothers in rural areas, through increased access to health care and health education. World Vision helps approximately one million Angolans each year through its efforts at improving access to water and sanitation, strengthening civil society and social protection systems, improving educational access and aiding economic development through land ownership.

UNICEF

Larger NGOs like UNICEF have also addressed poverty in Angola. It has identified millions of people in need, especially children, and has looked to gather $15.8 million in funding to provide humanitarian assistance in the face of recent food insecurity, drought, malnutrition, economic insecurity, education issues and health crises in Angola. The organization’s goals for 2020 included screening almost 400,000 children for malnutrition, providing 150,000 children polio vaccines and providing access to primary education to 25,000 affected children. UNICEF is utilizing partnerships with Angolan government ministries, civil departments and national and international NGOs to accomplish these main goals and others, including hygiene education, increasing overall healthcare aid as well as protecting women and children.

The Road Ahead

Poverty has struck millions of people in Angola and it affects rural and urban Angolans in different ways. Despite the complexity of poverty in Angola, organizations like UNICEF and World Vision have stepped up to alleviate the pressure on Angolan families and children. While the crisis is far from solved, efforts like these provide hope for people in Angola in the face of global and regional disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged drought and low crop yields.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in costa ricaDespite being one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of free education, no military and access to healthcare, there are still many people living in poverty in Costa Rica and the youngest people are oftentimes hit the hardest. More than 65% of poor Costa Ricans are under 35 years old and children under the age of 18 make up the largest group of the poor. Additionally, many of the children who are impacted by child poverty in Costa Rica are indigenous. When it comes to children, issues include child labor, child mortality and disparities in education.

Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

  1. Primary school in Costa Rica is free and mandatory and many children have access to the education system. However, many children who come from poor families or rural areas miss out on education because they work to provide for their families. About 8% of children in Costa Rica are not educated and 9% of children from the ages of 5 to 14 are economically active as their families depend on the money their children generate. As a country that is a major producer of coffee, work and harvesting is a priority in Costa Rica. In fact, during the coffee bean harvest, the teachers and students in poor regions in Costa Rica go to the farms to work in order to afford school supplies.

  2. Costa Rica has a large number of child trafficking victims. About 36,000 children in Costa Rica are orphans and due to the lack of or dysfunction in their family structures, many of these children are at risk of exploitation, drug abuse and gang violence.

  3. Although Costa Rica has the longest life expectancy in Latin America and an effective health care system, there are still issues regarding child mortality. Roughly, 10% of children in Costa Rica die before reaching the age of 5. These are often the children who are born into families living below the poverty line, indigenous families or rural families.

  4. Violence against children in Costa Rica is a concern. In fact, there were over 700 sexual violence cases in 2009, though it is estimated that much more went unreported. The physical and psychological abuse and violence that children endure has serious consequences for their development and health.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages initially started with a commitment to caring for orphaned or abandoned children throughout the world. There are SOS Children’s Villages in three cities in Costa Rica: San José, Limón and Cartago. SOS Children’s Villages aim to address child poverty in Costa Rica. The organization provides Costa Rican children with day-care, education, medical services and vocational training, sports facilities and playgrounds. Children whose parents cannot take care of them are often taken in. The organization has a comprehensive approach: preventing child abandonment, offering long-term care for children in need and empowering young people with the resources to reach their full potential.

The organization’s YouthCan! program trains adolescents to enhance their skills and competencies in order to achieve employment. In Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people were unemployed in 2016, the youth development program lasts for three to 12 months. The program consists of life skills training, employability training and helping the youth find jobs and further training opportunities.

Through organizations like the SOS Children’s Villages, child poverty in Costa Rica can be successfully alleviated.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

WASH advancements in IndiaWater, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is a public issue in India. Launched in 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SMB) of India has seen great success in recent years in improving the health and sanitation of India’s people. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has aided in the mission, helping to educate and institute new technologies, such as Sunidhi toilets. Aided by UNICEF, additional initiatives like the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) and the implementation of WASH in schools and health facilities are contributing to the reduction of harmful and unsanitary practices. There have been several key WASH advancements in India.

6  Facts About WASH Advancements in India

  1. Urban Centers Bear the Brunt. Nationally, 910 million citizens do not have access to proper sanitation. With the rapid increase in population density in cities, there is an increasing strain on water and sanitation services. Despite urban centers housing the majority of India’s population, urban sanitation has been underfunded.
  2. Swachh Bharat’s Toilet Access and Job Creation. SMB’s primary objective is to reduce open defecation in India. Between 2018 to 2019, 93% of households had access to toilets, a noticeable jump from 77% in the previous year. SMB’s efforts have also seen economic benefits, including an increase in job opportunities. The construction of the sanitation infrastructure is responsible for employing over two million full-time workers. The creation of an additional two million jobs is expected in the coming years.
  3. Water in Rural Communities. Between 2017 to 2018, India’s national water mission expanded to become the National Rural Drinking Water Mission (NRDWM). While other programs and departments addressed sanitation in urban centers, NRDWM cares for the rural regions of India. One goal is the institution of piped water supplies to rural households. As of 2019, “18% of rural households had been provided with Piped Water Supply (PWS) household connections.”
  4. iJal Safe Water Stations. The Safe Water Network, a nonprofit organization created by Paul Newman, has reached communities through its iJal water stations. The locally owned stations provide access to clean, quality water in communities where water security is scarce. In 2019, 86 new stations were built, with a total of 319 stations built, reaching over a million people across 319 communities.
  5. Better Community Toilets. Improper sewer networks and poorly maintained public toilets lead to open defecation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sought solutions to this crisis, including the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011. The lack of safe public toilets is especially burdening on women. To address this concern, the WASH Institute leads the Sunidhi Toilet project. The project sees the construction of easily installable, self-cleaning public toilets.
  6. WASH Allies. USAID and UNICEF have worked in cooperation with the Government of India. As of September 2020, USAID reported recent achievements, including greater access to safe drinking water,  more household toilets and a decrease in public defecation. UNICEF has aided in the education and implementation of hygiene, particularly in schools and health facilities.

Recent years have seen several WASH advancements in India. The Indian government, large and small businesses as well as nonprofit organizations, are all playing an important part in ensuring access to safe water and sanitation. Education and creative solutions are made possible thanks to hard work and global cooperation.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

STEM Education Can Reduce povertyEducation has long been proven as a tool for poverty reduction. In fact, UNESCO estimates that if all people in low-income countries had basic reading skills, an estimated 171 million people could escape poverty. Education allows for upward socioeconomic mobility for those in poverty by providing access to more skilled, higher-paying jobs. In particular, STEM education can reduce poverty.

STEM Education

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Because of the shifting focus toward STEM in the job market, millions of STEM jobs are opening up in developing countries. However, many go unfilled because of gaps in the STEM education pipeline. These jobs could be the key to helping the poor to improve their standards of living, but those in poverty often lack the education necessary for these jobs, such as in rural China.

Education Disparities in China

Education in China is becoming more accessible and comprehensive. Since the 1980s, the adult literacy rate has risen from 65% to 96% and the rate of high school graduates seeking higher education has risen from 20% to 60%. However, these gains are not equal across the country. Rural students in China have often been left behind in the education reform movement. More than 70% of urban students attend college while less than 5% of rural students do, partly because urban residents make about three times more than rural residents. Another reason has to do with parental support; a researcher at the University of Oslo found that over 95% of urban parents wanted their children to attend college, while under 60% of rural parents wanted the same.

Rural students also receive lower-quality education than urban students. Despite China’s Compulsory Education Law in 1986, rural schools often lack the ability to put the proposed reforms in place because they do not have the educational resources. Teachers are scarcer in village schools as most qualified professionals flock to the urban areas where there is a higher standard of living and higher pay. As a result, fewer rural students get into top colleges and therefore lose out on opportunities for advancement.

Generational Poverty and the Effect of STEM

Generational poverty refers to families that have spent two or more generations in poverty. This is especially common in rural areas where parents have a harder time generating the necessary income for their children’s education, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty when the children grow up. In rural China, about 5.1 million people live in the throes of generational poverty. This is due to a number of factors but a major one is lack of educational opportunities in the rural provinces.

STEM education can reduce poverty by helping children in rural provinces break the cycle of generational poverty. Since 2016, 248 high schools in poor areas have tuned into live lessons hosted by one of the top high schools in China, giving poor students the ability to receive the same education as their upper-middle-class peers. As a result, 88 of the participating rural students were admitted into China’s top two universities — universities that are estimated to have a rural population of only 1%.

Organizations for STEM Education

Some groups are working to bring STEM education to even younger students. In 2019, Lenovo, a technology company started in China, donated 652 sets of scientific toolboxes to primary schools in Huangzhong County, Qinghai Province, an area that is over 90% agrarian. The toolboxes contained materials that helped children perform science experiments and solved the problem of the lack of equipment in rural schools. Each toolbox, spread over 122 schools, helped 12 children at once and was reusable. In total, it enabled about 43,903 primary and secondary school students to become more scientifically literate and will prepare them better for future education and employment.

The Green & Shine Foundation is also helping teachers better instruct their students. It trains rural teachers in teaching necessary STEM skills to help lay the foundation for more STEM education later in their students’ lives. It also helps to develop curriculums and hold exchange programs with STEM schools so that rural teachers can observe and discuss new teaching methods. These efforts have helped 1,411,292 rural teachers and students across China.

STEM for Ending Generational Poverty

China has made strides in alleviating poverty, reducing its poverty rate every year since implementing major reforms. The Chinese government needs to prioritize investment in STEM education in rural provinces to close the education gap between rural and urban students and help bring an end to generational poverty. STEM education can reduce poverty globally.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous PovertyGuatemala is one of Latin America’s most unequal countries, with an indigenous population that has been especially impacted by COVID-19. Indigenous groups make up more than 40% of Guatemala’s population, which equates to more than 6.5 million people. Poverty rates average 79% among indigenous groups, with 35% suffering from food insecurity.

COVID-19 Exacerbates Indigenous Poverty in Guatemala

COVID-19 has only exacerbated the suffering of indigenous Guatemalans. Not only have indigenous families been pushed further into poverty, but reports of gender-based and intrafamily violence, murders and child pregnancies have also increased during Guatemala’s stay-at-home orders, which were intended to control the spread of COVID-19. The only exception to note is that there has been a drop in violent crime since lockdowns were imposed.

Child labor rates have increased, which is a concern since a child’s education is their channel to achieve social mobility and is key to reducing poverty. At the start of the lockdown, remote learning was promoted. However, less than 30% of Guatemala’s population has internet access. Only 21% of the population has access to a computer. In effect, COVID-19 is widening the economic gap between the indigenous population and those in urban Guatemala.

OCHA, the United Nations emergency aid coordination body, reported in April 2020 that seasonal hunger rates have worsened in eastern Guatemala due to lockdown measures. Compared to a year ago, health ministry figures point out that acute malnutrition cases in the department of Chiquimula increased by roughly 56%.

Oxfam Assists Guatemala

Oxfam, a confederation working to alleviate global poverty, has been on the ground in Guatemala, delivering food, sanitary and medical products, particularly to Guatemala’s indigenous communities.  However, Oxfam is working a little differently than in the past due to COVID-19 measures. Instead of risking the spread of the virus by sending outside people in, Oxfam is employing local Guatemalans by transferring credit to their phones and having them collect and distribute two months’ worth of necessary goods to those requiring assistance.

Insufficient Governmental Support

Guatemala’s government offers little help to relieve the effects of COVID-19 in its rural zones. In 2017, a study by the Guatemalan health ministry reported that the government spends fractions of its health budget in its rural zones compared to its wealthiest, urban cities.

The United States has increased its level of deportations under COVID-19-related regulations, leading Guatemala to trace 20% of its infections to those returnees. With the lack of governmental support and social safety nets, many poor Guatemalans are looking to flee the country.

Hopes for an Inclusive Society

Although the indigenous in Guatemala are creating their own solutions, using traditional knowledge and practices to contain COVID-19, the Guatemalan government must treat its indigenous population equally and include those who have been historically excluded by implementing strategies and operations to prevent and contain COVID-19 as well as alleviate its indigenous poverty rates overall.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Telehealth in IndiaIn 2017, around 60% of the population in India faced poverty, with around 1.3 million people living on less than $3.10 a day. India is one of the most populous countries, right behind China. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation, India was hard hit by the pandemic. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that with the economic halt in India, around 400 million people are at risk of falling into poverty. As people struggle with access to food and healthcare services, digital and technological resources are being  implemented to reach those most at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the use of telehealth in India.

Telehealth in India

Telehealth in India has had a substantial impact on communities. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the Indian government initiated telemedicine to help healthcare professionals reach everyone in need, even those living along the lines of poverty and those in rural locations. Telehealth in India gives the poor a chance to receive adequate healthcare without an in-person visit, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. India has made great strides in improving technological resources in the country. With these resources being improved, telemedicine can bring specialized care to even the most remote places in India.

There have been recent technological advances within India, such as the proliferation of fiber optic cables and the licensing of private internet service providers. These new technological advances have encouraged the Indian Space Research Organization to set up an exclusive satellite called HealthSAT that can bring telemedicine to the poor on a larger scale.

Telemedicine Systems

A telemedicine system in a small health center consists of a computer with custom medical software connected to essential medical diagnostic tools. Through the computer, digitized versions of patients’ medical images and diagnostic details are dispatched to specialist doctors through the satellite-based communication link. The information is received and examined to diagnose and suggest appropriate treatment through video-conferencing. With all of these services being offered, reaching the poor in the most remote places has become more of a possibility.

The Impact of Telehealth

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about negative effects for India, it has also compelled India to utilize more digital and technological resources to expand its reach. Telehealth in India has brought some relief to overburdened healthcare systems, relieving the pressures of increased caseloads due to the pandemic. Medical centers now have the ability and capacity to reach long-distance patients. The Indian government issued the Telemedicine Practice Guidelines in March 2020, allowing for registered medical practitioners to provide healthcare services using telecommunication and digital technologies.

The Future of Telehealth in India

Telehealth in India is bringing about new growth within the medical arena. The prolonged pandemic and the absence of a vaccine means telemedicine and telehealth services are integral and will be useful for the foreseeable future. Not only will the middle-class and the wealthy have access to healthcare but healthcare services will also be able to reach the poor in the most remote places.

– Kendra Anderson
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Kazakhstan
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is critical for health and quality of life. As the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence in 1991, much of Kazakhstan’s population still faces the aftermath of the Soviet rule. Poor living conditions and limited access to water in rural populations worsened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. With structural elements of the state completely dismantled, the country faced shortages of basic goods and services, especially water. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kazakhstan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kazakhstan

  1. Over half of the global population (4.2 billion people) lack safe sanitation. 2 out of 5 people in the world (3 billion people) lack basic hand washing facilities. In many parts of the world like Kazakhstan that have experienced recent economic, social or political turmoil, the ability to obtain safe and accessible water is a serious issue.
  2. Less than 30% of the Kazakhstan population has access to safe water and sanitation. About 50% of the population uses drinking water that does not meet the international standards of salinity, hardness and bacteriological standards.
  3. Before 1990, the rural water supply network in Kazakhstan included 54 major pipelines, bringing water to 3 million people in rural and urban areas. Additionally, 16.2 million livestock in 97.5 million hectares of irrigated land were supplied with water. Currently, the quality of nearly all Kazakhstan’s water bodies are unsatisfactory. Nearly 16 % of water tests taken from different water bodies showed sub-standard water quality across the country.
  4. Water scarcity and poor water quality are more prevalent in rural areas, where declining water supply networks and high pollution levels are common. In 2001, 17.3% of the rural Kazakhstan population had access to cold water on tap from the piped system, and 2.8% had access to hot water on tap. Many rural communities are still suffering from dilapidated Soviet-era plumbing projects, but even the functioning plumbing still carries water heavy with bacteria.
  5. According to the UNDP, the distribution of surface and groundwater in Kazakhstan is uneven. Central Kazakhstan has access to only 3% of the country’s water. While the Kazakhstani urban population is covered 90% by piped water, only 28% of the rural people have access to piped water. Around 20% of the rural population in Kazakhstan has the same level of piped water coverage as Sub-Saharan Africa.
  6. No significant changes in patterns of access to piped water have been noted in recent studies from 2001 to 2010. Access to piped water in Kazakhstan’s rural areas remains approximately 29%. These conditions may be surprising, given the massive governmental drinking water program launched from 2002 to 2010, aiming to increase rural access to piped water systems.
  7. Sanitation in rural areas also remains inadequate. In terms of bathroom facilities, 92.2% of the rural population has toilets outside the home, 7.5% inside the home and 0.3% do not have access to toilets at all. Previous UNDP studies show that only 2.8% of rural houses are connected to the sewage system.
  8. Water access affects a majority of those living in rural areas. Only 36% of the rural population has access to a centralized water supply. 57.3% use groundwater through wells and boreholes. Furthermore, 2.6% of the population use water from surface sources and 4% drink delivered water.
  9. Even in houses with connections to water supplies, 53% of people make sure to boil the water. The number climbs to 56% in areas where people have an intermittent supply or suffer from gastroenteritis. Such poor water quality can largely be explained by wastewater dumping, irregularities in wastewater disinfecting and the poor condition of sewerage equipment.
  10. One region where a lack of access to clean drinking water presents serious health problems is Kyrgyzstan. There, each official records 30,000 acute intestinal infections with 24% related to parasites. Up to 86% of typhoid cases occur in villages that lack safe drinking water.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require nations to ensure sufficient sanitation and access to safe water. To improve sanitation in Kazakhstan, rural areas will need much stronger attention, as past efforts neglected and overlooked these areas, to comply with UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

From 2010 to 2013, the UNDP provided $1.5 billion to the Kazakhstan government for water management. The money was meant for the Kazakhstan government to invest in water management, pollution reduction and efficient use of water resources. Additionally, the European Union has also been sharing its experience and policies with Kazakhstan.

Moving forward, it is critical that national drinking water programs are based on surveys of existing water and sanitation services. In order to be successful, these programs must take into special consideration the needs of rural villages.

Danielle Straus
Photo: Flickr