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Safe, Quality Drinking WaterOn May 24, 2019, thousands of residents from poor neighborhoods in Lima, Peru protested business litigation that has been obstructing their access to drinking water. The demand for safe drinking water, a necessity for any lifeform to thrive, is, unfortunately, a common obstacle in South America. Several countries struggle in providing this vital resource to its citizens, especially in rural areas with poorer communities. However, other countries are successfully paving a path to ensuring access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. Here are a few facts about safe drinking water throughout South America.

Access to Safe Drinking Water in South America

  • Peru: Thirty-one million people live in Peru, but 3 million don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 5 million people don’t have access to improved sanitation. While more than 90 percent of Peruvian residents have access to improved drinking water, in rural areas, access drops to below 70 percent. Likewise, urban areas offer sanitation facility access to 82.5 percent of the population, but barely over 50 percent of people in rural communities, highlighting the drastic disparity between socioeconomic and regional populations.
  • Brazil: Similarly, shortcomings in providing safe, quality drinking water exist in South America’s largest country, Brazil. With a population of 208 million, 5 million Brazilians lack access to safe drinking water, and 25 million people, more than 8 percent of the population, don’t have access to sanitation facilities. While 100 percent of the urban population has access to drinking water, in rural areas the percentage drops to 87. The numbers take another hit when it comes to access to sanitation facilities. Eighty-eight percent of the urban population has this access, but almost half of the people in rural populations lack proper sanitation facilities.
  • Argentina: A similar narrative occurs in Argentina, where urban populations might have decent access to safe, quality drinking water and sanitation facilities, but the numbers drop off concerning rural and lower socioeconomic communities which struggle in having their needs and demands addressed by the government. Typical causes for low-quality drinking water include pollution, urbanization and unsustainable forms of agriculture.
  • Uruguay: In stark contrast, Uruguay has available safe drinking water for 100 percent of urban populations, almost 94 percent in rural populations, over 96 percent for improved access to sanitation facilities for urban populations and almost 94 percent for rural populations. The World Bank participated in the success of transforming Uruguay’s access to drinking water, which suffered in the 1980s, by offering loans to the main utility provider. The World Bank and other developers financially assisted Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), the public utility that now provides drinking water to more than 98 percent of Uruguayans, in addition to providing more than half of the sanitation utilities in Uruguay. In addition to finances, these partners aid in ensuring quality operation standards such as upholding accountability, preventing unnecessary water loss, implementing new wastewater treatment plants in rural areas and protecting natural water sources such as the Santa Lucia river basin.
  • Bolivia: Like Uruguay, Bolivia made recent strides in improving access to safe, quality drinking water. They began by meeting the Millenium Development goal of cutting in half the number of people without access to improved drinking water by 2015. President Evo Morales, “a champion of access to water and sanitation as a human right,” leads to a path for the next step which is to achieve universal access to drinking water by 2020 and sanitation by 2025. Bolivia also recently invested $2.9 billion for drinking water access, irrigation systems and sanitation. In 2013, Morales addressed the United Nations calling for access to water and sanitation as a human right. Dedicated to his cause, he leads Bolivia in surpassing most other countries on the continent in ensuring these essential amenities to his constituents.

Unfortunately, the progress of Bolivia and Uruguay doesn’t transcend all borders within South America, as millions still feel neglected by their governments due to not having regular, affordable, safe, quality access to clean drinking water.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

polyglu
Over the course of the last 25 years, Somalia has suffered a series of devastating droughts. In the most recent one, spanning through 2016 and 2017 there was an absence of rain for three seasons in a row. This drought was particularly devastating in its effects: food scarcity, malnutrition, and the spread of cholera and other diseases.

In 2017 alone, approximately 1.2 million people were acutely malnourished, 80,000 children could no longer attend school and 120,000 children were at risk of dropping out. The crisis in Somalia highlights how the effects of drought and inaccessibility to safe drinking water affects all facets of society.

Access to Safe Drinking Water

Lack of access to safe water is a striking feature in almost all parts of Somalia. Only 45% of Somalis have access to improved water sources and this fact increases the risk of outbreaks of waterborne diseases. Cholera is endemic and claims hundreds of lives annually, particularly in densely populated areas. Increasing access to safe water must be accompanied by efforts to ensure the quality of drinking water. Water quality monitoring and house-water treatment, as well as safe storage, are critical in reducing the risk of contamination of water supplies.

Addressing the Problem

Fortunately, a solution is in sight. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Somalia is using a coagulant called Polyglu to treat drinking water in Somalia and to assist those affected by the recent drought. IOM helps to protect migrants, refugees and those displaced within their country.

From November 2016 to March 2017, over 600,000 people were displaced within Somalia. Many were forced to leave their homes and livelihoods behind in search of food and water. A startling 8,000 people are being displaced every day. Since safe drinking water is at the center of their displacement, Polyglu offers an effective and innovative solution that could help hundreds of thousands of people, in Somalia but in other countries as well.

About Polyglu

Polyglu is a powder, primarily composed of a coagulant made from fermented soybeans, which serves to quicken the clotting of impurities found in water. Polyglu is unique in that is a safe and environmentally friendly purifying agent that has been successfully applied in the food and industrial equipment industries.

One gram of the Polyglu powder is capable of treating up to five liters of polluted water, which makes this powder very effective. It has been successfully deployed in India, Bangladesh, Somalia and Tanzania. In collaboration with IOM and the Internally Displaced Person camps in Mogadishu Somalia has used Polyglu to address water-borne diseases and water scarcity. According to locals in Mogadishu, Polyglu has contributed to lowering the rate of diarrhea and other illnesses among Somali children plagued by all kinds of shortages and war.

Moving Forward

While Polyglu has made significant strides in combating water scarcity and water-borne disease in developing countries, much can still be done to ensure safe drinking water in these regions. Although Polyglu can remove many of the pollutants found in water, it cannot completely purify waste water. Thus, it is imperative to allocate more resources to affordable and accessible means of purifying water.

As droughts continue to plague developing countries, Polyglu is just one tool that can be used to ensure access to safe drinking water.

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

A large number of the issues regarding sanitation and water quality in Cote d’Ivoire can be attributed to the domestic conflict that ended in 2007. The conflict damaged crucial water supply infrastructure, especially in the north, and post-conflict reconstruction has overshadowed maintenance and repair of these systems. Over eight million people in Cote d’Ivoire lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, which increases the risk of water-related diseases. Over four million people lack access to safe drinking water. These numbers increase in rural areas, where 46 percent of the rural population lacks access to clean water and 87 percent lacks access to sufficient sanitation.

Here are five facts about water quality in Cote d’Ivoire:

  1. The crisis of water quality in Cote d’Ivoire is characterized by two key problems. First, many communities, especially rural ones, face difficulties not only accessing safe drinking water, but also accessing enough of it. Second, there are many difficulties in accessing sewage infrastructure and proper bathrooms, especially in urban areas. The issue is multi-faceted, and impacts both urban and rural communities in different ways.
  2. The above issues increase the risk of transmission of water-borne diseases, such as cholera. Guinea worm was also common, though it was eradicated in 2007. Unsafe drinking water increases child mortality rates. Currently, many children die from diarrhea and similar diseases.
  3. Urbanization is one of the main causes of the current water crisis. After the civil war, the capital city of Yamoussoukro experienced a massive influx of internally displaced people. The city doesn’t have enough wells or adequate sewage and sanitation facilities to support this increase in the population, exacerbating existing issues in the city.
  4. The water crisis also has an impact on education. According to USAID, “as a result of having to collect water to drink and shower before going to school, all the children in the neighborhood were constantly tired and sick, and their academic performance suffered.” This particularly disadvantages girls, who mainly carry the burden of fetching water for their families. Even when they are able to attend school, they often don’t have access to separate sanitation facilities.
  5. Many organizations are addressing the crisis of low water quality in Cote d’Ivoire. Charity Water has funded 190 separate projects in the country and has invested $1,146,687 dollars as of November 2017. UNICEF Water and Sanitation takes a multi-pronged approach, supplying clean drinking water straight to communities, schools and hospitals, promoting sanitation and hygiene and surveying the epidemiological impacts of the low water quality to prevent water-related diseases. The Urban Water Supply Project aims to improve water quality and access to water (especially in overcrowded urban areas) and to strengthen the financial management and financial planning capacity of the National Water Agency in its urban water supply sector.

With continued support from organizations like these, water quality in Cote d’Ivoire is sure to improve in the coming years, thus improving the quality of life for the nation’s citizens.

– Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Slovakia
When discussing water quality in Slovakia, it seems to be a hot and cold issue — while some bodies of water seem to be in good condition, others are struggling to meet governmental standards. Water quality in Slovakia in the Danube River and groundwater aquifers are on the rise, while the Small Danube and Nitra are in bad condition, according to a report by the Water Research Institute (WRI).

In order to understand water quality in Slovakia more in depth, it is necessary to first look at the main sources of fresh water in the country:

The country’s reservoirs include Orva (the largest lake in Slovakia), Domasa (located along the Orva River), Zemplínska Šírava, Liptovská Mara and Sĺňava. Notable lakes include the Sunny Lakes (25 kilometers from Bratislava), Golden Sands and Duchonka. The Danube is the most famous of the rivers and runs through southern Slovakia, emptying into the Black Sea in Romania.

Groundwater is the source most readily used for drinking water, accounting for 82 percent of the drinking water in Slovakia. Out of the groundwater sources in Slovakia, Žitný Ostrov is the largest. The water in Slovakia is allocated by the government, making it public. Public systems account for how 86 percent of the population receives water.

The water quality in Slovakia is checked by the government in accordance with 82 specific parameters and it was found that the water quality in Slovakia is overall average, meaning that there are no considerable pollutants affecting the health of consumers.

Furthermore, the Danube River, which has seen an increase in pollution in recent years, is surprisingly clean as it runs through Slovakia. The WRI credits this with an exceptionally good condition, along with its natural purification abilities. Regardless, there is still room for improvement in the Danube, with the potential to build water treatment plants and remove barriers that disrupt the flow of the Danube. By improving the quality of water surrounding its tributaries as well, water quality could, in turn, improve.

In the future, it will be important to monitor agriculture as a major potential source of pollution in the Danube River, along with surrounding smaller rivers. This is because farm land takes up the majority of the banks of the Danube, therefore making it easier for chemicals to get into the surface water. It will be critical to watch these areas deemed “possibly at risk” so that they avoid being seen as “at risk” by the Slovakian government.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Pixabay

Ethos WaterWith more than 1 billion people around the world lacking access to safe drinking water,  Ethos Water founder Peter Thum is using proceeds from his bottled water sales to provide clean water to areas in need.

Ethos Water began in 2001 with the goal of helping children get clean water. Thum, the man behind the mission, founded the company after a business trip to South Africa where he saw the lack of clean water in many communities. Thum became consumed by the idea of creating a bottled water company that gave back to those in need of clean water; he then quit his job to pursue his plan.

Thum’s old classmate, Jonathan Greenblatt joined Thum in late 2002 to help create Ethos. Together they launched their bottled water company in August of 2003 and formed an organization called Ethos Water Fund to invest funds from their business into safe water programs.

With every bottle that gets sold, Ethos donates five cents (ten cents in Canada) to the Ethos Water Fund, in order to give clean drinking water to those who need it. Not only does Ethos donate money for clean drinking water, but it also raises awareness about the lack of clean drinking water in other countries.

In 2005 Ethos partnered with Starbucks in hopes to sell more water. Currently, a little over $12.3 million has been raised to give clean water to individuals who otherwise would not have it, according to Starbucks. That money will help over 500,000 people around the world.

In 2008 Ethos Water Fund and Starbucks Foundation decided to give two NGOs, CARE and Project Concern International, each $1 million over the period of three years from the Ethos Water Fund. These NGOs used that money to help support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in water-stressed African communities, according to Starbucks. Collectively the expected benefits were estimated to help 54,000 people get access to clean water that previously did not have access.

CARE and Project Concern International were chosen to obtain these grants due to their emphasis on sustainability. Also, due to their agreement to not only provide access to clean water for villages but also to empower local residents to become part of the long-term solution.

CARE introduced sanitation and hygiene practices in Rwanda’s Musanze District while Project Concern International decided to focus their efforts on implementing low-cost, easy-to-maintain technologies in Tanzania’s Babati District.

These NGO’s were only able to do these fantastic acts of service through Ethos Water Fund. Howard Schultz, CEO, president and chairman of Starbucks, said “When our customers choose to buy Ethos water, they’re improving the lives of people who lack vital resources.”

In 2014 grants were made out to six NGOs in Tanzania ($750,000), Indonesia ($750,000), Colombia ($1.1 million), Guatemala ($480,000) and Nicaragua ($300,000). These grants have helped these countries gain clean water access and sanitation and hygiene education programs.

The effect Ethos water has had around the world is incredible, one single man’s idea which ended up helping thousands.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: YouTube

seawater_desalination
The Gaza Strip has a population of 1.7 million, which is expected to grow to 2.1 million by 2020. The demand for clean water access will also undoubtedly increase. In lieu of rivers or streams, the region has thus far had to survive by drawing water from its lone coastal aquifer. However, water is being extracted at a rate of 47 billion gallons per year, and has far surpassed its annual rate replenishment of around 16 billion gallons.

This has caused the aquifer to fill with salinated water from the Mediterranean. Estimates show that approximately 90 percent of the water drawn is unsafe to consume. In addition to the sea water influx, the aquifer is contaminated by untreated sewage. Roughly 90,000 cubic meters of sewage flows from Gaza to the coastal waters.

The demand for water has caused many unregulated vendors to begin selling water to make a profit, but roughly 80 percent of the water sold by street vendors is also contaminated. The desperation of Gazans, however, has become increasingly apparent. As many as 4 out of 5 will resort to purchasing potentially unsafe water by these private sellers.

In addition to a possibly serious health risk, this also places an economic strain on many Gazans. “Some families are paying as much as a third of their household income on water,” states June Kunugi, a UNICEF Representative for Palestine.

In response to Gaza’s water crisis, UNICEF has worked to complete 18 small desalination taps where residents can draw water free of charge. Also provided, are 3 brackish (mixed fresh & saltwater) plants that are capable of desalinating 50 cubic metres per hour and 10 plants capable of treating 50 cubic metres per day. In total, these plants are estimated to provide water for 95,000 residents.

In 2013, the European Union (EU) announced a collaboration with UNICEF to build a major seawater desalination plant. The project was made possible by a €10 million grant provided by the European Union. The plant is projected to provide 6,000 square metres of water to residents of the two cities.

In an announcement of the project, European Union Representative John Gatt-Rutter stated “The launch of construction work on this desalination plant, offers the prospect of access to clean water for many thousands of families in Khan Younis and Rafah. It forms part of the EU’s wider commitment to improving the lives of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, particularly in the area of water, sanitation and solid waste management.”

The 18 km pipeline that divides water between the cities of Rafah and Khan Younis was recently completed, marking the first step towards a monumental solution. Once the plant is completed in late 2015, it is expected to be capable of providing clean water to more than 75,000 Gazans.

– Frasier Petersen

Sources: Al Jazeera America, UNICEF, Water Technology
Photo: Al Jazeera America

children_living_in_poverty
There are millions of children living in poverty throughout the world. Children living in poverty are often malnourished, do not get proper education, lack safe drinking water, and do not have access to essential vaccines. They are more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, violence, discrimination and stigmatization. Children are deprived from their childhood due to living in poverty. Not only does living in poverty affect a child’s nutrition, but it also damages their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual development.

Here are 10 quick facts about children living in poverty:

  1. There are 1 billion children worldwide living in poverty; this is every second child.
  2. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day from poverty.
  3. In 2011 there was a reduced growth and development rate in 165 million children under the age of 5 due to chronic malnutrition.
  4. Every year, 2 million children die from preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia because they cannot afford proper treatment.
  5. As of 2011, 19 million children worldwide are not vaccinated.
  6. 1 out of 6 infants are born with a low birth weight in developing countries.
  7. Every year, 3.1 million children die ( 8,500 children per day) due to poor nutrition.
  8. About 72 million children who are primary school aged were not in school in 2005.
  9. Every year, 1.4 million die from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
  10. A child dies every 10 seconds from hunger-related diseases.

If less money were used on weapons for military purposes, then there would be billions of dollars available for better education and health for impoverished children. It is possible to end child poverty. Everyone needs to get together as a community and voice their opinions and interests in helping children living in poverty to their respective governments.

— Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: Do Something, Global Issues, The Hunger Project, UNICEF
Photo: Wikimedia

Clean Water Accessibility Developing World Struggle Millenium Development Goals
In global diplomacy, the key ingredient in maintaining peaceful relations is interdependence on valuable resources. For most, economic resources such as oil and natural gas are the first to come to mind. With economic prosperity and financial assistance carefully balancing on free trade and relatively unfettered access, each international actor has an interest in resources availability.

In modernity, however, a seemingly plentiful resource, one that many of us don’t fully appreciate, is liquid gold for far too many people. While soft regulations have caused mild discomfort for the richer nations, the global water crisis remains for many a matter of life and death.

We have all felt the feeling of thirst; it is not uncommon. Fortunately for many of us, the solution for thirst is no further than a trip to a nearby fountain or faucet. Quite a few of us have felt this thirst turn into dehydration. Now imagine having to consider the cost of getting ill from an unkempt water supply versus the cost of further dehydration? Sadly, this is a reality with which millions have to live each and every day.

According to the 2012 Millennium Global Development report, 783 million people, constituting 11 percent of the global population, lack adequate accessibility to a clean water source. Undeniably, the issue of water access, suitable to basic human needs, is nothing new. Where there are growing populations, particularly where development is stunted, the infrastructure to meet these needs simply does not exist.

To meet this inadequacy, the global community has met the challenge with the explicit goal of alleviating the strain. The UN reports that “the United Nations Water Conference (1977), the International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990), the International Conference on Water and the Environment (1992), and the Earth Summit (1992)–all focused on this vital resource. The Decade, in particular, helped some 1.3 billion people in developing countries gain access to safe drinking water.”

As for the Millennium Development Goals, the UN is pleased to report that the world met water accessibility goals five years ahead of schedule. Between the years of 1990 and 2010, the proportion of people with access to an improved water source rose from 76 percent to 89 percent. With roughly 2 billion people now with access to improved water sources such as protected wells and pipes, where they otherwise would not have, the onus remains on the UN to further access to the remaining 11 percent.

To be sure, while efforts in providing access to improved water have dealt a blow to a parched earth, demand for water continues to skyrocket. With rising commercial and agricultural demand for water, the principal goal of providing individuals with the resource remains in tact.

On 28 July 2010, the UN general assembly passed Resolution 64/292, explicitly recognizing access to clean water (roughly 50-100 liters per person per day) as a human right. Moreover, the resolution makes clear that the water must cost no more than 3 percent of the individual’s income, and cannot be sourced further than 1000 feet from home. With this, the UN has an explicit responsibility to pursue these goals.

Despite these goals and the understanding that access is an inalienable human right, millions remain without clean water. With over 40 percent of the globe’s thirsty living in Sub-Saharan Africa, the final 11 percent reduction will focus principally on underdeveloped regions, which will not be an easy task.

Thomas Van Der List

Sources: UN Millennium Goals, UN Water
Photo: UN

water_opt-1
Over 783 million people lack access to clean drinking water. Every day, 6,000 people die from complications due to contaminated drinking water. Most of those people are children. But the culprit is not an absence of wells. NGOs have been building wells all over developing rural areas for decades. The real problem is a lack of maintenance.

Kyle Westaway, a board member of The Adventure Project, a non-profit working toward sustainable water solutions in Uganda, asks us to compare a new well to a new car. A new car, he says, is a great gift that connects people, businesses, and communities. But, without the mechanical savvy or money required to change the oil, that car will be junk in less than a year.

In the same way, new wells are wonderful gifts that, without care and maintenance, quickly descend into obsolescence. Governments in developing nations usually don’t have the resources to maintain or restore wells, and it’s easier for NGOs—but more expensive—to just build new ones. In the meantime, people resort to local “scoop holes,” like unfiltered streams or springs.

That’s where Water for People (WFP) comes in. The organization, which has projects on every continent, is working with local governments in western Uganda to institute a “pay-as-you-fetch” program so wells can fund themselves. WFP takes working wells and hands them over to mechanics, who collect a usage fee. The going rate is 100 Ugandan shillings (4 cents) per jerry can of water, which is about 20 liters. Half the money goes into a fund to repair the well, which requires overhaul about once every 10 years.

The program hinges on an inexpensive, low-tech water meter that tracks how many liters are taken out. Putting entrepreneurs in charge of meter-equipped wells is the key to keeping them in use.

Diana Keesiga, who manages the project, believes it has huge potential. “Once I prove this works, I am going to expand this model across Uganda,” she says with confidence. “And then, the continent.”

John Mahon

Sources: Huffington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation

tomato_peel
Access to clean drinking water is a worldwide problem. One billion people, or roughly 1 in 7 persons across the globe, lack access to safe water. Without potable water, these millions of people are exposed to waterborne pathogens that can cause sickness and death. Each year, waterborne pathogens make tens of millions of people sick and lead to 1.8 million deaths. And all of these are preventable.

Researchers are working on cheap and practical ways to provide safe drinking water across the globe. Ramakrishna Mallampati, an investigator at the National University of Singapore, has devised a new way to purify dirty water. By using the peels of fruits and vegetables, Mallampati believes that he can effectively and economically filter out impurities from water to make it safe to drink.

The fruits and vegetables are used to purify dirty water by drawing out toxic ions and organic pollutants from liquid. Tomato peels effectively remove “dissolved organic and inorganic chemicals, dyes and pesticides, and…can also be used in large scare applications.” Tomatoes are the second most consumed vegetable in the world. With the vegetable’s widespread availability, using tomato peels to purify water could prove to be a convenient, easy, and cheap way to purify drinking water.

Like tomato peels, apple peels are also able to draw out a number of pollutants from dirty water. The peels can extract anions such as “phosphate, arsenate, arsenite, and chromate ions from aqueous solutions.” While the apple peels must first be treated with a zirconium oxide before they can effectively remove impurities from water, the wide prevalence of the fruit throughout the world means that it could also be used to treat drinking water on a large scale.

The newly designed water purification methods could prove revolutionary in the developing world. Many large scale treatment processes used in developed nations are simply inaccessible to the impoverished across the globe due to a lack of the financial capital needed to implement them. The process of purifying water by using tomato and apple peels mitigates the financial obstacle that prevents many in the developed world from having clean drinking water. Ramakrishna Mallampati hopes that by using his new purification process, those living in developing areas will be able to live healthier and more productive lives.

– Jordan Kline

Sources: ScienceDaily, Care2, National Academy of Sciences
Photo: She Knows