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Water Crisis in UgandaWater is a necessity for all living beings, and access to safe water is a basic human right. Despite the world’s experiencing exponential growth in all areas with advances in science and technology, 663 million people are without access to clean water. The country of Uganda is no exception: 51% of Ugandans are in need of safe water resources. This lack of clean water affects the health of the Ugandan people, their productivity and their economy. Here are some of the realities everyone needs to know about the water crisis in Uganda.

The Current State

Currently, 21 million Ugandans lack access to safe water. One in nine people lack quality water and have no alternative to dirty, contaminated water sources. The stress of economic growth over the last two decades put an enormous strain on the land and its resources. Up to three-quarters of the surface water in Uganda is polluted, making it unsuitable for consumption. With no other choice but to drink contaminated water, people are often too sick to work or attend school.

Human waste, soil sediments, fertilizers and mud all run into drinking water sources due to the widespread absence of proper toilets and showers. Additionally, the lack of adequate filtration systems and the loss of vegetation, which acts as a natural filtration system, creates dirty water that leads to various health problems. 144 million Ugandans are still collecting water directly from these rivers, lakes, and other surface water sources. According to the World Health Organization, over 3,000 small children die a year from diarrhea in Uganda. Other waterborne diseases include hepatitis A, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

The water crisis in Uganda also makes 40%  of Ugandans travel more than 60 minutes to access safe drinking water. Some travel up to three hours a day, without a guarantee of finding water. Excess time spent on water provision hinders people’s ability to work, maintain the household and take care of children.

Initiatives for a Better Future

Many initiatives are underway to address the water crisis in Uganda and the problems it has created. For example, in 2013, Water.org launched its WaterCredit solution, which has led growth for water and sanitation loans. This initiative has reached 259,000 people and disbursed $10.3 million in loans, helping to create long-term solutions to the water crisis in Uganda.

Another program addressing water in Uganda is the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, which transforms contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for school children. Over 300 women in Gomba, Uganda were trained to build rainwater harvesting tanks and Biosand filters. The simple filter consists of layers of rock, sand and gravel that remove 99% of bacteria from water. Funded by Aveda and GreenGrants, this initiative also conducts programs about hygiene and sanitation to support these women. Thanks to this program, school children are safe from typhoid and diarrhea that could keep them sick and out of school. Remarkably, Gomba saw a reduction of school absences by nearly two-thirds thanks to filters and harvesting tanks.

Additional projects that focus on drilling new boreholes in barren areas and repairing existing boreholes help relieve long travel times for water. Generosity.org has concentrated on rehabilitating boreholes by working closely with the District Water Departments of communities in need. Generosity.org also aided in the development of water user committees, which create an infrastructure to ensure the boreholes are maintained and cleaned through fee collection. Its work aims to achieve the sustainability of these boreholes for the future, putting an end to the water crisis in Uganda.

Looking Forward

Ugandan leaders have recognized that water is a basic human right and understand that better water and sanitation systems are critical for a healthy society and a stronger economy. The Ugandan government now aims to have clean water and improved sanitation for everyone by 2030. Uganda plans to reach this goal by investing in quality water infrastructures, which involves restoring and maintaining clean water sources as well as promoting hygiene and investing in sanitation facilities. The organizations that are providing loans for wells, restoring boreholes and creating filtration devices are helping realize this ambitious goal. This focus on making clean and safe water available to everyone is critical. Without water, there is no life.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Ethiopia's GERD
In 2011, Ethiopia announced plans to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the northwestern region of the country where the Blue Nile starts. As of July 2020, Ethiopia has reached the first-year target for filling the dam. Once finished, Ethiopia’s GERD will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa.

This project is the principal focus of the rising nation’s development initiatives. In 1991, the East African country was among the poorest in the world, having weathered a deadly famine and civil war during the 1980s. By 2020, Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, averaging 9.9% of broad-based growth per year. With the completion of the GERD, the Ethiopian government anticipates joining the handful of middle-income countries by 2025. Here are ten ways Ethiopia’s GERD will help to reduce poverty and transform the country.

10 Ways The GERD Will Transform Ethiopia

  1. The GERD will quadruple the amount of electricity produced in the country. The nation’s electric supply will increase from 1591 MW when plans for the dam were first announced to approximately 6,000 MW once finished.
  2. Millions of Ethiopians will have access to electricity for the first time. Currently, over 66% of Ethiopia’s 115 million citizens lack power. Once operational, the dam will provide electricity to over 76 million Ethiopians.
  3. The surplus electricity produced by the GERD will be a steady source of income. The enormous dam will generate 6000 MW of electricity, which is more than Ethiopia needs. The Ethiopian government expects to export power to neighboring nations, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.
  4. Clean water provided by the GERD will lower the spread of illness. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to clean water is a timely concern to Ethiopian officials. Frequent hand-washing is essential to tackling a virus with no vaccine, but this cannot be done without clean water. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa has 4.8 million residents, all of whom are well-acquainted with periodic water shortages the city suffers. The completion of the GERD will decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses.
  5. The dam will greatly reduce sedimentation in the Blue Nile. Sedimentation poses a huge problem for farmers living in the area, as it clogs irrigation channels and hurts the efficiency of hydropower. The GERD will save the costs of building new canals and eliminate the need for new machines to be built.
  6. The GERD will also regulate the Blue Nile’s flow. The dam includes reservoir construction, which will weather the effects of drought and manage flooding during heavier rain seasons. This will provide farmers with a more uniform schedule, rather than being at the mercy of the elements, as it was in the past.
  7. Dam construction is a business that requires tons of manpower. Ethiopia’s GERD is predicted to create 12,000 jobs, which will stimulate both the local and national economy.
  8. The GERD dam will irrigate over 1.2 million acres of arable land. The fertilization of soil will guarantee a successful harvest for millions of farmers. This is crucial to ensuring the growth of Ethiopia’s economy, which is still mostly based in agriculture.
  9. The construction of the dam is transforming formerly arid land to be more useful for the country. The site of the dam was a region of lifeless land about 20km from the Ethiopian-Sudanese border. After the GERD is finished, the artificial lake will hold up to 74 billion cubic meters of water.
  10. Even before the conclusion of the dam’s construction, the GERD will produce electricity. After negotiating talks with Egypt, Ethiopia agreed to extend the filling of the GERD dam from 2-3 years to 5-7. Despite this lengthened timeline, the first of 13 total turbines will be in operation by mid-2021.

With the undertaking of this massive and controversial project, Ethiopia shows it has no intention of stagnating in its goal to reduce poverty. Once Ethiopia’s GERD is completed, Ethiopia’s economy will flourish and the dam will decrease poverty across the nation.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in AnguillaAnguilla is a Caribbean island about half the size of Washington D.C., nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Its tropical climate and terrain of low-lying coral and limestone have all contributed to this beautiful island’s dramatic water crisis. With a population of only 18,090, islanders have survived the island’s dry environment for more than 300 years. With careful husbandry, water conservation and the use of cisterns, Anguillans have found ways to make their erratic rainfall schedule work for them even during unpredictable drought periods, which can last up to three or four months. As access to improved sanitation facilities increases and tourism flourishes, the islands underground aquifer has been pushed to capacity. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Anguilla and how they contribute to the depletion of the island’s supply of drinking water.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Anguilla

  1. In 1995, improved water sources were only available to 57 percent of the Anguillian population. Improved sanitation facilities include the use of a “flush or pour-flush sewer system, septic tank or pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine; pit latrine with slab or a composting toilet.” In 2011, records showed an increase to 95 percent. By 2015, that number increased again to 97.9 percent of the population; at least 98 percent of those facilities were flush toilets.
  2. Because Anguilla does not have rivers, its drinking water consists of collected rain, wells connected to underground aquifers and desalination. Reportedly in 2000, 60 percent of the population had access to drinking water. Later, 61 percent of households indicated that their main source is from bottled water.
  3. At least 73 percent of the Anguillan population still gathers water from a cistern that pipes water into their homes. The same report from 2011 says that 15 percent of the population used the public water piped into their homes. At least 4 percent used a “public standpipe, well or tank.”
  4. The poor quality of water obtained from cisterns is of concern it is used for drinking purposes in addition to other domestic uses. Contaminants from rainwater can grow in containers like cisterns. They pose a health threat to those consuming the water. Pathogens like bacteria, viruses and Protozoa in cisterns can be treated with chlorine. However, chlorine can lose effectiveness within 24 hours of entering a cistern and these microorganisms that are transmitted in water can cause disease, which includes the potential of death.
  5. A combination of agricultural fertilizer, animal wastes as well as wastewater run-off from domestic and commercial septic tanks are seeping untreated into groundwater. This causes a chemical pollution problem for what little drinking water the island does have.
  6. Nitrate concentrations are increasing in most of the production and test wells connected to the underground aquifer. For many years, Anguilla’s aquifer has been subjected to periodic laboratory analysis by those concerned with public health and environmental quality. It shows nitrate concentrations in excess of the maximum acceptable drinking water limit.
  7. Pollution in groundwater that spills into coastal ponds and phosphates from detergents in domestic wastewater provide the right chemical nutrients to accelerate the growth and proliferation of unpleasant marine algae. This creates murky coastal waters, prevents coral growth.
  8. Chronic illnesses and diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer from which Anguillans suffer are believed to be a result of the poor quality of water that they drink. In an attempt to improve the health of the population, Ms. Ursuline Joseph of Dominica has recommended a solution to create acceptable levels of alkaline in water. X20 is “a mineral-rich alkaline product” containing 77 different types of minerals to prevent diseases from developing in the body. Manufactured by Xooma, X20 originates from an ocean source off the coast of Japan. When the powdered product is added to 1.5 liters of water, it alkalizes with minerals and becomes healthier to drink.
  9. Anguilla’s primary water management problems arise out of the fact that there is not very much to manage. With an annual average rainfall of about 40 inches per year. Evaporation rates can reach 70 inches per year during droughts. The number of wells dug into the aquifer over the years is unknown. However, professional hydrologists and water engineers worry about the prospect of over-pumping in the near future. That being said, professionals are finding themselves less worried about the amount of groundwater left and more concerned with the quality of the groundwater itself.
  10. Pure Aqua provides a range of filtration and economical solutions to meet Anguilla’s water needs based on its resources. Focusing on reverse osmosis and water treatment, Pure Aqua manufactures and supplies high-quality water treatment systems built with cutting-edge technology. It custom-designs its systems for specific applications across many different industries. Anguilla has only a few options for sources of water. These include surface water, desalination, groundwater and government water. Pure Aqua provides systems with the ability to treat any of these sources with a host of different methods such as ultrafiltration systems, media water filters, brackish water RO, seawater reverse osmosis systems, chemical dosing, UV sterilizers and water softeners.

The demand for water resulting from the expansion of new residential areas and tourism facilities has devastated groundwater supply in Anguilla. The root problem is that pumping rates at the wells now in use are maxed out. Trying to extract more water would risk the structural integrity and possibly allow seawater intrusion, thus destroying the aquifer. Sanitation as a whole has seen enormous strides forward while also being part of the reason pollution threatens the water sources that are available.

Janice Athill
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia with a population of 6.4 million. Since its independence from Russia in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has had unstable political conditions, leading to poor health conditions. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kyrgyzstan

  1. The average life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan is 71 years. For men, life expectancy is around 68 years, while women generally live 75 years. This represents a significant increase over the last 10 years, rising from an average of 67.7 years in 2010. However, the life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan still remains below the average in Asia, which is 79 years. It also falls behind other Central Asian countries, as the average life expectancy in Central Asia is 70 years for men and 76 years for women.
  2. The mortality rate for children under 5 in Kyrgyzstan is 20 per 1,000 live births. Comparatively, the average mortality rate for children under 5 in developing countries in Europe and Central Asia is 11 per 1,000 live births. Still, Kyrgyzstan has made much progress on reducing the mortality rate for young children over the past 20 years; in 1990, the mortality rate for children under 5 was 65 per 1,000 live births.
  3. Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Kyrgyzstan. The rate of ischemic heart disease in Kyrgyzstan is significantly higher than the rates in other low-and-middle-income countries. In fact, 4,628.7 per 100,000 deaths in Kyrgyzstan are caused by ischemic heart disease, while the average rate for other low-and-middle-income countries is 3,036.7 per 100,000 deaths. The second most common cause of death in Kyrgyzstan is stroke.
  4. Kyrgyzstan’s sanitation and drinking water services have a significant impact on the health of its population. Around 93 percent of the population has access to basic sanitation services and piped water services reach 58 percent of the nation. Additionally, the practice of open defecation is not found in the country, contributing to more sanitary conditions.
  5. As of 2015, the maternal mortality rate in Kyrgyzstan is 76 per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality has remained high in the nation for the past two decades, barely decreasing from 1990 when the maternal mortality rate was 80 per 100,000 live births. This is in spite of the fact that 99 percent of all births in Kyrgyzstan are attended by a skilled professional.
  6. In Kyrgyzstan, there are approximately 1.9 doctors and 6.4 nurses per 1,000 people, according to World Bank data from 2014. This is lower than the average for low-and-middle-income countries in Europe and Central Asia, which is approximately three physicians per 1,000 people. Kyrgyzstan has made improvements, however, as the rate was approximately 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people in 2008.
  7. Kyrgyzstan has made reforms to its health care system three times since 2001, with the goal of improving the availability and quality of medical services. A mandatory health insurance fund has been in place since the 1990s and on average people in Kyrgyzstan pay 39 percent of the total cost of their health services. However, a lack of pharmacy price regulation and the devaluation of the national currency led to a 20 percent increase in co-payments for reimbursed medicine in outpatient care increased between 2013 and 2015, driving up out-of-pocket costs.
  8. Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Health and Mandatory Health Insurance Fund will implement a new Primary Health Care Quality Improvement Program between 2019 and 2024. This program is largely funded by the World Bank, which is contributing nearly $20 million. Alongside this program is the country’s new health strategy for 2019-2030: “Healthy Person – Prosperous Country.” The government of Kyrgyzstan recognizes that strengthening the primary health care system is essential to improving lives, particularly for the impoverished.
  9. The impoverished — which account for 25.6 percent of the population — and those living remotely in the mountains are most likely to experience malnutrition in Kyrgyzstan. UNICEF estimates that 22 percent of all child deaths occur due to malnutrition and almost 18 percent of all Kyrgyz children are malnourished. Malnutrition causes stunting, low birth weight and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can have a life-long effect on one’s health and wellbeing.
  10. Education is also an important factor contributing to health and life expectancy. In Kyrgyzstan, education is mandatory for nine years between the ages of 7 and 15. UNICEF notes that many children drop out after grade nine when this mandatory education ends, as only 59 percent for boys and 56 percent for girls attend upper secondary school. Quality of education is another challenge for the nation, with more than 50 percent of children not meeting the basic level of achievement in reading, math and science.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan shed light on health and living conditions in the nation. With new health initiatives being undertaken in the country, there is hope that life expectancy rates will continue to improve.

Navjot Buttar
Photo: UNICEF

Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia
Globally, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is on the rise, especially in South Asia. According to UNICEF, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, the percentage of people practicing open defecation—a leading cause of child malnutrition, disease and death—fell from 65 percent to 34 percent. While these WASH initiatives have seen success, they often neglect one important aspect of hygiene that pertains to women, menstruation. The ability for women to menstruate hygienically and with dignity is vital to their empowerment. Here are five facts about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.

5 Facts About Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia

  1. There is a culture of silence around menstruation; discussing it is often treated as taboo. Females on their periods are often excluded from society because they are seen as impure. One study in Nepal found that 89 percent of respondents practiced some form of exclusion or restriction during a menstrual cycle. However, organizations such as WaterAid are working to break the silence through female-led self-help groups. When just a few women came forward to speak, it inspired others to share their experiences and start breaking the taboo.
  2. Many girls do not understand their periods. Because the topic is taboo, it is often ignored in schools. As such, 10 percent of girls in India thought menstruation was a disease, and 66 percent of girls in South Asia do not know anything about periods before their first menstruation. A study of 160 girls in West Bengal found that, though 67.5 percent knew what a period was before their first, 97.5 percent did not know where menstrual bleeding comes from. While schools often neglect to teach about reproductive health, this is beginning to change. UK Aid is creating audiobooks for girls dispelling myths and teaching them about their periods, and non-government organizations are creating extracurricular activities that teach about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.
  3. Menstrual hygiene in South Asia is vital for keeping girls in schools. According to WaterAid, a study done in South India found half the girls in school were pulled out at the time of their first period, often to be married. The girls who stayed in school beyond their first period reported poor performance due to anxiety that the boys in the class would find out they were menstruating.
  4. Access to feminine hygiene products is expensive. According to WaterAid, in a West Bengal study, only 11.25 percent of girls used disposable feminine hygiene products. The most common obstacles to obtaining them are a lack of awareness about them, the high cost, the lack of availability and the need for disposal facilities. Focus group discussions indicated that girls would prefer sanitary pads because they were more comfortable, discreet, and easier to use and carry. WaterAid is working to make low cost disposable sanitary pads as well as facilities to dispose of them. In the meantime, most women and girls rely on reusable cloth, which comes with its own problems.
  5. Maintaining menstrual hygiene in South Asia requires improved sanitation. One of the biggest obstacles to menstrual health is a lack of sanitation practices and infrastructure. Most South Asian women and girls rely on reusable cloth. To sanitize them though, they need to wash them in clean water and dry them in sunlight. However, cultural taboos around menstruation often pressure women and girls to try to dry them in dark places, potentially leading to infection. For those who might have access to disposable sanitary pads, they often lack the facilities to get rid of them. This is especially a problem for girls in schools. However, WaterAid and its partners are working on implementing WASH facilities that are lockable and gender-separated, with at least one toilet or washroom with an opening leading to an incinerator or dustbin for feminine hygiene products.

While countries in the region are making great strides in sanitation, there is still much to be done to improve menstrual hygiene in South Asia. It is vital they do so because the ability for women and girls to menstruate with privacy and dignity empowers them to pursue work, education and gives them the opportunity to have a voice in society.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

7 facts about living conditions in australia
In 2015, Australia was ranked as the second-best country in the world in terms of quality of life. This report was based on a number of living condition factors, including financial indicators, like average income, and health standards, education and life expectancy. The following 7 facts about living conditions in Australia further illustrate what life is like in the Land Down Under. Many of these facts are based upon data retrieved from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), comprised of 36 member countries and founded to stimulate world trade.

7 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Children Are an Impoverished Group: As of 2018, 13.2 percent of Australians (around three million people) were living below the poverty line, 730,000 of which are children under the age of 15. According to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report, a large reason for the overwhelming number of impoverished children is the high poverty rate among single-parent families relying on a single income. In terms of money, living below the poverty line in Australia translates to earning $433 per week for a single adult, or $909 per week for a married couple with two children. Most individuals experiencing poverty in Australia rely on Government allowance payments, like Youth Allowance and Newstart.
  2. Sanitation is Good: The percentage of homes in Australia that have access to an indoor flushing toilet is more than 95.6 percent, which is the OECD average. Additionally, more than 90% of Australians report satisfaction with their water quality. Access to running water and the high quality of water makes Australia above average in relation to the other 36 OECD member countries.
  3. A Wage Gap Exists: The gap in income between the rich and poor in Australia is quite large; the wealthiest 20 percent of Australians earn almost six times as much as the poorest 20 percent of Australians. This income inequality has been steadily rising since the mid-1990’s. One attempt to remedy income inequality in Australia is a progressive system of income tax, meaning that as an individual’s income increases, they will pay a higher amount of their income in tax. Additionally, social welfare payments account for around 35 percent of the Australian government’s budget. In 2017-2018, this translated to a $164 billion budget for social security and welfare.
  4. Australians Are Staying Employed: Seventy-three percent of Australians aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, while the percentage of Australians who have been unemployed for one year or longer is 1.3 percent. The percentage of employed Australians is higher than the OECD average. Though the Australian job market thrives, Australians have a below-average ranking in work-life balance.
  5. Strong Education: The average Australian citizen will receive 21 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, which is the highest amount of education in the OECD. Roughly 64 percent of children in Australia attend public schools, while 34 percent attend private or Catholic schools. Additionally, not only is the education system strong for Australian citizens, but international education offered to foreign students is Australia’s third largest export, valued at $19.9 billion.
  6. Rising Crime Rates: Over the past 2 decades, the number of reported crimes has risen dramatically; for example, from 1977-1978, the number of reported break-ins was 880 per thousand. From 1997-1998, this number rose to 2,125 per thousand. In the same period, assaults have risen from 90 to 689 per thousand of population and robberies have risen from 23 to 113 per thousand. While many of these 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate increasing quality of life for citizens, rising crime rates affect feelings of security, which has a negative effect on standards of living in Australia.
  7. Improving Health Standards: Health standards in Australia have risen substantially since 1947. From 1947 to 1989, the life expectancy of women increased by 10.9 years, while the life expectancy of men has risen by 9.8 years. Since 1990, life expectancy has risen even more, increasing by another 1.4 years for women and 2 years for men.

With one of the strongest performing economies in the world, Australians experience thriving, stable financial conditions. The education system is well organized and accessible, and health standards have increased and driven the life expectancies of Australians up over the last 70 years.

Yet, despite the tremendous growth and development in Australia, there are areas in standards of living that demand improvement. Perhaps most importantly, income inequality in Australia is alarmingly high, and poverty rates of citizens, and especially children, plagues the strength of Australian society. These 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate a thriving and desirable country with a need for concentrated focus on income inequality to eradicate staggering poverty in the lower class.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

Wastewater in India
India is not only one of the most populated countries in the world, but it is also one of the poorest. In addition to poverty, India is grappling with a lack of access to clean water and increasing pollution. This not only takes a toll on households but also affects industrial and agricultural demands. Urban runoff is an issue when domestic waste and untreated water go into storm drains, polluting lakes and rivers. Approximately only 30 percent of the wastewater in India is cleaned and filtered.

The U.S. Agency for International Development teamed up with a nongovernmental organization, Agra Municipal Corporation, to formulate a treatment plan to clean the wastewater in India.

What is Being Done?

North of the Taj Mahal runs the Yamuna River, one of the most polluted waterways in India. Agra, the city through which the river runs, is a slum community. As of 2009, this community has had no access to sanitation facilities, disposal systems or waste collection. At least 85 percent of the residents in Agra have resorted to open defecation that ultimately pollutes the Yamuna River, where residents collect drinking water. This lack of sanitation has left the community vulnerable to diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

USAID-supported NGO Center for Urban and Regional Excellence decided to reverse the state of Agra and come up with a treatment plan. In 2011, they built a wastewater treatment plant to clean the water, leading to healthier community members. Instead of chemicals, the treatment plant uses natural methods to sanitize the water. Moreover, they designed the plant to be low-maintenance, thus keeping it cost-efficient. After filtering and sanitizing the water, it flows back into the community for residents to collect.

As of 2017, the Agra Municipal Corporation, who initially teamed up with USAID, took over operating the plant. And they made it their mission to continue working to improve the lives of the residents.

The Progress

The Center for Urban and Regional Excellence’s transformation of Agra influenced the government to also act. As a result, the government planned to cleanse the entire country by the end of 2019. On Oct. 2, 2014, the Prime Minister of India declared the Swachh Bharat Mission. At the time, only 38.7 percent of the country was clean—less than half. As of 2019, India’s government reported 98.9 percent of the country is now clean. Since the mission began, they built 9,023,034,753 household toilets and established

  • 5,054,745 open defecation-free villages,
  • 4,468 open defecation-free villages in Namami Gange,
  • 613 open defecation-free districts, and
  • 29 open defecation-free states.

Less than 2 percent away from meeting their goal, India has made big improvements to better the lives of its citizens by providing clean water for domestic and industrial purposes.

Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Sanitation Facility Act
The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act was scheduled to be seen by the House of Representatives the week of May 20, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. During this period, the bill moved through the House but still has to pass the Senate. Reintroduced after December 2018 revisions by sponsor Grace Meng (D-NY-6), the bill aims to “provide women and girls safe access to sanitation facilities in refugee camps.”

Moving the Bill Forward

In April, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for the bill to be seen by the rest of the House for a vote. Co-sponsored by 42 representatives, the bill is an international affairs policy that would call the Department of State to ensure safe and sanitary conditions for refugees being held by the US government, with special focus on the conditions where women, children and vulnerable populations are present. It is intended to be an addition to the preexisting Section 501 of the Foreign Relations Act, U.S. code 2601 that states “the provision of safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women and girls, and vulnerable populations.”

A Rising Crisis

According to the American Immigration Council, the number of people forcibly displaced around the world grew from 42.7 million to 68.5 million between 2007 and 2017. Under United States law, a refugee is “A person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution’ due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.” This definition has been a part of US law since as early as the 1951 United Nations Convention. Since January 2017, the admission of refugees into the U.S. has dramatically declined. The Trump administration lowered the refugee admissions ceiling from 110,000 (set under the Obama administration) to 50,000.

As of July 2018, there were over 733,000 pending immigration cases and the average wait time for an immigration hearing was 721 days. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires all individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry to be detained until said hearing. Jarring images of these detention centers have been shared online, with depictions of children sleeping in cages and on the ground with no blankets. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act can help in providing more dignified conditions for refugees.

Though there are some organized efforts to provide sanitation to refugee camps, none of them are mandated by law. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act of 2019 would reflect in U.S. law the priority of treating all on its lands with human dignity.

– Ava Gambero

Photo: Flickr

India’s fight against Polio
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease spread through poliovirus. Since the early twentieth century, polio has been widespread in many countries, causing paralysis in thousands of children every year. With the help of various nonprofit organizations and the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the disease is now narrowed down to a handful of nations.

In 2014, India was certified as a polio-free country, leaving Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan on the list for polio eradication programs. India’s fight against polio is a remarkable achievement because of the various challenges the country faced. Nicole Deutsch, the head of polio operations for UNICEF in India, called it a “monumental milestone.”

Polio: Cause and Prevention

Poliovirus is highly contagious, infecting only humans and residing in the throat and intestine of the infected person. It spreads through feces and can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions.

The virus affects the brain and spinal cord of the infected person, causing paralysis which cannot be cured. Immunization through inactivated poliovirus vaccine and oral poliovirus vaccine are the only possible methods to fight against the virus. In the case of India, it was the second option which was administered.

India’s Fight Against Polio: the Challenges Faced

India’s fight against polio faced unique challenges, such as its huge population density and an increased birth rate. The number of people living in impoverished conditions with poor sanitation is huge, making them vulnerable to the polio disease.

Lack of education and prejudice among certain sects of the population also hindered the immunization process. Other challenges faced were the unstable healthcare system, which does not support people from all levels of society, and the geographically-dispersed inaccessible terrain, which made the immunization process difficult.

Overcoming these Challenges

Overcoming the challenges of polio eradication was possible due to the combined help provided by UNICEF, WHO, Rotary Club, the Indian government and millions of frontline workers. They took micro-planning strategies to address the challenges faced by the socially, economically, culturally and linguistically diverse country that is India.

India began its oral polio vaccine program in 1978 but it did not gain momentum until 1994, when the local government of New Delhi successfully conducted a mass immunization program for children in the region. From the year 1995, the government of India began organizing National Immunization Day, and in 1997, the first National Polio Surveillance Project was established.

Other initiatives taken include:

  • Involving almost 7,000 trained community mobilizers who went door-to-door, educating people in highly resistant regions.
  • Engaging 2.3 million vaccine administrators who immunized almost 172 million children.
  • The government running advertisements on print media, television and radio.
  • Enlisting famous Bollywood and sports celebrities to create awareness among common people.
  • Involving religious and community leaders in encouraging parents to vaccinate their children.

Inspiration for Other Countries

In 2009, almost 741 polio cases were reported in India, which dropped down to 42 in 2010, until the last case was reported in 2011 in the eastern state of West Bengal. This unprecedented success is an inspiration for countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the disease is still looming at large.

India’s fight against polio has set an example in the world that the country can be proud of, but the fight is not over yet. Although India has been declared polio-free by the WHO, it is of the utmost importance that the nation continue to assist other nations still facing the polio epidemic.

– Mahua Mitra

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 the 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