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Solar Energy is Transforming Africa
Photovoltaics panels, more commonly referred to as solar panels, are often cited as the best way to decarbonize the world’s energy grids and reduce emissions. According to MIT, the price per solar cell has decreased by 99% since 1980. These incredibly low costs have now unlocked the use of solar panels for the world’s poorest continent, Africa, with incredibly positive ramifications for the local environments of its citizens and the international effort to reduce emissions. Beyond emissions, however, cheap solar energy also improves the prospects for poor and rural Africans to access electricity, opening new opportunities to enhance standards of living and reduce poverty rates. With the majority of the world’s poor now located in sub-Saharan Africa, these cheap panels, along with the innovative thinking of African communities across the continent, have created new use cases for solar energy that are increasing water security, improving rural access to electricity and increasing economic resilience for Africa’s developing economies. Here are three ways solar energy is transforming Africa.

3 Ways Solar Energy is Transforming Africa

  1. Kenya’s Solar Desalination Plant: Kenya, a former British colony located in eastern Africa, is home to a population of approximately 50 million people. With an annual population growth rate of 2.2%, Kenya has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and is set to see a population of 85 million by 2050, according to the World Bank. While a significant amount of Kenya’s population growth will be in urban developments, only 28% of Kenya’s population is urban today, meaning that Kenya’s government will need to find ways to provide water and energy infrastructure for its rural communities for decades to come. One small Kenyan fishing village known as Kiunga, home to about 3,500 individuals, has found a solution. Partnering with an American NGO known as GivePower, this village uses solar panels to desalinate ocean water, with the capacity to deliver water to 35,000 residents, 10 times the village’s current population. Today, over 300 million sub-Saharan Africans struggle with water insecurity, often leading to conflict and instability that causes poverty, according to global NGO The Water Project. Developments that can reduce such insecurities can go a long way in improving the future for Africa’s poor. While much more progress needs to occur on this front, this village of Kiunga is providing a template for villages across Africa to harness the power of the sun for water security.
  2. Tanzania’s Rural Mini-Grids: Tanzania, a neighbor of Kenya and a former British and German colony, is home to about 58 million people. Tanzania is East Africa’s largest nation and is home to its largest population and its lowest population density. With its urban population constituting only 35.2% of the country, Tanzania faces the challenge of providing electricity to rural communities far from its city centers. Solar power is uniquely capable of delivering power to these rural communities, and Tanzania has embraced new economic models called “mini-grids” in order to deliver this power. While traditional fossil fuel power plants rely on extensive supply chains and infrastructure in order to deliver electricity, in part due to the weight of the fuels, solar panels generate power on-site, directly from the sun. These “mini-grids” allow small Tanzanian villages to afford electricity for the first time, creating opportunities for rural education and improving security, ultimately contributing to the reduction of rural poverty in Tanzania. Although the current situation is poor, with more than 70% of Tanzanians lacking access to electricity, by 2040, 140 million Africans – including many in Tanzania – will get electricity from these mini-grids, according to the World Resources Institute.
  3. Morocco’s Mega Solar Plant: The North African nation of Morocco is becoming an increasingly important economic power in Africa, with a growth rate of nearly 4.1%. Despite this progress, however, Morocco’s rural poverty rate remains high at 19%. Though one cannot fault Morocco for prioritizing its economy over its environment, given its current poverty rate, Morocco has committed to ramping up its solar energy production, seeking a 50% renewable energy capacity by 2030. The benefits of this development, however, are more than environmental, as Morocco is now a net energy exporter to Europe, decreasing its domestic electricity costs and enhancing its economic resilience, all while improving its economic and political relationships with Europe. Thus, Morocco has used solar energy to not only maintain its commitments to emissions reductions but also as a tool to diversify its economy, allowing the nation to not only lift its citizens from poverty but to sustain its citizen’s incomes in good times and bad.

Poverty remains a significant problem in Africa, with more than half of the world’s deeply impoverished peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa. However, through remarkably low costs and a variety of unique use cases across Africa, solar panels are now increasingly capable of delivering energy, water security and economic growth. From LED-powered lights in rural African schools to increasingly reliable electricity for African small businesses, solar energy is transforming Africa by contributing to its economic rise and modernizing its rural life. And, with solar-powered desalination moving from fiction to reality, water security is increasingly possible across the continent, leading to greater community stability and resilience. All of these factors play an essential role in decreasing poverty rates and improving the quality of life on Earth’s poorest continent. Sunlight, it seems, will brighten Africa’s nights in the future.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: UN Multimedia

The Republic of South Sudan is located in East-Central Africa. South Sudan’s current population is 13 million, and more than 50% of the population lacks proper access to clean water resources. Constant conflict and a civil war, which began in 2013, led to the current water crisis in South Sudan. During the war, the nation’s water systems were deserted and demolished. The 2011 East African drought and the country’s low rainfall further exacerbated the water crisis in South Sudan. As only 2% of the country’s water is used domestically, the South Sudanese peoples’ access to clean water is scarce. Furthermore, South Sudan’s water resources are trans-boundary waters shared with other African countries. The Nile River Basin is South Sudan’s primary water source, but it is shared with ten other countries. This shared ownership intensifies the water crisis in South Sudan.

Without access to clean water, South Sudanese families often drink dirty water to survive. This increases their risk of receiving waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea or parasites. Since 1990, diarrhea has been a leading cause of death for children in impoverished countries, accounting for one in nine child deaths worldwide. The disease kills more than 2,000 children every day, a toll greater than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Currently, in South Sudan, 77% of children under the age of five die from diarrhea. In addition, the country is home to 24% of the world’s lingering Guinea worm cases, a parasitic infection. Numerous water-focused charities are combating the current water crisis in South Sudan by facilitating clean water improvements.

Water is Basic

Water is Basic was founded in 2006 by Sudanese religious leaders who wanted to solve the water crisis in Sudan. The organization is a borehole drilling operation that manufactured its first water well in the Republic of the Sudan in 2008. Since then, Water is Basic has assembled more than 500 wells and improved over 300 more. In 2012, Water is Basic became a U.S. 501(c)(3) organization, earning nonprofit status under the federal law of the United States. This status allows the agency to be exempt from some federal income taxes; consequently, it was able to focus its profits specifically on water projects. To date, Water is Basic’s solutions have provided clean water to 1.5 million people in South Sudan, nearly 10% of the country’s total population.

Additionally, Water is Basic shares its expertise in developing clean water solutions with organizations in other African countries. In 2017, Water is Basic provided 30,000 people with clean water in Kibumba, Democratic Republic of Congo. Overall, Water is Basic has employed more than 100 local South Sudanese citizens who strive to bring to life the organization’s mission: that every person in South Sudan will finally have access to clean water.

Water for South Sudan

Salva Dut established Water for South Sudan in Rochester, New York, in 2003. Dut was born in southwestern Sudan to the Dinka tribe. The Sudanese civil war separated Salva from his family when he was only 11 years old. Seeking refuge by foot, Dut joined the thousands of boys known as the “Lost Boys” on their journey to Ethiopia. After living in refugee camps for more than 10 years, Dut moved to the United States and decided to aid South Sudan by giving clean water to those in need.

The organization’s mission is to end the water crisis in South Sudan by providing access to clean water and improving sanitation practices in impoverished South Sudanese communities. As of April 1, 2020, Water for South Sudan has drilled 452 new drills since 2003. The U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit has also restored 162 wells and taught 422 hygiene lessons. The hygiene lessons include information on washing hands properly, covering water containers to keep the water clean, food safety practices and how to dispose of waste. Water for South Sudan has uplifted entire South Sudanese villages. The nonprofit has transformed their lives and health by installing wells, thus helping the people gain access to clean water.

Wells for Sudan

In 2013, The Water Project, a charity concentrated at ending the water crisis across sub-Saharan Africa, partnered with Neverthirst, a sponsor group for water charities in 2013. Together, the organizations drilled wells as part of their combined project Wells for Sudan. The collaboration has installed more than 400 wells in remote villages across South Sudan.

As Wells for Sudan establish water wells to help end the water crisis in South Sudan, the collaborating organizations include holistic approaches to its water projects. Its water projects consist of on-site evaluation, pump repair training and the formation of water committees to manage the wells’ maintenance. Neverthirst has also pledged regular inspections of the wells to ensure proper usage.

With the help of these highlighted organizations, the water crisis in South Sudan is declining. Now, more than 729,100 South Sudanese citizens have improved drinking water resources. Nevertheless, Water is Basic, Water for South Sudan and Wells for Sudan all vow to continue their efforts until every citizen in South Sudan has access to clean water resources and improved sanitation.

– Kacie Frederick
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Rwanda
Rwanda is a developing country located in central Africa. After a genocide left Rwanda in extreme poverty, the country is fighting to improve living conditions and life expectancy. Here are seven facts about sanitation in Rwanda.

7 Facts About Sanitation in Rwanda

  1. There are not enough wells in rural areas of Rwanda. Millions of women and children choose to walk over three miles a day to collect water for their families in order to sustain themselves. Most nearby water sources have experienced contamination. In the year 2000, 45 percent of the population had access to safely managed and basic drinking water. The number has now risen to 58 percent with the help of organizations like The Water Project and Charity Water to build wells.
  2. Waste management solutions can be simple and effective. Rwanda is turning the fecal waste from latrine pits into fertilizer and selling it to farmers. This is preventing the collection of the waste in ponds that later flood back into the communities during the rainy season.
  3. In 2000, just over 1 percent of the Rwandan population had proper handwashing facilities. Organizations like UNICEF have been working on educating communities about the importance of handwashing with soap. Its tactics include media campaigns and outreach programs. It increased the number of Rwandan’s with proper handwashing facilities to 5 percent of the population in 2017.
  4. Washing hands is one of the most effective ways to fight diseases that poor sanitation causes. One of the leading causes of death in Rwanda is diarrheal diseases, which is responsible for 8 percent of all deaths among those under 5 years old. This is easily preventable in any country when its citizens receive proper WASH education.
  5. Rwanda’s government signed agreements in 2019 with the African Development Bank to receive a loan of $115 million to support water infrastructure within the country. This has been one of the latest steps since the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development called for a focus on water and sanitation. The United Nations adopted this agenda in 2015 with its sixth goal being to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
  6. Young girls miss school every month while menstruating. This is due to many Rwandans considering menstruation taboo, leading to a lack of resources and education. The Sustainable Health Enterprise (SHE) is offering programs that distribute eco-friendly pads and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) training after school. Additionally, SHE’s campaign for menstrual hygiene awareness reached nearly 1,000 students in eight schools in 2013. Moreover, it reached 4.3 million people throughout the country in 2019.
  7. Sanitation in Rwanda is improving. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Rwanda continues to provide new ways of sanitation for its people. In March 2020, the country began installing hand-washing stations at bus stops in the capital of Kigali to prevent the spread of the virus.

Proper sanitation is necessary for economic development. Access to clean water and education on basic hygienic practices directly affects the rest of a country’s ability to thrive. Many cost-benefit analysis studies show that poor sanitation leads to a larger economic loss. As a result, developing countries should put preventative measures in place.

Molly Moline
Photo: Flickr

Water's Role in Development
To deny the necessity of clean and accessible water would be to deny the very thing that allows human civilization to exist, plants to grow and nourish people’s bodies and countries to foster globalization and connectivity across nations. According to the U.N., 785 million people lacked a safe and basic water source by 2015, and about a third of all countries reported being under some degree of water stress including low supply and hindered access to water. Water’s role in development has become the focus of ending poverty around the globe, and the efficient allocation and treatment of water still stand as major problems in developing countries.

Health Care and Sanitation

A lack of access to clean water often results in the spread of ailments such as malaria and diarrhea. Additionally, approximately 60 percent of people worldwide do not have access to adequate handwashing facilities. The effect of clean water on public health is staggering; the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that access to water for safe drinking and sanitation could prevent 500,000 annual deaths from malaria. An organization called The Water Project aims to make handwashing and sanitation a fundamental part of mortality reduction and works to change behaviors imbedded in communities to stress the importance of water’s role in development and disease prevention.

Women’s Health and Childhood Development

The most vulnerable groups regarding limited clean water access are women and children; women spend almost 40 billion hours a year on transporting and accessing water in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, and about half of all girls in school drop out due to improper sanitation methods that prevent them from maintaining their personal hygiene needs during puberty. Women are therefore more prone to infection and violence, perpetuating a cycle of gender inequality in developing nations. Additionally, WHO projects that safe water and sanitation could prevent 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhea and dehydration a year; most of the diseases inflicting children are preventable and further emphasizes the crucial nature of clean water’s role in development.

Economic Success

For every $1 that someone invests in clean water resources, $8 goes back into economies to help with economic development. When people are no longer fighting waterborne diseases and are spending valuable time fetching water for themselves and their families instead, they are becoming educated and skilled. The manufacturing and agricultural industries suffer most greatly from this; a lack of a water sanitation system in a factory means that employees must leave work to use the restroom or find drinking water, and rural areas that often have a lot of farms depend on safe water for growing crops. The farmers provide the raw materials to the manufacturing sectors, but without clean water, both enter a cycle that mirrors the endless trap of poverty in which their workers often find themselves.

Societal Implications

Education of the public is a fundamentally indisputable part of ensuring that societies have what they need to function politically and economically. When resources, especially vital ones like water, are in short supply, citizens are more likely to fall into cycles of desperation that result in extractive institutions that take advantage of their vulnerability. Water’s role in development goes beyond health and the productivity of citizens; access to clean water results in communities that are free of the burden to prioritize their survival, and empowerment of these communities can lead to civil organization in which citizens have a say in their system of government and those who control it.

With growing recognition of the importance of water’s role in development, some have taken new stances on multisectoral impacts of the distribution and treatment of water. Simple solutions are proving to make the most effective impact on the lives of impoverished people with low access to clean water. Handwashing initiatives and environmental policies that eliminate the probability of unsafe standing water could lead to a decline in the number of deaths from preventable diseases. Also, in an increasingly globalized and changing world, countries must take into consideration changing weather patterns that alter the face of water-related policies. Water’s role in development stretches far beyond the goal of providing suitable water conditions for those in poverty; it sets the stage for more inclusive policies that ensure the protection of those that limited clean water made vulnerable.

– Jessica Ball
Photo: Creative Commons

Facts about Sanitation in Nepal
Clean water and a clean environment are the foundations of a healthy life. Polluted water and poor sanitation can make anyone sick, regardless of nationality or geographic location. That is why it is so important to place global attention on the issues of water quality, hygiene and sanitation. Nepal has emerged as an example of how attention can lead to improved sanitation. Though challenges still exist, including drinking water functionality and regional disparities in development, Nepal has made significant progress. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Nepal.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Nepal

  1. Water supply and sanitation have been a government priority since 1981. The International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-90) saw increased investment in improving Nepal’s sanitation. For example, UNICEF and UNDP funded developments in water quality, hygiene and sanitation. The Nepalese government also expanded policies and programs in the sector. Among other initiatives, the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage developed a rural water supply project and a commission formed to evaluate water supply and sanitation practices.
  2. Nepal has made significant progress in water supply, sanitation and hygiene practices. In the last 25 years, a significant portion of the population—2.6 billion people—has gained access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. In 1990, estimates determined that only 36 percent of the population had access to a water supply facility. As of 2016, 95 percent of households were using improved drinking water.
  3. Nepal is open defecation free. As of September 2019, all 77 districts announced the elimination of open defecation. A 2009 cholera epidemic caused a public health disaster and prompted a new wave of efforts to improve national sanitation practices. The government collaborated with NGOs and local leaders to execute a plan to create an open defecation free nation. This included adopting a no-subsidy arrangement as the basis for sanitation implementation and the construction of improved sanitation facilities.
  4. Drinking water quality is now the primary concern. Estimates show that access to safely managed drinking water is only 27 percent. Bacterial contamination and water pollution are highly prevalent and exacerbate the risk of illness. Many consider poor drinking water quality to be a leading cause of disease outbreaks, such as cholera. To address this issue, UNICEF is partnering with Nepal’s Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation to implement water safety plans and increase community awareness on household-level water treatment.
  5. Drinking water functionality poses problems. Of Nepal’s water supply systems, only 25 percent consistently function properly. Thirty-six percent require minor repairs and 39 percent require either major repair, rehabilitation or reconstruction. Poorly functioning systems result in an unreliable, insufficient or unsafe water supply. UNICEF’s New Country Programme is aiding Nepal in tackling this challenge and has emphasized improving water functionality as a priority.
  6. Regional disparities persist in access to water supply facilities and sanitation coverage. Terai, a low-land region characterized by steams, springs and wetlands, has higher coverage of improved drinking water sources compared with the mountain and hill belts. However, the mountain and hill belts have greater access to sanitation facilities compared with the Terai region. Geographic heterogeneity links to differences in capital, technology and environmental resources.
  7. Poor people are more likely to use unimproved water sources and sanitation facilities. Households from lower quintiles are less likely to be able to afford a piped water connection. Therefore, inequity persists in the use of improved water sources and sanitation facilities among socioeconomic groups. In these 10 facts about sanitation in Nepal, it is important to note the wide influence of the distribution of resources across different economic levels on access to sanitation.
  8. Issues with water quality related to contamination are more often chemical than bacterial. According to The Water Project, a nonprofit primarily based on clean water access in Sub-Saharan Africa, the largest contaminants in the Kathmandu valley and Terai regions are lead and arsenic. This influx of chemicals comes mainly from industrial practices but the regions’ sedimentary layers of gravel deposits interlocked with flood plains magnifies it.
  9. Nepal aims to ensure clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. The government’s specific targets are basic water supply coverage for 99 percent of households, piped water supply to 90 percent of households and the elimination of open defecation. Achievements in water, sanitation and hygiene will contribute to a number of other goals, including those in public health, nutrition and poverty.
  10. UNICEF is working in collaboration with Nepal to achieve these goals. UNICEF, in collaboration with the Nepal government and other non-governmental organizations, has set forth strategies for Nepal to expand access to drinking water quality and improved sanitation facilities. These strategies include expanding water quality monitoring, increasing education about best sanitation practices and engaging with the private sector for the construction of affordable, low-cost toilets in households and institutions.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Nepal showcase the progress that Nepal has made since the International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade. With continued attention, Nepal should be able to continue its improvements into the future.

Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Flickr

Biggest Global Issues
Hundreds of millions of people around the world experience insufficient living conditions due to environmental factors, displacement, disease, poverty or some combination of the four. Here is a list of the biggest global issues that plague humankind.

The Biggest Global Issues Facing Mankind

1. Food and Malnutrition

  • Food and nutrition are essential for just about every life form on the planet, especially humankind. Although countries such as China, India, Brazil and the United States produce vast amounts of food for the world, about one in nine people will not eat enough food today. Malnourishment leads to the inability of about 795 million people to lead active and healthy lives around the globe.

  • Malnutrition leads to poor health and can stunt development in education and employment. According to The Food Aid Foundation, 66 million school-aged children will go to school hungry today. Consistent hunger in schools is linked to a lack of concentration.

  • World hunger has decreased by about 219 million people within the past two decades. It is through the innovative and ambitious work of organizations like the World Food Programme, in partnership with governments and communities, that the world can fill empty stomachs and provide communities with the resources to fill their own stomachs without aid, overtime.

  • The World Food Programme provides the Home Grown School Feeding Programme to counter the effects of consistent hunger in schools. One model of the  Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Kenya provides school meals to over 600 million schoolchildren. The organization purchases the meals from local farmers which helps boost Kenya’s agriculture-dependent economy. Constant meals in school serve as an incentive for poor families to send their children to school every day and enhance the quality of children’s education by reducing hunger.

2. Access to Clean Water

  • Water covers about 70 percent of planet Earth. Inadequate water supply, water supply access and lack of sanitation kill millions of people annually. Used for drinking and hygiene practices, lack of water sanitation is a leading cause of child mortality around the world.

  • Two days of the year educate the world about one of the biggest global issues facing humankind: the global water crisis. World Water Day and World Toilet Day are reminders that 700 million people around the globe could be facing displacement due to decreased access to fresh water by 2030. Severe droughts are a major reason for displacement. When there is no more water for drinking or for crops and livestock, people must leave their homes in search of a place where there is an adequate supply of water.

  • Within the past two decades, the percentage of countries without basic sanitation services decreased by 17 percent. Forty countries are on track to receive universal basic sanitation services by the year 2030. In the meantime, 88 countries are progressing too slowly in their sanitation advancements and 24 countries are decreasing in their advances toward universal sanitation coverage.

  • The Water Project is committed to providing safe water to Africa. It builds wells and dams to provide access to safe water. The project also delivers improved technology for more sanitary toilets that keep flies away. The Water Project provides and monitors 157 water projects in Sierra Leone including wells, dams and sanitary toilets. The Water Project builds these projects in schools and communities in the Port Loko region of Sierra Leone, serving some 7,000 Sierra Leoneans. The Water Project’s save water initiative impacts over 40,000 people on the continent of Africa.

3. Refugee Crisis

  • The refugee crisis is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind today. Refugees are seeking asylum from persecution, conflict and violence. A grand total of 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Some 54 percent of those displaced are children.

  • Developing countries host a third of the world’s refugees. Many refugees reside in the neighboring countries of those they left behind. Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon lead the world in hosting refugees.

  • Asylum seekers from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan continuously flee ongoing persecution, conflict and violence in their home countries. More recently, four million Venezuelans have fled their home country, 460 thousand of whom are seeking asylum in Spain, Central America and North America.

  • Venezuelans are fleeing dire political unrest and hyperinflation. Shortages in food, water, electricity and medicine also afflict the country. The Red Cross now provides at least $60 million worth of aid to Venezuela, reaching at least 650,000 Venezuelans. The World Vision Organization delivers aid to Venezuelan refugees in Venezuela’s neighboring countries. For example, in Colombia, World Vision provides economic empowerment, education, food and health essentials to some 40,000 refugees.

4. AIDS Epidemic

  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a longstanding global issue. With at least 36.9 million AIDS or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections around the world, the disease is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Since 2004, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by over half. In 2004, almost two million people worldwide died of AIDS-related illnesses, compared to 940,000 in 2017.

  • Organizations like the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS, Kaiser Family Foundation and PEPFAR are dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. These organizations help to ensure that infected people have access to treatment and the opportunity to live healthy lives. Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are 14 times more likely to contract HIV than boys. The DREAM initiative by PEPFAR and partners prioritizes the safety of AGYW against new HIV infections. PEPFAR is reaching at least 144,000 AGYW in Kenya, one country where HIV infections are most prevalent.

  • Although there is currently no cure, UNAIDS has a Sustainable Development Goal of bringing the number of new HIV infections down to zero by the year 2030. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts research and analyzes data regarding U.S. AIDS policy and funding, both domestic and globally. It serves as a source of information about AIDS and other global health issues for U.S. policymakers and the media.

5. Eradicating Poverty

  • Poverty is the lack of income necessary to access basic everyday needs and/or living below a specific country’s standard of living. Living in poverty can result in malnutrition,  poor health, fewer opportunities for education and increased illness. With an estimated 783 million people living in poverty, eradicating poverty is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind.

  • Malnutrition, contaminated water, the refugee crisis and the AIDS epidemic all contain some aspects of poverty. Organizations like the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus on sustainable development strategies to alleviate global poverty. The number of people living in poverty has decreased by half, thanks to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have lifted at least one billion people out of extreme poverty within the last two decades.

  • The Gates Foundation is proving that poverty can be ameliorated through Agricultural Transformation. Increasing a country’s food production can counter malnutrition and boost the country’s economy by increasing farmer’s crop productivity. Poverty in Ethiopia has decreased by at least 45 percent since the Gates Foundation first started investing in agricultural development there in 2006. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is witnessing an overall increase in its economy.

With the help of innovative organizations partnered with governments, the world is implementing practical techniques to help eliminate hunger, water scarcity, AIDS/HIV and poverty from the list of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Eliminating these problems will improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world, including refugees and internally displaced people.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

Access to Clean Water
Around 844 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. The lack of access to clean water affects all aspects of life from drinking to agriculture and hygiene. Furthermore, the lack of clean water perpetuates gender inequality and traps communities in poverty. However, the world has made significant progress. Between 1990 and 2015, the percent of the world’s population with access to clean water rose from 76 percent to 91 percent. That means that millions of people have felt the benefits. Here are six ways that access to clean water changes lives.

6 Ways Clean Water Changes Lives

  1. Improved Sanitation: Around 2.4 billion people worldwide do not have access to toilets or basic sanitation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, just 24 percent of people in rural areas have access to a modern toilet. With no running water, villagers must go out into isolated fields in order to find privacy, leaving women and girls especially at risk of attack. A lack of bathrooms also means that girls often miss school while they are menstruating. When communities gain access to improved sanitation systems, quality of life improves, women and girls are safer and girls are more likely to go to school consistently.
  2. Improved Health: Currently, 80 percent of illnesses in developing nations are related to contaminated water and poor sanitation. This particularly affects children due to their weak immune systems. One-fifth of all deaths which occur under the age of 5 are from water-borne illnesses. When children are sick, they cannot go to school and often another family member has to miss work to take care of them. When people are healthy, children can go to school and adults can have steady employment, leading to continued economic development. The elimination of deaths from water-related illnesses alone would lead to an added $18.5 billion in economic gains for affected countries. Families also save money on health care costs with the elimination of water-borne illnesses.
  3. Increased Gender Equality: Eighty percent of the time, women and girls are responsible for collecting water when it is not available at home. Worldwide, women collectively spend 200 million hours daily collecting water, sometimes walking six kilometers a day. This means they have little time to work, go to school and take care of their families. The long walks also leave women vulnerable to assault and rape. Additionally, the long journey and heavy loads can be dangerous for pregnant women. Access to clean water at home increases the educational and economic opportunities available to women and girls. With increased water access, women could have time to work or even start small businesses. Additionally, girls could go to school, which would have a life-long impact. In fact, for every year a girl spends in school, she increases her anticipated income as an adult by 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Education: Walking to fetch water can take hours every day. Children, particularly girls, are often responsible for doing it. Access to clean water changes lives because when children no longer have to spend most of their day fetching water, they are free to go to school. Drinking dirty water can also cause students to fall behind in their studies as they deal with the symptoms of water-borne illnesses. Education generally becomes a low priority as people struggle to survive. With clean water at home, children can stay in school and build better futures for themselves.
  5. Food Security: Without clean water, it is difficult to grow crops and prepare food. While one might think of water mostly as something to drink, worldwide, people use 70 percent of water resources in agriculture. Eighty-four percent of people who are without modern water systems also live in rural areas, where many rely on subsistence agriculture. Improvements in water management lead to increased agricultural production and allow community members to start small gardens to grow food to eat or sell.
  6. Escaping Poverty: When people no longer have to spend a significant portion of their days fetching water, children have time to go to school and adults can work and learn trades. When people no longer get sick from water-borne illnesses, they can go to school and work uninterrupted. Clean water also allows people to grow more food and practice better sanitation. Access to clean water has a proven position impact on development. The World Health Organization estimates that every dollar that people invest in water and sanitation brings an economic return of between $3 and $34. The U.N. estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours a year retrieving water. In fact, the world loses $260 billion of potential income each year due to a need to find water.

Many groups succeded in bringing clean water to communities and showing how access to clean water changes lives. For instance, Water.org helped more than 21 million people gain access to clean water through small loans. Millions worldwide spend more than 20 percent of their income on water, as a lack of clean water at home means they must go to a water merchant or pay exorbitant rates to have someone install plumbing. Giving people small loans allows them to quickly pay for plumbing, which eliminates costs in the future.

The Water Project addresses the water crisis by directly donating clean water sources. This organization builds and repairs wells, installs rain catchment tanks and constructs sand dams to improve irrigation. So far, the Water Project has helped close to 500,000 people gain access to clean water for drinking and agriculture.

The World Bank, UNICEF and the World Health Organization determined that providing basic water and sanitation infrastructure to those that need them would cost $28.4 billion a year for 15 years. Right now, the U.S. spends around $600 million on the military each year. A readjustment of federal priorities, taking into account the ripple effects which clean water has on communities, could make a drastic difference for the world’s poor.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lesotho
For those living in the landlocked country of Lesotho, life is far shorter than it is in most of the world. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho that help reveal the reasons for its low life expectancy, as well as what the country has done and needs to do to improve the lives of those in Lesotho.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS: By far the most important of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho is that it has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. Health services are difficult to access and poor quality once received, contributing to an increase in the disease. Sentebale, a nonprofit created by Prince Harry, works in Lesotho to provide holistic care for children with HIV and those who have been orphaned as a result.
  2. Unemployment: Landlocked in Southern Africa, Lesotho has always depended on neighbors for employment. A majority of the working population traveled to South African mines for work, but recent retrenchment has left 24 to 28 percent of people jobless and without income. There have been few domestic opportunities to offset this deficit and improvement in Lesotho’s private sector will be crucial to creating much needed local jobs.
  3. Low Agricultural Output: Only a small portion of Lesotho’s land is arable enough for steady crop growth. This combined with recent droughts has created intense food scarcity. Some progress is happening as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation has created several Nutrition Corners that help parents find nutritious food for their children’s development, despite limited quantities. The World Food Programme has also planned to distribute food to 103,000 beneficiaries and additional food to nearly 5,000 children by 2024. This should greatly improve life expectancy by providing for the most basic of needs.
  4. Natural Disasters: The effects of climate change are evident in the 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho as the country continues to experience floods, droughts and other intense weather. This jeopardizes Lesotho’s material security, further disrupting the Basotho people’s lives. In response, the United Nations Development Programme has designed several projects to restore degraded landscapes and enhance climate resilience.
  5. Gender Roles: The HIV/AIDS crisis disproportionately affects women in Lesotho because they often must take in sick relatives or community members on top of performing existing domestic responsibilities. This amount of pressure forces women to pursue risky work such as prostitution or human trafficking. These jobs often damage women’s wellbeing and make it hard for them to live long and healthy lives.
  6. Few Social Services: One of the most interesting 10 facts about life expectancy in Lesotho is that Lesotho has a relatively large population of elderly citizens despite the HIV/AIDS crisis. The country created its Old Age Pension to provide each citizen over 70 years old with roughly $40 per month. While the social service has had a tremendous impact by making elderly people stable caregivers for their families, including orphaned grandchildren, it is one of the only social services in Lesotho. More programs of this caliber would drastically improve the total health of the population and thus increase Lesotho’s life expectancy as well.
  7. Improving Education: Education has been a consistent priority for Lesotho, and one that has yielded substantial results. After implementing free primary education, enrollment among children increased from 65 percent to 85 percent in three years. The next goal for Lesotho is to decrease the price of secondary school, as many children cannot currently afford to enroll. The best chance for the Basotho people to raise their life expectancy is to become educated, empowered and informed people.
  8. Water and Sanitation: Several people in Lesotho (18.2 percent) do not have access to dependably clean water despite several dams present. The water is instead transported to South Africa for profit which leaves local people thirsty. Organizations such as The Water Project are building wells, water catchments and other water solutions for the people of Lesotho.
  9. Few Accessible Doctors: Lesotho has one doctor per 20,000 people, compared to the one per 400 in the United States. This makes health care inaccessible and costly for most of Lesotho. Lesotho recently added a residency program in family medicine, which will hopefully increase the retention rate of doctors and create a reasonable ratio of doctors to patients.
  10. Infant, Child and Mother Mortality Rates: An important cause of the reduced life expectancy in Lesotho is an infant mortality rate of 44.6 deaths per 1,000 births and a maternal mortality rate of 487 deaths per 100,000 births. This is largely due to preterm birth complications that come from the frequently poor living conditions of mothers. Both infant and maternal health outcomes are looking much better after Lesotho’s hospitals introduced free deliveries, providing a safe place for mothers to deliver cost-free.

Lesotho is attempting to make the lives of the Basotho people better. Free primary education, enhanced feeding programs and efforts at improving the health sector bring new hope and promise for the country. Though Lesotho needs to do more to fully help its people, its people’s lives are slowly growing longer and their quality of life should continuously improve.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Fieldwork NGOs Fighting Global PovertyFieldwork NGOs are non-government organizations that fight against global poverty directly within areas of need. Whether it be by building wells, establishing schools or educating local farmers, fieldwork NGOs take a hands-on approach to improve poverty-stricken communities worldwide. While there are countless organizations doing amazing work to fight against global poverty, this list highlights just a few. Here is a list of five fieldwork NGOs fighting global poverty.

5 Fieldwork NGOs Fighting Global Poverty

  1. The Water Project
    The Water Project provides clean drinking water to communities across sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, the group focuses on creating reliable sources of clean water that are easy to access in terms of proximity. This includes building wells for groundwater, constructing dams to create larger local deposits and other similar processes. Once a resource is built for a community, the Water Project also makes sure to do maintenance checks to keep that resource functional. Currently, the Water Project is maintaining 1,294 clean water resources across sub-Saharan Africa. Today, the organization’s efforts are impacting 462,000 people worldwide.
  2. Child Empowerment International
    Child Empowerment International brings education to wartorn areas of civil unrest. This NGO makes its intent clear on its website: “Our Mission [is] to reduce poverty through education and empowerment.” To achieve this mission, Child Empowerment International establishes schools in areas of need, teaching leadership skills and ways to contribute to their local communities. Child Empowerment International primarily focuses on children in areas traumatized by war. So far, its efforts have been stationed across Sri Lanka and Uganda, with the intention of spreading aid elsewhere as the NGO grows. In Sri Lanka alone, there are 80 CEI schools and programs teaching more than 6,800 children in need. In Uganda, CEI programming provides 300 students with quality education services.
  3. Build Health International
    Build Health International is an NGO that builds health infrastructures in impoverished communities worldwide, all within the constraints of locally available resources. Build Health International creates architectural plans for hospitals, designing them to be cost-efficient while still high quality. In addition, this NGO focuses on using renewable resources, such as solar panels, to keep facilities energy efficient. While Build Health International primarily focuses on building hospitals, it also aids local workforces by providing short-term construction jobs. Build Health International emphasizes the importance of maintaining close relationships with assisted locals, adjusting health infrastructures to best suit community dynamics. Today, Build Health International has completed over 50 major projects across African, Haiti and Latin America.
  4. One Acre Fund
    One Acre Fund addresses the irony of a global phenomenon — that the majority of the world’s hungriest people are farmers. In remote communities across sub-Saharan Africa, the One Acre Project has a multi-step process in eradicating hunger and empowering rural communities. One Acre Fund not only provides seeds and tools to communities in need but also educates local farmers on agricultural techniques and market facilitation practices. This hands-on approach builds up communities for long term success, setting them on a self-sustaining path for sustenance and a chance for economic prosperity. Through the One Acre Fund’s aid, 809,900 rural families were assisted in 2018; as for 2019, the project number of families assisted is 925,000.
  5. Mercy Corps
    Mercy Corps is an NGO that applies an array of fieldwork to in-need communities all over the globe. This NGO was originally founded as the Save a Refugee Fund, determined to assist Cambodian refugees fleeing from the nation’s war and genocide. Over the course of nearly four decades, Mercy Corps has assisted over 220 million people worldwide. Mercy Corps educates farmers about agriculture and self-sustaining methods, helps local communities start and maintain viable businesses, provides programs to decrease inequality between women and men, and many, many more outlets for assistance. Mercy Corps provides these services to over 40 countries across the globe, from the islands of the Philippines to the war-torn regions of Iraq.

With thousands of NGOs providing fieldwork aid to communities worldwide, these five mentioned are just a small fraction of the overall picture. Improving one’s quality of life is a multi-faceted effort, as seen by these fieldwork NGOs fighting global poverty.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia

provide clean water to the poorWater is the source and sustainer of life everywhere, but that does not mean it is readily available everywhere. Developing countries and communities often have limited or difficult access to water, and even then it may not be clean enough to safely drink. With so many people needing help, and the situation different in each community, the question remains: what are some available ways to provide clean water to the poor? Fortunately, many have explored this question

The Water Project

The Water Project is an organization that builds sustainable sources of clean water for poor communities. In March 2019, they improved an existing well in the village of Lungi in Sierra Leone and the well provides clean water today. The well was initially completed in 2000, but did not provide water from March to July. During those months, people relied on a nearby swamp for water. The swamp was unhygienic and far away. After deepening the well and giving it a new hand pump, 333 people had access to water year-round. The Water Project also provided hygiene training, which included teaching the community how to create hand-wash stations using a jerry can, string, and some sticks.

Another method for cleansing water of pathogens before consumption is solar disinfection, referred to as SODIS, where water is placed in a clear plastic bottle and left in sunlight to disinfect. When done correctly, it is a zero cost method of purifying water. In a project that lasted from 2013 to 2015, HELVETAS, a Swiss organization, introduced the SODIS method to the region of Benin. The method was taught at schools and brought to the local government and it resulted in 66,000 people learning how to disinfect their water.

AtmaGo

Other ways to provide clean water to the poor come from technological innovation, such as AtmaGo. Initially launched in Indonesia as a website, it has since become an Android app for originally for building a web of information about water prices. Families in some areas could spend 10 percent of their income on clean water from a vendor, not knowing that better prices could be found nearby. With AtmaGo, this knowledge became more readily available, allowing clean water to become a safe part of a family’s budget. AtmaGo has since taken on other functions, including disaster relief and preparedness. Now, more than one million people in Indonesia use the app.

Hippo Water Roller

Simple innovations can also provide clean water to the poor. A prime example is the Hippo Water Roller, a barrel that can be filled with water, and then rolled long distances via handle. It helps people more much more water than is possible with the containers most communities use, and rolling a barrel is easier than carrying a container. It is a significant boon for communities that have to travel long distances for their water supply.

This has been useful to the communities of Tanna Island in Vanuatu. World Vision International distributed Hippo Rollers to communities in Southwest Tanna, where many live on narrow ridges away from the ocean and cannot rely on wells. The result is a journey of 100 to 300 meters down to rivers, creeks or the sea. The containers often held only 20 liters of water for transport at a time. The Hippo Roller, by contrast, holds 90 liters of water and can be transported more easily. As a result, Tanna communities have easier access to clean water, which means more time for the children who help with water collection to study.

Wide-scale installation, increased communication and simple innovation are all ways to provide clean water to the poor, and anyone can help implement them. New, more efficient methods of water preservation and transportation are always in demand. The organizations undertaking these efforts require constant funding and a steady supply of manpower. Thanks to dedicated organizations and people from all walks of life, solutions that provide clean water to the poor remain plentiful.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr