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Safe, Quality Drinking Water

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

Access to Safe Drinking Water in South America

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

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

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

UN Millenium Development MDGsThe United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000. World leaders and members of the United Nations (UN) gathered at the Millennium Summit to set goals for eradicating world poverty focusing on eight specific aspects of poverty and how it affects people globally.

The campaign concluded in 2015 and at that time data was released to show the progress achieved. The eight UN MDGs are listed below, along with what was achieved in each category, per the results of the 2015 report:

    • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty. The target of this goal was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, both the number of people whose income falls below $1 per day and the number of people suffering from hunger. These goals were largely achieved. The number of people living in extreme poverty was reduced by more than half. The proportion of undernourished people in developing countries fell by nearly half.
    • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education. This goal began with the ambitious target of assuring that both boys and girls everywhere would have access to a full primary education by 2015. Significant strides have been made in this area. The number of out of school children of primary age, globally, dropped from 100 million to 57 million over the course of the MDG campaign.
    • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The goal, specifically, was to achieve gender parity in both primary and secondary education no later than 2015. This was achieved in roughly two-thirds of developing countries.
    • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality. The goal was specifically to reduce the mortality rate of children under 5 by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The rate was not reduced by two-thirds by 2015 but it was more than halved. The 12.7 million deaths in 1990 were reduced to 6 million by 2015.

  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health. The target of this goal was to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. The result was that maternal mortality declined by 45 percent, largely after the year 2000.
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. The primary target named for this goal was to have halted the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, and to have begun its reversal. Cases of new HIV infections fell by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, and there was an immense increase in the number of people who had access to the drugs that combat HIV. Additionally, the mortality rate due to malaria dropped by 58 percent, and 900 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed in affected areas.
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Stability. This goal was to “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.” Results included 1.9 billion people gaining access to piped drinking water between 1990 and 2015 and 90 percent of ozone-depleting materials being eliminated in countries included in the campaign.
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development. Financial assistance by developed countries increased from $81 billion in 2000 to $135 billion in 2014. This is a 66 percent increase.

In many cases, the UN MDGs were achieved. Where they were not, great strides were still made towards achieving the goals. Some have criticized the campaign for falling short of its stated goals. But the data shows significant progress made for each one.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

child_poverty_indicators
On September 2000 at the Millennium Summit, world UN leaders decided to enact the UN Millennium Declaration, a document which asked the world community to meet 8 goals by 2015. As 2015 is upon us, many countries are struggling to meet every goal, but there is no denying that this commitment was a good benchmark for development. Due to the goal’s relative success and the apparent need for more time, many in the international community have begun to developed a new set of goals called sustainable development goals (SDGs), which will allow countries to progress in a mildly regimented fashion. In order to assure world leaders that these goals are being met, the committee has developed a set of indicators which will track different contries’ progression as it rises from poverty.

The first sustainable development goal aims to eradicate extreme poverty—indicated by families who live on less than $1.25 per day—for all people, everywhere, by the year 2030. The proposed indicator for families living in extreme poverty is the percentage of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, disaggregated by the age of the population. This allows the committee and the global community to effectively measure how many children are affected by extreme poverty, and thus take action against it.

Another sustainable development goal will work toward reducing the number of men, women and children living in poverty by any and all of its definitions throughout the world by at least half by 2030. The committee has proposed to indicate this poverty by monitoring the percentage of children (ages 0-17) living below the poverty line and the percentage of children living under multidimensional poverty. This is a lofty goal but there are several task forces and global initiatives that have been enacted to combat this type of poverty.

The global community is finally realizing the importance role children play in world progress. Poverty affects families throughout the world, even in developed countries such as the U.S., where 1 in 8 children go hungry every day. By focusing on children, society is creating a much stronger future; children are the future leaders and decision makers of our world, and by improving their standard of living and providing them with better educations, we can create a world of well-educated, caring individuals.

By introducing child poverty indicators, the global community has created a definitive line, which marks the division between poverty and extreme poverty. In enacting these methods of measurement, it will soon become easier to identify which nations require more assistance and what exactly needs to be done. The sheer existence of such indicators shows the international communities’ heightened awareness of the impact children will have on our societies and the importance of a healthy childhood.

The Millennium Development Goals were the first step in a long path led by the United Nations, and they have helped the global community progress immensely. If we focus on sustainable development and allow society to progress in a ways that benefit everyone, including the environment, we can create a much happier, healthier and caring world.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: UNICEF, UN Millennium Project
Photo: Poverties.org

poverty_environment
A common misconception is that protecting the environment exacerbates poverty in poor nations because it prevents agricultural development and the ability to harvest natural resources. This is far from the truth. In fact, environmental protection initiatives actually help alleviate poverty.

A study done in Costa Rica reveals that ecotourism efforts contribute to decreased poverty levels in regions situated near protected parks and natural areas. Thanks to the economic opportunities provided by the ecotourism sector, these regions have seen nearly 66% reduction in poverty. Paul Ferraro, professor of economics and environmental policy at Georgia State University, finds three triggering factors that show a direct correlation between poverty reduction and environmental conservation.

Triggers of Poverty Reduction Linked to Environmental Protection

  1. Changes in tourism and recreational activities
  2. Infrastructural changes (e.g. roads, health clinics and schools)
  3. Changes in ecosystem services (e.g. crop pollination and nutrient cycles)

A similar study was done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on protected areas of Thailand and Costa Rica established 15 years ago. The study concluded, “the net impact of ecosystem protection was to alleviate poverty.” Communities around protected areas in Costa Rica experienced a 10% decrease in poverty, while the communities in Thailand saw almost a 30% reduction. As in the previous study, PNAS finds that tourism revenue and job opportunities directly contributed to reduced levels in poverty.

Protecting biodiversity is critical for 75% of the world’s poor who live in rural areas and depend on sustenance farming and fishing for survival. Disappearing or declining species in an ecosystem directly impacts people’s ability to provide food for their families. Local villagers in the Sierra Leone region of West Africa, for example, experienced direct effects of biodiversity loss as a result of overfishing and pollution. As fishing makes up their main source of food, the coastal community struggled to sustain their protein-rich diet with the loss of diversity in fish stocks. The World Bank helped restore the marine ecosystem by improving fishing regulations and introducing sustainable fishing techniques in the area.

The World Bank invests over $1 billion in nature and wildlife protection, and an additional $300 million in environmental and natural resource law enforcement. Moreover, investments in biodiversity help create jobs and raise incomes around the world. The Bank has already helped boost income levels in communities within rural regions of South Africa, Kenya and Honduras. The long-term impacts of these investments contribute simultaneously to two of the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals:

Eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

The protection of natural ecosystems from environmental degradation, such as pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss, ensures the safety and stability of local impoverished communities that rely on those precious natural resources for survival. Environmental protection has proven to be a key factor in poverty reduction around the world, and it is critical that international organizations, like the World Bank, continue to support global initiatives in hopes of making the UN Millennium Development Goals a reality.

– Gloria Kostadinova

Sources: Nature World News, National Geographic, Triple Pundit, World Bank, United Nations
Photo: Maag-Uma

Federal Poverty Level
The federal poverty level is a measure that is often cited yet seldom is it fully understood.  Currently, the federal poverty level is considered to be at about a $15,000 yearly income per two-person families and, of which, the extreme poverty threshold  is set to households that are living on less than $2 per day.  This definition is fairly controversial, and has been subject to change over the years based on a number of factors.  However, it is a key concept to understand, and not just for domestic policy but foreign affairs as well.

The federal poverty level, or threshold, has been in effect in its current state since the Kennedy Administration.  According to a paper by economist, Gordon M. Fisher, the level was initiated in order to understand the risks of living in poverty  and the affects of poverty on different groups of people.  During the Johnson Administration, the level was used as a target; particularly, during the administration’s War on Poverty.

The level was developed based on the cost of food for families at the time and what kind of nutritional diet a family would be able to have at different levels.  Under the first calculation of this threshold, done by an economist working for the Social Security Administration, the threshold was determined at $1,988 yearly income per two-person households.

Since its creation, while a number of revisions have occurred since the first set of calculations, the formula to determine the level has been an important factor in U.S. policy decisions.  When looking at global poverty, the extreme poverty measure is particularly important for the threshold has been used to set goals for anti-poverty measures.

The Millennium Project is one such measure that uses the federal poverty level calculations to influence foreign policy.  The project has a number of goals to keep the global economy move forward, but listed first on these goals is the effort to “eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.”  These goals were set in 1990 with initial targets set to hit these goals.

The initial target for the extreme poverty goal was to halve extreme poverty by 2015.  Reminiscent of Johnson’s War on Poverty, this goal looked to drive the force for a greater world society.  The goal actually was estimated to have been reached by 2008, an achievement that was praised as a major success for the Millennium Project.

Despite the fact that poverty levels are used by programs like the War on Poverty and the Millennium Project, the poverty threshold has a number of critics.  Popular criticisms are that the threshold is too low, as it still uses calculations from the 1960s, and are applied indiscriminately to very different regions.  Alternative poverty measures have been proposed by state governments and by groups such as the National Academy of Sciences.  Unfortunately, none have yet been adopted.

Federal poverty levels are important to understand considering they are most often used in discussions surrounding poverty.  The measures influence policy decisions and are used to track the path of the U.S. economy.  The indications are that extreme poverty is going down across the world, but what this says about actual poverty and what it says about the way it is measured could be debated in some corners.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: The New Yorker, Huffington Post, UN Millennium Project, Social Security Administration, Center for American Progress

Ending_Poverty_by_2015
At the annual European Union’s Development Day in Brussels, some of the world’s brightest scientists, aid workers, and politicians convened in a discussion forum to address the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which had been initially set nearly 14 years ago. The event brought out a showing of nearly 5,000 people across 80 active organizations and groups, whose main objective was to review the status of the MDGs. These goals included reducing the number of people living in poverty by 50%, providing adequate primary school education for every boy and girl, reducing the child death rate for those less than five years old by two-thirds, and to halve the number of people without access to clean drinking water.

When these goals were originally created in September 2000, no one could have fathomed the very real possibility of substantially increasing living standards for those most vulnerable and aiming to extinguish poverty by 2015. “For the first time ever, we have what it takes to eliminate poverty in our lifetimes, and to ensure sustainable prosperity within the boundaries of what our planet can provide,” said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Already, the number of people who live on less than one euro a day has been cut in half when taking an average global reading.

Though there are many positive signs at reaching these set MDGs, there is still much that can be improved upon when analyzing global humanitarian efforts as a whole. Currently, only a select number of countries have set aside the official target of donating 0.7% of gross domestic products (GDP) towards development aid, a fact that hinders the probability reaching such goals. “We have to admit that our progress report on achieving the MDGs is uneven. Much more needs to be done to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots to reduce and eradicate inequity, inequality, and exclusion in our world,” says Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller.

Working towards these goals over the last 13 years has proven to be difficult, but according to officials speaking at EU’s Development Day, planned completion of these goals remains two years ahead of schedule. In providing access to cleaner drinking water, 6 million people now have access to clean water sources. The majority of children in schools have also increased, though it is still estimated roughly 60 million children will go through their lives without proper education.

While the fight against poverty is long and arduous, leaders around the world have faith that coming together as a world will solve many of these issues, “We negotiated not as North-South, East-West, poor or rich, but as members of one humanity, with a common destiny,” said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. With roughly one-seventh of the world’s population, 900 million people, still suffering from hunger, there is still a long way to go before reaching the 2015 goal at eradicating global poverty. But now, more than ever, are sure signs that these goals are building towards something incredibly important and inevitable – ending poverty.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: Deutsche Welle, allAfrica
Photo: Cloud In

Nepal Clean Water MDG Millenium Development Goals
According to Nepal’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report, “Around 270,000 households in the country [have] gained access to safe drinking water.” This does not, of course, mean that Nepalese households now have access to the best quality water. However, United Nations officials believe that any kind of access to clean water is a step toward achieving sustainable access to clean drinking water–one of the UN’s MDGs for developing countries such as Nepal.

According to these reports, access to drinking water in Nepal has increased in the past two years. Access from sources such as wells, streams, and rivers has gone from less than 25 percent to around 80 percent. In 2013, the numbers were confirmed at more than 85 percent. Nepalese government officials have reported that this dramatic increase is due to “rural-centric water supply projects; especially the increased use of water supply pipes, deep tube-wells, and rainwater harvesting systems, implemented with the support of several bilateral and multilateral development partners”.

Despite these gains, however, the MDG Report reveals that there are still 700,000 households without safe drinking water. Most of these are located in the far western region of Nepal. The Report explains that this remote region of Nepal would not be supplied with safe drinking water until 2017.

Even the households that do have access to safe drinking water don’t have access to quality water. Reports from eKantipur state that “85 percent of Nepalese households’ drinking water is not up to par with with the international standards of good quality drinking water.”

Water that is considered unsafe comes from a variety of places including:

  • Uncovered wells
  • Rivers
  • Springs

These sources are tested regularly. If they are reported as unclean, people from the surrounding regions are given limited to no access.When this happens, the UN faces a serious dilemma. In limiting Nepalese access to water, then Nepalese citizens’ daily activities are also limited.

In addition, Nepalese officials have guaranteed all of their citizens access to water. Yet this access has been defined as “water access, not quality water access.” As a result, citizens often have to be satisfied with questionable water sources, which can lead to serious illnesses.

Nepalese officials have also reported unequal access to drinking water among social groups and regions. According to these officials, “Urban areas have 58 percent access while rural areas have 41 percent coverage.” In addition, the “western region has the highest access to safe drinking water (61 percent) and the far western region has the lowest.” These statistics show drastic inequalities in regard to clean water access. These inequalities are a dominant aspect of the Nepalese region.

Despite these challenges, the UN Development Goals Report states that the challenge of providing clean, safe drinking water could “be met by 2017.” If the goal is reached, better, cleaner water will be available throughout the regions of Nepal. However, to do so, the UN must implement constant and strict policies regarding clean water. Officials must also create a more efficient way of obtaining clean water.

The Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Committee, Rabindra Kumar Shakya, has suggested decentralization as a possible solution. According to Shakya, “It is time to decentralize the efforts and give priority to the establishment of water quality resource centers at the regional level.” Such a change could be prove vital to the Nepalese clean water initiative.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: EKantipur, United Nations
Photo: causelife