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Liberia's Water Crisis
Insufficient access to clean water sources is one of the primary issues that developing countries are facing today, particularly in Africa. Without clean drinking water, people in these countries turn to unsafe secondary sources which can spread disease and promote unhealthy living conditions. Particularly during COVID-19, access to reliable drinking water has become more critical than ever. Liberia’s water crisis is an example of why safe water sources are so important.

Causes of Water Insecurity in Liberia

Situated on the coast of West Africa between the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, Liberia is a relatively small country with a population of just over 5 million people. It is Africa’s oldest republic, declaring its independence and drafting a constitution that it modeled on that of the United States in 1847. It is a tropical country with ample water sources, but several wars and disasters are to blame for the country’s lack of water purification systems and a limited ability to transport those resources.

Two brutal civil wars, first from 1989-1997 and again from 1999-2003, severely damaged Liberia’s infrastructure and nearly destroyed its economy. The country experienced a subsequent period of economic growth but lost much of its progress during the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015. This outbreak caused the death of over 4,800 Liberians, causing the country to struggle in rebuilding its economy and infrastructure ever since. Liberia now relies heavily on international organizations and foreign aid, especially in securing potable water.

Combating the water crisis in Liberia is an undoubtedly daunting task. For example, 3.7 million Liberians or eight in 10 peopledo not have access to a functioning toilet. This deficiency forces citizens to relieve themselves outside in groundwater sources, which quickly become contaminated and allow for faster disease transmission. Ebola spread throughout the country as rapidly as it did because of the scarcity of clean toilets, which fostered diseases such as diarrhea. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children in Liberia, with over 700 children under the age of 5 dying each year due to the disease.

In addition to damaging people’s health, Liberia’s water crisis reaches into other aspects of society such as education. Many children remain at home to help around the house, particularly with water retrieval, instead of attending school. For those who do go to school, the shortage of proper toilet facilities in classrooms can result in disease spread and has contributed to the country’s ever-increasing dropout rate. While the water crisis is widespread and threatens to grow with the rise of COVID-19, several organizations are collaborating with the Liberian government to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and provide clean water to those who need it most. Here are three organizations providing clean water in Liberia.

3 Organizations Providing Clean Water in Liberia

  1. UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the most prominent organization combating Liberia’s water crisis. UNICEF has been working with the Liberian government to construct water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems in rural areas with extremely limited access to clean water, as well as schools and hospitals. These low-cost, high-quality centers are key to increasing nationwide hygiene and personal health. As of 2017, nearly 65% of all Liberian WASH systems were functioning properly and serving the country’s citizens, up from just 53% in 2011.
  2. Charity: Water: Charity: Water is a nonprofit organization focused on the global water crisis as a whole, and has an operation in Liberia. In Liberia, Charity: Water is working to restore an aging water-transporting infrastructure that has either experienced destruction or simply not received repair since the last civil war. In addition, the program educates communities on maintaining personal hygiene and teaches locals how to keep these water projects operational.
  3. Face Africa: Face Africa is another nonprofit organization that aims to bring clean and safe drinking water to developing countries, but with a tighter regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the start of its mission in Liberia, the organization has completed 50 WASH projects in the country’s rural areas and brought clean drinking water to over 25,000 people. Similar to Charity: Water, Face Africa focuses on ensuring that pre-existing water projects in Liberia are functioning properly and serving their communities. Additionally, the organization is building its own WASH projects in the country.

While combating Liberia’s water crisis is no easy feat, UNICEF, Charity: Water and Face Africa are all doing their part to help end the issue. As Liberia’s economy grows and its ability to rebuild its failing infrastructure strengthens, the country will better able to fight off future water crises.

– Alexander Poran
Photo: Flickr

Eritrea’s Lack of Clean WaterEritrea is a northeast country in Africa, bordering the Red Sea coast. Eritrea has faced severe drought issues over the years. In addition, Eritrea’s lack of clean water affects over 80% of its citizens. This problem has negatively impacted its ongoing poverty issue.

Climate

Eritrea’s weather varies depending on the location. The variety of weather conditions is due to the differences in elevation between plains and plateaus. The average temperature by Massawa, or the coast, is around mid-80s Fahrenheit. However, on higher grounds, like plateaus, the average temperature is around low-60s Fahrenheit. The mean annual rainfall in the plateaus is around 16-20 inches. In the west plain, it is usually less than 16 inches. That is below average in many other parts of the world.

Effects of the Lack of Clean Water

Despite the fact that Eritrea has around 16 to 20 inches of rainfall annually, almost half of the country does not have access to clean water. As of 2020, 80.7% of Eritreans lack basic water services. This problem leads to consequential outcomes such as:

  1. Hygiene & the Contamination of Public Water Sources: Without the basic access to clean water, citizens of Eritrea are forced to use public water sources like rivers and streams. Citizens use public water sources to perform their everyday activities since they do not have safe accessible water at their homes. People will cook and shower with the same water. Thus, the sources become contaminated over time. The water contamination can then lead to fatal diseases.
  2. Diseases: Diarrhoeal disease is a type of bowel infection that usually spreads through contaminated water. Bacteria and viruses from water need a host in order to survive. It is unusual for the diarrhoeal disease to be deadly, but death can occur if a person loses over 10% of their body’s water. According to UNICEF, diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Eritrea. Cholera is an infectious disease that contaminated water sources also cause. The symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdomen pain. This disease can be fatal if a person does not receive treatment on time because the body will eventually become dehydrated.

Effects of Poverty

Eritrea’s lack of clean water and poverty are linked to one another. Access to clean water means being able to cook, bathe and drink. Aside from covering basic needs, it also helps businesses run safely, keep children healthy and reduces vulnerability during a natural disaster.

  1. Businesses: Farmers and local business owners rely, to some extent, on the access to clean water. Farmers need to keep their crops clean by washing them. Local businesses also need clean water to create products or sell food. Without accessible clean water nearby, owners and employees have to leave their businesses to find a drinkable water source and sanitation facilities. By doing so, they could potentially lose customers.
  2. Girl’s Education: When girls hit puberty, they begin menstruating. If girls cannot practice proper hygiene or have access to clean water at school, they often miss out on education. Some have to skip class until their menstruation ends, which is around a week. During that week, they do not learn whatever their schools teach.
  3. Vulnerability During Natural Disasters: Clean water promotes good health. If communities lack strength due to unsafe water usage, citizens may have a hard time withstanding times of disasters. Houses would possibly be destroyed and businesses may be ruined. Thus, those in poverty would be forced to leave their homes and find another by traveling long distances. Many, without access to clean water, would struggle along the way because potential diseases from contaminated water would weaken their body.

Government Involvement

Eritrea’s state government has partnered up with UNICEF to improve citizens’ drinking water and sanitation issues. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aims to increase accessible clean water and promote safe WASH practices in drought-prone areas of Eritrea. UNICEF is also working to connect many schools to community water supply systems.

With the state government’s involvement, Eritrea’s clean water crisis will eventually improve. The promotion of good hygiene practices reduces the spread of diseases. With many schools being connected to safe water supply systems, students will be healthy and girls will not have to skip school during the week of their menstruation. This brings hope for the future of Eritrea.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Water Disparities in NigeriaIn Nigeria, clean water does not always receive treatment as a public good available to everyone. Instead, access to clean water depends on the neighborhood a person lives in. As a result, the dangers of waterborne diseases affect low-income areas disproportionately. Additionally, clean water is a privilege pertaining to socioeconomic status rather than the public good it should be. Water disparities in Nigeria often affect those who need the most help.

The Problem of Water Contamination

Adriel Garrick, who grew up in Nigeria, knows about water inequality. Garrick told The Borgen Project that “When [she] was young [she] had a friend diagnosed with Typhoid,” an infection that drinking contaminated drinking water or food causes.  She also said that “[Her] friend did not know he was drinking polluted water, and he was in the hospital for about three weeks, then later passed away.”

Death from water contamination is not unusual. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, as of 2015, 42.7% of Nigeria’s rural population and 19.2% of its urban population lacked clean, reliable drinking water. Diarrheal diseases, usually from contaminated drinking water, are the fifth leading cause of death in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s rural population is in a worse situation than the urban population for one reason: wealth. Wealth is a massive determinant of who gets clean drinking water there.

Water Supply System in Nigeria

According to Chidozie Nnaji, a researcher at the University of Nigeria, Nigeria does not treat drinking water as a social right. “The government provides water for the highly placed and charges them peanuts, but the same gesture is hardly extended to the generality of the masses who have to provide (purchase) their own water,” Nnaji told The Borgen Project. “Water is perceived as a social right for the highly placed, but as an economic good for the rest of the people. What an irony!”

Nigeria has a privatized water supply, contributing to disparities between the access of the wealthy and the poor. “Privatized water supply in developing countries is known for little infrastructure investments, neglecting low-income areas, and prioritizing profit over service quality,” Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, an associate professor at the University of Dammam, told The Borgen Project.

Not only can privatized water add to economic disparities, but it is also often unhealthy. Water vending is not a sustainable solution, according to Abubakar.

“Water vending is supposed to be a stop-gap solution to water outages or for households not yet connected to piped water supply,” said Abubakar. “Water vendors have now become the primary source of water for numerous households, . . . they should not be allowed as a long-term solution. . . . Water vendors and packaged water are expensive and not free from contamination.”

UNICEF’s Solution to Clean Water

The United Nations Children’s Fund has been working with the Nigerian government since 2005 to implement the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. The program aims to provide clean water to all of Nigeria and implement hygiene education and sanitation facilities. WaterAid is a global federation of nonprofits. It has an initiative working with the Nigerian government to provide clean water and sanitation to families who need it most.

Safe, clean water is a necessity for all people, not a privilege. Given the disparities in access to clean water in different economic sectors, it is clear that Nigeria is experiencing a crisis that will not be resolved until the country as a whole is able to claim clean water and the physical health that depends upon this resource as an essential human right.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MadagascarMadagascar is an island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa. Established as an independent country in 1960, Madagascar is known for its diverse culture of French, Indian, Chinese and Arabic influences, along with many others. The island is home to about 27 million people. The majority of these people are currently living in extreme poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty Rates in Madagascar

According to the World Bank, 75% of people in Madagascar are estimated to be living on less than $1.90 per day as of 2019. This number has decreased since the last official statistic in 2012 (when 77.6% were living in poverty in Madagascar). Still, this remains one of the highest poverty rates in the world. For comparison, in the U.S., 1.2% of people lived on $1.90 or less per day in 2016. According to data from 2015, 10% of the world’s population lives on $1.90 or less per day.

Additionally, in Madagascar, approximately 85% of homes do not have access to electricity. Almost one-half of children in Madagascar are likely to experience stunting as a result of undernutrition. One in 16 children dies before the age of five. As an island, Madagascar is at a high risk of natural disasters and climate change effects, experiencing an average of three natural disasters per year. These are responsible for approximately $400 million in damages.

Georgette Raharimalala is a Malagasy mother to three in Betafo, Madagascar. On average, women in Madagascar have five children. Raharimalala, known as Zety, primarily makes her money by working in the fields in her village with her children, buying and reselling peanuts and occasionally gardening where she can find space on her small property. “Life is very hard,” she said. “As soon as we make a bit of money, we buy food.”

However, poverty in Madagascar continues to improve. There are many programs in place to provide economic assistance to low-income countries like Madagascar.

World Bank’s IDA Program Helps the Economy

Zety is eligible for financial assistance from the International Development Association (IDA) on a bi-monthly basis. The IDA is part of the World Bank, which distributes loans and grants to 74 of the world’s poorest countries. The bank aims to improve local economies, reduce inequalities and improve living situations. This IDA program requires Zety to take her children to the wellness center in her village for a checkup once a month to ensure they are properly nourished. She also learns how to cook and provide proper diets for her children. Children in families receiving financial assistance must also be enrolled in (and remain in) school. As a result of the IDA program:

  • 1.3 million children have had access to free healthcare
  • 347 healthcare centers have been refurbished
  • Over 700,000 mothers and children have improved nutrition

The Support of the US

In addition to programs like the IDA, the United States supports Madagascar on its own. In fact, the U.S. is the largest donor country to Madagascar. It has provided foreign aid in the following areas to help reduce poverty in Madagascar:

  • Food: The U.S. was the largest donor of food following the severe drought on the island.
  • Development: The U.S. provides aid in areas that USAID refers to as “WASH,” or water, sanitation and health.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Madagascar is known for its incredible diversity and has more unique species than the entirety of Africa, which U.S. aid supports.

The U.S. has dedicated $109.91 million to Madagascar for the year 2020, a small percentage of its total foreign aid budget.

While the struggle for basic healthcare, education and income is still prominent for many Malagasy citizens, conditions are continuing to improve for people like Zety and her children due to a combination of national and international policy and aid efforts. Though there is always room for improvement, poverty in Madagascar is being reduced and fewer are living with less than $1.90 per day.

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash

Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan
With a population of just over six million people, Kyrgyzstan is a small, mostly rural country in Central Asia, nestled between the fertile Fergana valley and some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Today, much of Kyrgyzstan’s population does not have access to proper sanitation facilities. However, with a rise in international support, Kyrgyzstan is making hopeful strides towards better health and sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kyrgyzstan. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kyrgyzstan

  1. Geographic Issues: Dotted with hundreds of mountainous peaks, Kyrgyzstan’s geography makes it one of the most difficult countries to navigate in the world. With 65% of the population living in rural areas and steep terrain making travel between remote communities difficult, providing comprehensive access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan has been a persistent challenge.
  2. Limited Sanitation Facilities: Kyrgyzstan has a large number of rivers running throughout the country, many originating from alpine glaciers. These include many tributaries of the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia’s longest rivers. Despite the presence of water resources, Kyrgyzstan lacks facilities that allow for national access to water and ensure water quality. As a result, many people in rural areas use irrigation water for sanitation and household purposes.
  3. Sanitation in Schools: According to UNICEF, more than 36% of schools in Kyrgyzstan have no water supply and many have not been renovated since the Soviet era. This lack of adequate sanitation facilities, along with an absence of menstrual hygiene supplies, has resulted in many female students dropping out of school.
  4. Waterborne Diseases: An estimated 88% of cases of infectious diseases in Kyrgyzstan are due to poor water quality. With limited wastewater treatment and a lack of supervision over water quality, waterborne diseases are highly prevalent in Kyrgyzstan. As of 2017, rules for water quality at supply facilities were only recommended and not actively enforced.
  5. Aging Water Facilities and Systems: A significant issue facing sanitation facilities in Kyrgyzstan is the deteriorating conditions of existing water systems. According to the WHO, 40% of water pipes are out of operation because they exceeded their terms of use. Now, more than 4,000 standpipes remain out of service. Although the Kyrgyz Department for Development of Water Supply and Sanitation bears the responsibility of repairing these pipes, the department has not yet implemented a plan.
  6. Urban and Rural Disparities: Access to sanitation in Kyrgyzstan is heavily dependent on economic conditions and location. In urban areas, wastewater management, water supply and water quality are all higher quality than in rural regions. According to the U.N., 42% of the capital has access to piped sewage, compared to only 3% of the predominantly rural Batken region.
  7. World Bank Efforts: Founded in 2016 by the World Bank, the Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Development Project has invested more than $36 million in providing water to rural communities in Kyrgyzstan. The project has already provided water access to more than 250 remote villages and is expected to benefit 200,000 people.
  8. WASH: Partnering with the Kyrgyz government, UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Program has supported the construction of sanitation facilities in schools and hospitals. The program also involves awareness campaigns to educate the public on proper hygiene practices. According to UNICEF, WASH has been implemented in more than 100 schools in Kyrgyzstan. From 2006 to 2014, the proportion of the population using appropriately treated water increased from 35% to more than 77%.
  9. Asian Development Bank Funding: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has made significant contributions toward addressing sanitation in the rural Naryn region. These contributions include a $27.4 million financial package that aims to provide water to 64,000 people in the province. ADB’s program plans to increase access to safe water to 90% and sanitation facilities to 70% by the year 2026. 
  10. Improved Water Facilities: Funded by the government of Finland and created by U.N. Women, the Livelihoods through Participation and Equal Access Program collaborates with local governments, schools, and water associations to establish improved water facilities across the country. By 2018, the program had increased access to irrigation water for over 20,000 people in rural Kyrgyzstan. It had also helped conduct advocacy campaigns to 30,000 people on the efficient use of natural resources.

While sanitation in Kyrgyzstan remains one of the country’s most pressing issues, it is clear that progress is being made. With continued support, Kyrgyzstan may soon overcome one of its most critical issues, enabling people across the nation to transform their lives for the better.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in BhutanAccess to functioning sanitation is critical for maintaining a healthy population and increasing lifespans worldwide. Countries facing sanitation challenges are more susceptible to health challenges, and Bhutan is no different. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Bhutan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bhutan

  1. The Royal Government of Bhutan recognizes sanitation as a right, and its constitution obliges it to provide a safe and healthy environment for its citizens. However, only 71 percent of people in Bhutan had access to improved sanitation as of 2016 according to a government report. The report also notes that safety management is necessary to maintain basic sanitation even in these areas. UNICEF reports that 63 percent of the population has access to basic sanitation facilities.
  2. Many girls in Bhutan miss school due to hygiene and sanitation concerns. A recent study reported that around 44 percent of adolescent girls missed school and other activities due to menstruation. They listed a lack of clean toilets and water as one of the primary reasons.
  3. Bhutan has a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) program to increase access to sanitation in schools. By working with UNICEF, Bhutan was able to provide 200 schools with improved sanitation as of an evaluation in 2014. During this evaluation, 90.8 percent of respondents surveyed reported that the program improved students’ health.
  4. As of 2016, all schools in Bhutan had at least one toilet. However, 20 percent of schools did not have working toilets, and 11 percent did not have access to improved sanitation. Furthermore, only about one-third of schools had toilets specifically for girls.
  5. Monastic institutions in Bhutan frequently do not have basic sanitation facilities. About 65 percent lack water supply, while 34 percent do not have proper sanitation. This leads to skin infections, worm infestations and other health issues in monasteries and nunneries.
  6. The most common type of sewage treatment in urban Bhutan are septic tanks that discharge into the environment with no treatment or containment. All urban landfills in Bhutan are used as open dumps and are not sanitary landfills capable of containing and treating solid waste. In rural areas, pit toilets are the most common.
  7. Twenty-four sub-districts in Bhutan have access to 100 percent improved sanitation. These sub-districts are located within nine of Bhutan’s 20 districts. A health assistant in Mongar district said that, with 100 percent improved sanitation, the number of cases of diarrhea is falling.
  8. Many people need to be treated for illnesses that could have been prevented with improved access to sanitation. Poor sanitation was responsible for 30 percent of reported health cases in 2017. Healthcare facilities themselves also suffer from sanitation challenges, as 40 percent of district hospitals reported severe water shortages.
  9. According to a report in 2015, over 50 percent of people living in urban areas only had access to an intermittent water supply; a supply that delivered water six to 12 hours per day. Additionally, this water did not meet quality guidelines. In rural areas, only 69 percent of water supply systems are functional.
  10. As of 2017, only 32 percent of the poorest households in Bhutan had access to improved sanitation. This is about three times less than the richest households, of which 95 percent had access to improved sanitation facilities. Government reports recognize that there are disparities in access to sanitation relating to various factors; income, disability, gender and geographic variables can all contribute.

Overall, these 10 facts about sanitation in Bhutan demonstrate that the sanitation, water and hygiene conditions are quickly improving in the country. Initiatives by the government, UNICEF and other nonprofits in the country have led to substantial positive changes. However, inequality in access to improved sanitation services remains a major issue, and Bhutan still has a long way to go to provide improved sanitation throughout the entire country.

Kayleigh Crabb

Photo: Pixaby

Sanitation in Djibouti
The Republic of Djibouti is a small country in the Horn of Africa that is home to nearly 1 million people, many of whom are living in poverty. Sanitation in Djibouti continues to be a concern today. However, its location near Ethiopia, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean make it a site of interest for many foreign powers. As a result, the country receives significant aid as its leaders work to provide Djiboutians access to sanitary water sources and services, many for the first time. Here are 10 facts about life and sanitation in Djibouti.

10 Facts About Life and Sanitation in Djibouti

  1. Djibouti is among the least developed and most impoverished countries in the Horn of Africa. Of its nearly 1 million residents, an estimated 42% live below the poverty line. As of 2018, the average life expectancy for Djiboutians was 66.8 years.
  2. Djibouti’s dry climate, nomadic farming lifestyle and periods of civil war have led to poverty, disease and malnutrition. Malnutrition rates have been as high as 30% in some rural areas, while many others living in urban areas like the capital city of Djibouti must rely on foreign aid and imported foods to survive. According to the World Food Programme, while malnutrition rates continue to decline, as much as 7.5% of Djiboutians experienced malnourishment as of 2016.
  3. Djibouti does not have a source of surface water and often experiences extensive droughts, so citizens rely on underground water aquifers that scarce rains refill. However, many of these aquifers run dry during the dry season from April to September, forcing many rural residents to adopt nomadic lifestyles or seek refuge in urban areas.
  4. Sanitation in Djibouti continues to be a challenge. The country faces several health crises as a result of open defecation practices and a lack of sanitation facilities. As many as 17% of citizens go out into the open to defecate in urban regions, while 83% of those living in rural areas have no access to sanitary latrines and toilets. This has led to a sharp increase in water-borne and diarrheal diseases since 2000, predominantly in children and women.
  5. The demand for sanitation programs has increased dramatically as a result of poverty and food insecurity. Since over half of those living in rural areas are food-insecure, mass migrations to urban areas have begun, increasing the need for essentials such as sanitary water and waste management. An estimated three-fourths of Djibouti’s population now lives in urban areas. As of 2011, UNICEF estimates that 73% of people have access to proper facilities in densely urban populated areas, compared to only 21% in rural areas. That means nearly 39% of all Djiboutians do not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
  6. The mass migration to densely populated urban areas and lack of proper facilities pose a significant risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Djibouti’s current rate of infection, about 98 cases for every 100,000 people, represents the highest prevalence and quickest multiplication rate on the continent. Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, announced a national lockdown starting on March 23, 2020, but has conceded since the country has not contained the outbreak. Guelleh has pledged an emergency fund of 1 billion Djiboutian francs ($5.6 million) and announced that food distributions have reached thousands of impoverished families. However, the initiative continues to face an uphill battle as it tries to reach all those in need, especially amid allegations of favoritism. Scrutiny on sanitation in Djibouti is particularly pertinent during the COVID-19 pandemic as the country lacks sufficient handwashing stations and waste disposal systems.
  7. Djibouti’s geographical location in the Horn of Africa has been a minor saving grace, as it represents a site of significant interest for several foreign powers, including the United States. USAID’s Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project hopes to address sanitation in Djibouti primarily by modernizing water services and access to potable water in rural areas. The WASH project is working to improve governance of water points, pay for water services to ensure affordable access for the most vulnerable and provide efficient maintenance services. To date, USAID’s project has rehabilitated five boreholes and five ring wells in rural areas, serving over 5,700 people. Over 2,000 of these Djiboutians are gaining access to sanitary water sources for the first time.
  8. The USAID’s WASH project in partnership with UNICEF also intends to end unsanitary practices and promote better hygiene in Djibouti through education. The project plans to help teach over 25,000 poor and vulnerable Djiboutians, particularly children, by providing classes on proper handwashing, water-gathering and waste disposal techniques.
  9. Foreign aid systems of support continue to help impoverished Djiboutians today. UNICEF has donated over $1 million to improve sanitation services and hygiene education programs. However, the Republic of Djibouti will need to search for more ways to provide public services to its vulnerable populations, especially as the Trump Administration continues to scrutinize such U.S. global health initiatives, proposing to cut as much as 28% of USAID’s funding in its 2020 fiscal year budget.
  10. As Djibouti works to wean itself off of foreign aid, President Guelleh has promised more funding for public services addressing the country’s sanitation needs, especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 2020, the Djiboutian government has pledged to fund and erect more public handwashing stations, but such efforts to improve sanitation in Djibouti are still on-going.
The Djiboutian government continues to encounter challenges as it works to help its vulnerable citizens. Foreign aid efforts such as USAID and UNICEF are providing funding for projects aiming to clean up sparse water supplies and waste management programs, but it ultimately will be up to President Guelleh and his administration to ensure proper sanitation in Djibouti.
 

– Andrew Giang

Photo: Flickr

7 Facts About Sanitation in Syria
In Syria, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities kill more than 85,000 children each year. In contrast, the war kills approximately 30,000 annually. Without clean water, young children, specifically 5-year-olds and younger, are left vulnerable to malnutrition and preventable diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and polio. Syrian families forced to flee due to the war are at a greater risk of contracting deadly illnesses. Here are 7 facts about sanitation in Syria.

7 Facts About Sanitation in Syria

  1. Damaged Infrastructure: The devastating use of explosives during the war in Syria has left basic infrastructure damaged beyond repair. In 2018, 50% were non-operational and more than 35,000 buildings were turned to rubble. As a result, the lack of access to clean water has become a growing problem.
  2. Water Mismanagement: Water researcher, Francesca de Châtel, believes Syria has mismanaged its water supply for 50 years. De Châtel says Syria has focused too much on large scale agriculture projects that have dried up rivers and wells. A lack of sufficient water has caused farmers to abandon their land and look for work elsewhere. This mismanagement also has nationwide impacts due to the amount of water waste.
  3. Risky Childbirth: Pregnant women are among one in every three families that are displaced from Syria. Often, they have little to no medical care because nearly 46% of health facilities are no longer functional and 167 are totally demolished. This has forced many pregnant women to give birth outside, under trees. They do not have a safe or sanitary place to deliver, which heightens the risk of delivering a unhealthy baby.
  4. Risk of Violence for Girls: While it may seem like an unusual correlation, lack of access to water in the home can put young girls and women at risk of violence. Since most households do not have clean sanitation facilities, girls and women venture out and travel miles to gather water. During their travels, they are vulnerable to violence, both physical or sexual. In fact, during the summer of 2015, the Syrian city of Aleppo faced a major water crisis and three children were killed while trying to collect water for their families.
  5. Contamination: Damaged infrastructure and the flooding of wastewater have contaminated water sources. In the northwest part of the nation, there is a high number of camps where displaced citizens have gathered. Here, these communities share latrines that do not meet the minimum humanitarian standards and are not segregated by gender, which can aggravate contamination. Paul Alcalde, who oversees water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming believes, “Lack of sanitation and lack of means for basic hygiene practices is not only about meeting immediate needs and basic rights, but it matters for dignity.”
  6. Cost: Prices and exchange rates have made water too expensive and out of reach for the poorest families. Some families spend up to 25% of their annual income alone on access to clean water derived from water tanks.
  7. Overcrowding: Many shelters throughout Syria and the surrounding countries, which hold the two million citizens that have become displaced, are not meeting the water or hygienic needs of the refugees. These living conditions are unsanitary due to a small number of showers and toilets as well as a lack of products like soap. Water is also rationed, and people are often allowed less than 10 quarts a day. Some shelters have been accommodated to hold around 25,000 refugees but will overcrowd and house twice the amount.

The Good News

Although Syrians, displaced or not, are still facing a sanitation and hygiene crisis, many organizations around the world have been doing their part to help.

UNICEF, the leader of the Water and Sanitation sector, has provided some relief to the people of Syria. Since 2011, UNICEF has provided 22,000 people with drinking and domestic water, 225,000 people have received soap and other hygiene products and 17,000 people have gained access to toilets and sanitation facilities. Nine years later, UNICEF concluded its first phase of WASH by completely restoring major water and sewage pipelines. In turn, 700,000 people have more and cleaner water instead of contaminated sources. 

Another organization that has provided major support is World Vision. Its efforts have included installing 10 water tanks in a refugee camp in Azraq, 5,200 WASH structures above and below ground such as toilets and sewage pits and constructing 35 tap stands that are connected to water tanks underground.

While Syria continues to grapple with war and violence, it must not forget to also address sanitation. With continued help from organizations like UNICEF and World Vision, hopefully sanitation in Syria will improve.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Niger
Niger is the largest country in West Africa. It is officially named the Republic of the Niger after the famous Niger River. While rates like school enrollment, global economic prospects and life expectancy at birth are estimated to increase in the coming years, it still remains one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in the world. Access to proper sanitation still remains one of the largest issues affecting the nation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Niger.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Niger

  1. In 2016, an estimated 70.8% of deaths were caused by a lack of safe drinking water or proper sanitation. Other leading causes of death include influenza and pneumonia accounting for 27,892 deaths, diarrheal diseases accounting for 16,180 deaths and tuberculosis accounting for 3,842 deaths, all in 2017.
  2. Because of Niger’s quickly increasing population, any progress being made in the sanitation infrastructure and development has been slowed down by the number of people being born. In 2000, the population was around 11.4 million. By 2018, the population had grown to 22.5 million. Niger also has the highest birth rate in the world: in 2011, the birth rate was 7.6 births per woman per year.
  3. The droughts that Niger experienced in the past, from 1950 to around 1980, contributed to sanitation access issues and disease. This also led to lower crop yields, resulting in malnutrition.
  4. In Niger, there are 10 million people who cannot reach clean water. This is in part due to the fact that most of the people in Niger live in rural areas, not urbanized ones. In 2014, approximately 8.2 million people lived in the rural areas of the country that lacked proper sanitation infrastructure.
  5. In 2008, only 39% of the people living in rural areas had access to water, while 96% of the population in urban areas did. Also in 2008, only 4% of people living in rural areas had access to sanitation, while 34% had access to sanitation in urban areas.
  6. There are 18 million people without access to a toilet in the country. This issue of sanitation in Niger leads to open defecation, which also poses health issues. In 2017, 68% of people were practicing open defecation in the country.
  7. Lack of clean water results in 9,800 childhood deaths from diarrhea each year. In 2018, there were 83.7 childhood deaths per 1,000 children.
  8. Part of the reason many people lack access to sanitation in Niger is due to the country’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH), which needs to be improved. This is in part due to the rapidly growing population. The goals of WASH cannot keep up with the growth. The drastic differences in living conditions between the urban and rural populations also create complications.
  9. Although wells are dug for water, there are problems accessing them and with contamination. Some wells do not have proper liners, and therefore become contaminated and unusable for drinking. In other cases, women and children have to walk hundreds of miles just to access the water wells.
  10. Niger’s people face problems with diseases from water, especially cholera. The conditions of sanitation in Niger result in water contamination, which resulted in a cholera outbreak in the area from the years 1970 to 2006. In 2004, another outbreak led to 2,178 cases of cholera, resulting in 57 deaths. In 2006, Niger had yet another outbreak, leading to 1,121 cases and 79 deaths being reported.

The Good News

UNICEF is one of the main groups helping the government of Niger with the sanitation issues in the country. The group aims to help provide safer drinking water and better access to sanitation. Another group called Water Aid aims to provide clean water to those in need, along with access to toilets and hygiene. The nonprofit Wells Bring Hope focuses on drilling wells in the rural areas of Niger in order to supply clean drinking water. They also are promoting drip-farming in order to help farmers grow their crops.

While Niger is far from reaching its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and sanitation concerns are rampant throughout the country, especially in rural areas, there are groups making strides for the nation’s future. With these continued efforts, hopefully sanitation in Niger will improve.

Marlee Septak
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water Initiative in KenyaKenya, among many other areas, needs clean water. Clean water is not only a necessity for adults in Kenya but especially for children. Children need clean water for sanitation and hygiene. The number one cause of death of children age five or younger is from diseases related to water, hygiene and sanitation issues. Schools in Kenya, all suffer from not having complete access to water, hygiene and sanitation. This causes educational setbacks for children and it stunts their development and potential.

The goal is to achieve complete access to water for everyone in Kenya by 2030. However, there are some issues preventing the completion of this goal. One major barrier is the population growth that is continuing in Kenya. People who drink from contaminated water in Kenya ranks as the third in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 9.4 million people who consume contaminated water sources. Additionally, they are about 5 million people who practice open defecation in Kenya. Also in Kenya, only 14% have access to soap and water in their homes to wash their hands.

The Water Project

The Water Project is a nonprofit organization that is committed to enabling the access of clean water throughout Africa. The organization working to help communities with the clean water initiative in Kenya. According to the Water Project, access to clean water means an improvement in education, health, poverty and hunger.

Hunger can be improved by access to clean water because it is the foundation to have sustainable food sources. A lot of water is required to ensure that food will grow. So, improving water sources can change an entire community and country. At the root of poverty in Africa is water sources. The lack of clean water sources is one of the main causes of poverty. However, this is a problem that can be solved.

The Water Project and Community Engagement

The Water Project has a process that it follows for all its commitments. The organization focuses on community engagement, community education, installing the project, education follows up, monitoring and evaluation. With the help of the community, the organization can decide where it is going to work. Resources, the potential for positive outcomes and demand are a few of the main factors in its decision.

Community education is an opportunity for communities to learn about clean water resources, hygiene and sanitation. In addition, the community learn other key aspects of cooking and preparing meals using clean water sources. At the ending of the process, the organization then follows up with the community to ensure that the education process is going well and also that the project is exceeding expectations.

Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH)

The Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) is a five-year program that is dedicated to the clean water initiative in Kenya. It is working to create clean and sustainable water sources. The USAID program has six key areas of focus. These areas are water access, infrastructure, sanitation and hygiene, finance, sustainability and governance.

UNICEF

UNICEF is also another organization with the determination of providing clean water sources for Kenya. It helps to establish WASH. UNICEF aims to increases access to clean water for the number of households, schools and hospitals between 2018-2022. Additionally, the organization has helped more than 6,700 communities achieve Open Defecation Free status. Almost 550,000 children use WASH hygiene and sanitation facilities. UNICEF installed more than 1,000 facilities in schools throughout Kenya.

Kenya continues to lack the appropriate access to clean water sources for all of its communities. This causes poverty and directly affects the education of young children. These children do not have the appropriate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. As a result, this leads to diseases which are one of the leading causes of death for young children. In addition, it leads to setbacks in their education and potential.

The Water Project has stepped in to help the clean water initiative in Kenya. The organization has set up a process that will lead to the appropriate access to clean water in Kenya’s communities. The Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH), is working to provide more accessible water sources, sustainability and education throughout Kenya. Finally, UNICEF has helped to establish WASH, which has helped people use hygiene and sanitation facilities throughout Kenya.

Jamal Patterson
Photo: Flickr