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Water Quality in Myanmar
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a nation with 32.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line, according to 2015 data.

Accessing water in Myanmar has always been difficult, despite the country’s natural resources. It once was recognized to have the fourth-richest supply of groundwater in the world, holding more than 19,000 square meters per capita. This is 16 times the available levels of Myanmar’s neighboring country, Bangladesh.

A typical summer season in the last few years would introduce water shortages in only central Myanmar, but now, deforestation – as a result of urbanization – and hot temperatures contribute to water shortages in other additional areas of the country, leaving hundreds of thousands in danger.

However, recent changes to the water system have significantly improved water quality in Myanmar:

Fixing the Irrigation Systems

Myanmar’s agriculture industry provides jobs for 60 percent of workers, so it is crucial that irrigation systems are functional. In the past, Myanmar struggled with irrigation upkeep and water distribution, so The Pyawt Ywar Pump Irrigation Project stepped in to improve irrigation infrastructure, reform water management and provide education to farmers. Since its implementation, farmers and the government have worked together to make sure water distribution is fair and regulated, and farmers have learned how to use land efficiently to increase crop growth. The agriculture industry has improved as a result: the gross domestic product for agriculture increased from 12,316,081.8 MMK mn to 13,964,771.2 MMK mn in just five years.

Purifying Wastewater has Increased Access to Water

Proctor & Gamble’s Children Safe Drinking Water program and World Vision teamed up to give Myanmar residents a tool to clean non-potable water: a powder mixture invented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The powder transforms 10 liters of contaminated water into clean, drinkable water in just half an hour, providing a day’s worth of resources for a five-member family. This means that poor families living in Myanmar can purify water from rivers and streams instead of spending a lot of money on bottled water. P&G has helped with improving Myanmar’s water since 2008, and the water purification tool has helped 200,000 people gain access to safer water.

Decreasing Illness

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, is a common occurrence in Myanmar because of people’s tendency to collect water in their homes. Stored water attracts mosquitoes and creates a large breeding ground for the disease. Myanmar is labeled as a high burden dengue country, and citizens take preventative measures by learning how to protect their water against mosquitoes and to keep their spaces dry and clean. In 2015, there were 42,913 cases of dengue, but after a year of water education and awareness, the number dropped to 10,770.

Looking Ahead

Access to clean water has increased in the last 15 years, but there is still more to be done. In 2000, 47.31 percent of citizens in rural areas had access to potable water, and that number has increased to 59.85 percent as of 2015, but it is still low. The Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene plans for universal access to water by 2030, and improving water quality in Myanmar may be achieved with increased awareness and action.

Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

 

vietnamese water crisis
Vietnam, a southeastern Asian country whose coastline stretches 12 nautical miles, imminently struggles with providing clean water to those living there. The country has over 2360 rivers and about two-thirds of its population resides near one of Vietnam’s three water basins. Even so, most of this aquatic supply is unusable and undrinkable. The ongoing Vietnamese water crisis is so threatening that it is a focal point of national policy and international concern.

Background

Both government and industrial issues exacerbate the Vietnamese water crisis. Poor regulation coupled with irresponsible handling of waste has led Vietnam’s ponds, lakes, and canals to shortages and contamination.

In March of 2018, the Coalition for Clean Water and the Centre for Environment and Community Research released a report detailing how industry has altered the water quality in Vietnam. The report revealed that about 70 percent of waste released from industrial parks is directly released into the environment. These tainted waters carry dangerous chemicals and cause illnesses.

The World Bank’s estimations concerning the crisis show that it is no diminutive issue. The organization notes that rising threats against Vietnam’s water supply could reduce the nation’s GDP by six percent by the year 2035. Pollution presents itself as the biggest hazard to water basins, which drain into water outlets all over the country. In the most highly polluted areas, wastewater has poisoned the air to the point that it has become odorous and toxic.

Impacts of the Crisis

Those living in rural areas suffer the most from water sanitation issues. Only 39 percent of rural individuals have access to clean water. Furthermore, most of these individuals must use water wells that tap into underground aquifers to compensate for the lack of a clean water source at the surface.

The absence of clean water does not only deprive rural Vietnamese of their basic needs, but it also affects their ability to efficiently participate in the economy. Agricultural production is a precious monetary asset that takes up 80 percent of Vietnam’s water supply. The infrastructure needed to transport clean water to farms is unstable.

The Vietnamese water crisis has created national health issues, as well. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment estimates that up to 80 percent of diseases in Vietnam is directly caused by water pollution. Nearly six million citizens have contracted a waterborne illness, the most rampant being cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria.

Impacts on Children

Children are the main concern for the international community as dirty water affects the growth and development of a new generation.

UNICEF reports that more than 9.5 million Vietnamese still release excreta into their surroundings, further contaminating the water supply. Children lack the matured immune system needed to fight off the problems generated by this unhygienic practice, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and parasitic infection. Diarrhea is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the deaths of children under the age of five.

USAID Intervention in the Ha Lam Commune

USAID has routinely provided donations and grants to the Vietnamese government to solve humanitarian issues. A recent project launched on March 30, 2019, is aimed at assuaging the problems perpetrated by water pollution.

The project, called the Vietnam Local Works for Environmental Health, focuses on the Ha Lam commune in the Thanh Hoa province. Small scale water supply systems are currently being entrenched in the region to provide clean water to kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools. The new infrastructure is estimated to benefit over 20,000 individuals living in this northern province.

The Ha Lam commune, however, is not the only area where children are at risk. Education institutions in other parts of Vietnam are also in need of effective water supply systems, as more than 80 percent of schools around the nation lack fully operating water sanitation facilities.

Looking Ahead

Due to the awareness and concentration on the Vietnamese water crisis, it is possible that this problem will soon be overcome. By 2025, the Vietnamese government hopes to attain the clean water standards needed to revive an unhealthy public and a feeble economic production. Specifically, the government has launched a national plan directed at hindering the open defecation that so commonly contaminates the country’s water supply.

With six years to go until Vietnam’s standard is hopefully achieved, it is imperative that this issue remain persistent in the global mind. The government and participating groups must remain resilient through the growing population and industry in Vietnam that work to destabilize existing plans. Clean water is required if the human and environmental body is to exist comfortably.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

wells in Africa
In most developed nations across the globe, water is taken for granted. What is so vital for existence is easily dispensed from numerous faucets in each home.

However, in less developed nations, particularly across Africa, water is much more difficult to come by.  Across the continent, the number of people without access to quality water has increased by 66 million since 1990. Many are forced to spend hours per day collecting heavy water from far away sources. Others use contaminated water that is ridden with bacteria and unsafe for consumption. Still others go without.

Wells in small towns and villages provide an effective way to address issues surrounding proper sanitation and access to high quality drinking water.  Here are five reasons that water wells in Africa are the smart choice for progress and investment.

How Water Wells in Africa Can Solve Water Scarcity

  1. Only 16 percent of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to drinking water through a household faucet. This means that 84 percent must find access to water outside of their home.With the climate being so arid and a very small portion of the population living near the largest water sources, many have very limited access to water. The Congo River Basin holds over 30 percent of the water supply for the whole continent but less than 10 percent of the continent’s people.Coupled with the lack of education surrounding water quality, this creates a dangerous situation for consumption of contaminated water. Wells in Africa can provide a convenient and safe source of water for many of its inhabitants.
  2. Disease from water-borne illness is at a high. For example, in Africa, over two million children die from illnesses brought on due to poor water each year.A startling one in eight people drink water that could potentially kill a human being. Another one in three drink water that is deemed unclean, amassing to 330 million people consuming unsafe water. Kids across the continent miss more than 440 million school days due to water-related diseases.Beyond clean drinking water, the World Health Organization estimated that in 2004, only 59 percent of the world’s population had access to adequate sanitation systems. This lack of hygiene surrounding water usage takes up 50 percent of hospital beds across Africa on any given day, creating costs and using precious resources.
  3. The benefits from a well outweigh the cost. While the cost of wells in Africa varies by location, on average the positive impact that a well has on people’s lives outweighs the building cost.As well as helping to improve living conditions, wells also create positive economic responses. It is estimated that $1 invested in clean water and sanitation yields a $9 return. This is due to the economic stimulation that a well can bring about.This increased productivity stems from fewer sick days taken and more kids, particularly girls, staying in school. Additional money is saved from the lack of hospitalization. While the implementation cost of a well can be high, a single well in Africa can meet the basic daily needs of nearly 2,000 people and last for over 20 years.
  4. Wells can help foster gender equality. It is commonplace for young girls to drop out of school due to a lack of proper sanitation facilities and familial expectations to collect water.With water sources sometimes being several hours each way and jugs weighing up to 40 pounds when filled, water collection is a full-time job. If wells are introduced, girls may have increased opportunity to obtain an education, bolstering their standing within society and contributing to their own prospects and economic prospects at large.
  5. Rural areas continue to face huge barriers to quality water access. While quality water and adequate sanitation are ongoing battles for both rural and urban areas, more people are affected by the issue at the rural level. 84 percent of those who do not have access to a clean water source live in rural areas.Aid and funding do not match this demonstrated need, however, as aid for rural areas is declining and aid for urban areas has increased by 60 percent since 2000. Wells provide an excellent solution for rural areas as a single well can function as a water source for an entire village.

The water crisis in Africa is one that is affecting millions of lives daily. The construction of wells in Africa is a potential solution to an issue that must be dealt with in order to reach a more stable and equal global society.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

 https://www.dropbox.com/home/Gramatvediba/Izdevumi
Ethiopia is on the cusp of completing a development milestone. The United States’ $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be over 500 feet tall and generate more than three times the hydroelectric power created by the Hoover Dam. After its completion, it will be the largest dam in Africa and generate more power than any other dam on the African continent.

Wide-Reaching Benefits

The World Bank’s examinations of this project determined that millions of citizens will benefit from this Ethiopian development milestone. According to the World Bank, nearly 75 million individuals in Ethiopia — approximately 70 percent of the country’s population — lack access to reliable energy sources. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate an estimated 6450 MW of energy to civilians, improve infrastructure and ultimately lead to more modern job opportunities in the country.

Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity claims that the dam is not being built to control the flow of the Nile river politically; rather, it is being built to provide the country with energy development opportunities. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam serves as the flagship of many strides in Ethiopian economic development. Another notable recent achievement is the equitable public transit system in the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa.

National Pride

Moreover, Ethiopians are taking great nationalist pride in the development milestone. The country emphasizes that it is paying for the dam itself, without any international help or investment. The country is funding the dam through intense taxation, selling of bonds and a lottery to incentivize citizen investment.

Accordingly, Ethiopia’s progress in The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has positive and negative effects for its downstream countries Sudan and Egypt, respectively.

Sudan

Sudan expresses a positive view of the dam as it will reduce the amount of flooding farmers endure during particularly high flows of the Nile; the construction project will also contribute to reliable flows of water during the drier seasons. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam construction will also allow for cheaper electricity to be sold into Sudan as the dam is being built close to the Sudanese border.

Egypt

Egypt on the other hand, is increasingly worried about the Ethiopian development milestone. Egypt is concerned that Ethiopia is placing controls on the Nile, which Egyptians have controlled for millennia. Egyptian officials also worry that Ethiopia now has a tap that could significantly reduce the flow of water into their country.

Egypt’s concerns are justified given that the country is subject to face water shortages as soon as 2025. Officials in Egypt explain that if water levels decrease in Egypt by just two percent, then the nation will lose 200,000 acres of viable farmland, which families depend on for subsistence crop growth.

Given that, the Geological Study of America explains that the Nile’s water levels could drop by 25 percent for up to 7 years as the dam’s reservoir in Ethiopia fills up. As a result, Egyptian officials worry that nearly 1 million of the 100 million people living in Egypt will suffer from changes in the Nile’s water flow.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

At this point, Ethiopia and Egypt are only in the early stages of negotiations as tension between the countries increases. Overall, Ethiopia is not going to stop development of the dam; as a result, diplomacy and collaboration are the only means of solving the contentious issues and preventing a water war between Northeastern and East Africa.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr

water access in haiti

Haiti has long been one of the most impoverished countries in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of 11 million ravaged by earthquakes, hurricanes and epidemics in recent years. Now that the country is entering a new era of relative stability, after last year’s presidential election, government officials and civil society stakeholders are joining forces to improve water access in Haiti, a critical issue that has gone under-reported for years.

Diminished water access in Haiti contributed to the catastrophic cholera outbreak in 2010 which killed almost 9,500 people over several years. The outbreak began when water contaminated with cholera seeped into the River Artibonite from a base manned by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera still has a presence. The Artibonite is the longest and most important river in the country, providing millions of citizens with water access in Haiti.

The State University of Haiti (UEH), one of the country’s most prestigious universities, partnered with the University of Florida (UF) and Haiti’s national water agency, DINEPA, to host a symposium on water access in Haiti. Held on November 16, the conference focused on promoting research in the water sector and spurring creative solutions for the crisis surrounding water access in Haiti.

“The university’s medical college has its own system of water provision, assuring its own autonomy and bringing water to five laboratories that in turn provide water to around 1,000 people every day,” said Jean-Claude Cadet (head of UEH’s medical school) to the leading Haitian daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

DINEPA is looking to the university’s self-sustaining system as a model of how to improve water access in Haiti and tackle an equally important problem: ensuring better water quality for the country’s citizens. The conference, held on the university’s campus, concluded with three objectives for the partners to work on together: establishing a water treatment center at UEH’s medical school, reinforcing cooperation between UEH, UF and DINEPA, as well as other participants and, most importantly, establishing a new institute for water access and quality that will eventually produce highly educated graduates dedicated to the goal of creating greater water access in Haiti.

– Giacomo Tognini
Photo: Flickr

water access in Cabo VerdeSitting off the coast of West Africa, the islands of Cabo Verde are surrounded by ocean. Unfortunately, more than half the population does not have access to clean, running water. Accessing water in Cabo Verde is a difficult issue. It can take up to an hour for some to reach the nearest fountain. However, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is working with the Cabo Verde government in order to improve water access in Cabo Verde.

Limited water access primarily affects women and the poor,  groups not often represented in policy dialogue. Trips to retrieve water can take hours. Often the public tap is empty, thus requiring a longer trip to the next available fountain. More than half of those without water receive it from these community fountains. The rest receive it from private tankers, meaning the poorest pay the most for water. The time it takes to retrieve the water limits possibilities to earn income and educational opportunities.

There are many risks associated with these time-consuming trips to retrieve water. Women and girls are most often on these water trips, and  sexual harassment and violence are significant threats. Additionally, potentially-contaminated water makes possible dangerous water-borne illnesses such as cholera.

Fifty-nine percent of people in Cabo Verde have access to piped water in their home. More concerning, only 20 percent of the population connects to a sewer, and 27 percent must resort to open defecation. As a result, this makes sanitation standards difficult and allows diseases to spread even more rapidly.

Partnering with the government, the MCC is working to develop improved clean water access in Cabo Verde, from providing clean tap water systems to installing safe waste-water removal. The MCC is currently working on connecting 13,000 families, with single mothers in the lead, to clean water and sanitation infrastructure. Additionally, they are planning their strategies based on the input of the women and other disenfranchised populations.

With women and the poor becoming involved in the decision-making process, they can tailor the project to fit their needs and increase the likelihood of success. Improved water access in Cabo Verde will thus  allow women to participate in the economy by pursuing educational and employment opportunities and reduce their risk of harassment and water-borne illnesses.

The improved quality of life that will accompany improved water access in Cabo Verde is clear. With the voices of women and the poor now being heard, the future of Cabo Verde is consequently very promising.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr

Bringing_Water_to_Thousands_of_Albanian_Villagers
Thanks to a new project designed to install new and improved water pumping stations throughout coastlines, Albanian villagers are enjoying improved community water sources and piped water for the first time.

The picturesque villages covering the Albanian countryside boast breathtaking views, but attracting reliable income from tourism has been a problem due to the villages’ lack of reliable potable water. Alexandra Spiro, a resident of the village of Lukove, expressed the daily trials associated with sporadic water supply. “Before, the water only came at certain times,” Spiro said, “and when the water came we filled every pot we had.”

Since then, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management project has introduced powerful new water pumping stations throughout the Albanian coast. The project, funded by the World Bank, has taken the original water network and done a major overhaul, making upgrades and adding improved features.

Vladimir Kumi, Former Mayor of Lukove Commune, which incorporates the 14 villages benefiting from the new project, said, “In all the villages of our commune, there were amortized water pipes from the 70’s and only public taps. People didn’t have water at home, and little water came to villages.”

To keep the new increase in water supply affordable for residents, each village has received metering systems. Compared to the previously charged flat rate, households now only pay for what they use, making the service more attainable for the lower income villagers.

The upgrades have had a great impact on the Albanian Villagers making their daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and laundry, faster and more efficient. However, the residents most impacted are the small business owners. Liljana Shehu, a cafe owner in Lukove, said the water upgrades have been good for business, “It helps us maintain better hygiene. Before, we didn’t have water and now we have water all the time, whenever we want just by turning on the tap. And the water is healthier too.”

Thanks to the project, these small-scale, entrepreneurial ventures are sprouting up around the region. Like Shehu, Miliano Bitri, from the village of Piqeras, owns a family-run small hotel that offers views of his farm and olive orchard. Since the project was completed, operations of the business for Bitri and his family and been, quicker, easier, and most importantly, more profitable.

Claire Colby

Sources: CIA World Factbook, World Bank
Photo: Google Images

global_water_crisis
The statistics concerning the global water crisis are staggering, especially in developing countries.

  1. 1 in 9 people or roughly 783 million individuals globally are unable to obtain safe drinking water.
  2. In developing countries, one-third of all schools, as well as one-third of all health care facilities, lack safe water and adequate sanitation.
  3. According to the World Health Organization, 3,900 children globally die each day as a result of waterborne diseases.
  4. 1.8 million people die every year of diarrhoeal diseases obtained from drinking unclean water.
  5. The illnesses caused by drinking unclean water as well as the many hours a day devoted to collecting this water, take away from and severely decrease the quality of life for entire communities.
  6. According to the United Nations, by itself, Sub-Saharan Africa loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water.

These are just a few of the shocking statistics that highlight the seriousness of the global water crisis. However, by donating and investing in initiatives that are environmentally safe and cost-effective it is possible to turn back the tide of the growing global water crisis.

Students, especially girls, who no longer have to focus time and effort on collecting water, can devote more time to attending school. With the addition of safe and sanitary latrine areas, girls can also stay in school throughout their teenage years following puberty.

With access to water, food security can become a reality in developing countries. Fewer crops will be lost and schools can begin to feed their students through the use of their own gardens, which will slash costs.

Access to clean water also means clean hands which lead to healthier bodies. People can focus on ending the cycle of poverty instead of succumbing to water-related sicknesses.

Clear cut access to clean water can also help alleviate conflicts over 276 transboundary river basins. An improved understanding of proper sanitation can increase access to clean water and significantly reduce pollution through unsanitary practices such as waste dumping into these river basins.

According to The Water Project, access to clean water alone can go a long way towards breaking the cycle of poverty for millions of people. All that is needed is to act upon this knowledge.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: World Water Council, Water, The Water Project
Photo: Occupy For Animals

foreign_aid_successes
The International Organization for Migration has estimated that since January of 2014, over 3 million Iraqis have been displaced by ISIS militants and forced to relocate. In the past two months, over 276,000 have been forced to relocate out of fear or danger. Many of the refugees have chosen to abandon their homes and flee to the mountains in Northern Iraq to avoid the constant fear of attacks and violence from the Islamic State. Unfortunately, in addition to protection from violence, there is a desperate need for basic supplies such as food and water.

Amnesty International researcher, Donatella Rovera says, “The civilians trapped in the mountain area are not only at risk of being killed or abducted; they are also suffering from a lack of water access, food and medical care. We urge the international community to provide humanitarian assistance.”

In response to the conflict, UNICEF has worked to set up many transition camps in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Baherka is one such camp that was formerly a concrete factory outside outside the town of Erbil. The makeshift facility currently accommodates approximately 3,000 refugees. In the camp, every family has access to a kitchen, shower, latrine and 150 liters of water per day.

Adding to the numerous fears and concerns, there is also a reluctance for some Iraqis to join the refugee camps. Many of the refugee camps are overcrowded and can present their own unique set of dangers such as violence, disease or abduction. Separation from family members is another serious concern. For these reasons, many of these families choose to take their chances in the remote mountains where their communities are smaller. Access to clean water is also scarce due to the rough, mountainous terrain.

“The plight of displaced people caught up in the fighting in Iraq is increasingly desperate and all parties to the conflict must do more to ensure their safety,” states Rovera.

Thankfully, there are nongovernmental organizations working towards providing aid to these displaced Iraqis. UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) division has received funding from Germany’s KfW Development Bank and has been tasked with aiding 25 families living near the town of Dohuk in the mountains of Northern Iraq.

Fortunately, there are times when complex issues can be solved with ordinary and conventional methods. This has been the case thus far with the aforementioned Iraqi families. A tractor hitched to a 4,000 liter water tank has been providing water to over 62,000 people every day. Families fill up as many buckets and tin cans as they can carry and use the water for drinking in addition to bathing, washing and cooking.

However, funding needs are a constant reminder that this service is not permanent. Without access to clean water, Ghassan Madieh, the UNICEF WASH Specialist in Dohuk, states “There would be sewage in the streets… You will see people getting unchlorinated water. You will see less water quantity. It will have a negative impact on health, especially on children and the most vulnerable.”

Frasier Petersen

Sources: BBC, Telegraph, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: International Business Times

water_in_Tanzania
Earlier this week, Tanzanian government officials vowed to improve water access and sanitation conditions for its millions of citizens residing in urban and rural areas.

Conditions in the country have become extensively dire since the end of the past century. The Tanzanian government intends to establish either a water fund or agency through legislation that it believes will be brought to the government’s House by next year.

Climate change is not helping the problem. The Great Ruaha River has consistently experienced dry spells since the late 1990s. In fact, since the dry spells began, the population along the river basin has doubled from 3 to 6 million inhabitants.

Currently, only 40 percent of Tanzanians have access to clean water. The government hopes that percentage will jump to 75 percent by next year with additional funding for water programs in rural areas.

While a lack of accessible clean water in Tanzania causes health concerns, including diarrhea, cholera and typhoid, the lack of water throughout the country has created problems for farmers and businesses. Inadequate water supplies continue to generate crop shortages and failures.

While water shortages remain a problem, the vast majority of Tanzanians do not have access to sanitation. Critics have argued that the government does not spend enough on water and sanitation facilities given the country’s large and increasing population.

For years, the government has not possessed the necessary funds to improve the problem. Coupled with indifferent and at times uninterested community leaders, the country continues to experience hardships at a local and national level. Numerous towns and cities throughout the country are in need of new water infrastructure and repairs to existing equipment. A 1997 report estimated that an equivalent of 620 million U.S. dollars was required to fix the problem.

Fortunately for Tanzanians, the government has started to begin work on water projects with the intention to provide water for rural and urban communities. It is thought that educating Tanzanians about sanitation and safe water principles may help to alleviate the problem.

Yet, part of the challenge involves getting local community leaders to be both engaged and trained to help oversee the individual projects. Many local leaders lack an adequate knowledge about the water infrastructure.

However, the government intends to train and educate the communities about the projects, some of which has already begun. Observers believe that through a coordinated effort among the government, local leaders and Tanzanians, the country can make a difference in improving sanitation conditions and water in Tanzania.

Ethan Safran

Sources: All Africa 1, All Africa 2, All Africa 3, All Africa 4, All Africa 5, All Africa 6, The Guardian
Photo: Africa 6000 International