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

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

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

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.”

The Borgen Project

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

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

dry spell
February 2014 was the driest month in Singapore since 1869. Only seven brief sprinkles fell, giving the area an underwhelming .2 mm of rain. Malaysia has also felt the drought’s impact, as the state of Selangor and the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, have begun water rationing.

Singapore relies heavily on Malaysia for its water supply, importing nearly 60% of its water from the region. Under a 1962 water agreement, Singapore imports most of its water from the Malay state of Johore. The agreement has caused tension between the two countries in the past, and Singapore has decided not to pursue a renewal of the agreement past its 2061 expiration.

Therefore, Singapore has increasingly focused on improving its water self-sufficiency. Currently, Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources estimates that Singapore could potentially provide up to 55% of the country’s water needs. The government has increasingly emphasized building up desalination and recycled water technology while also pushing to increase the country’s water catchment area.

Unfortunately, Singapore’s current water supply does not stack up to the potential effects of the current drought. The National Environment Agency predicts the dry spell will continue into early March. With the poor weather set to continue in both Singapore and Malaysia, water consumption in the area must decrease accordingly.

Resultantly, the Singaporean government has started a public campaign urging water conservation. It has encouraged citizens to cut down on washing cars, irrigating plants and to be more conscious about switching off water faucets and fountains in between use.

Through increasing the water consciousness of its citizenry, Singapore hopes to effectively combat its water shortage.

As of yet, the drought in Singapore has not had a profound effect on the lives of Singaporeans. However, it has reaffirmed Singapore’s vulnerability to water shortages and droughts and demonstrated the need for water conservation initiatives within the city-state. If Singapore will achieve water-self sufficiency it must prepare itself to withstand episodes such as the current drought.

Martin Levy

Sources: Today Online, BBC News, NEA, Singapore Infopedia
Photo: Brohenson Files

UN_clean_waterWithin two generations, the majority of the world’s people could find it difficult to access clean water. That was the warning issued at an international conference on water held last month in Bonn, Germany. The conference, entitled “Water in the Anthropocene: Challenges for Science and Governance: Indicators, Thresholds and Uncertainties of the Global Water System,” sought to “address the global dimensions of water system changes” brought on by human and natural influences.

Water experts warned that in addition to climate change, inefficient extraction methods and pollution from the runoff of agricultural fertilizers will combine to compromise the world’s freshwater sources. Without more concerted efforts to change this situation, they warn, a global majority with soon face water shortage on a regular basis.

Already nearly a billion people do not have access to clean water. Four and a half billion people live within 50km (31 miles) of an “impaired” water source, one that is either polluted or running dry. People in the 1st world are also vulnerable as pollutants like endocrine disrupters, which have spread into rivers and other freshwater bodies in many parts of the developed world, and have been shown to cause fish to change gender.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed these calls to attend to the global water crisis. In a speech at the United Nations International Day of Biological Diversity, Ban said, “We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards.” He warned that current trends will make shortages all but inevitable.

Along with the scientists and officials meeting at the Bonn water conference, Secretary Ban called for the next set of Millennium Development Goals to include goals related to water sustainability. As one official at the Bonn conference stated, “There is no citizen of the world who can be complacent about this.”

Délice Williams

Sources: Water in the Anthropocene, The Guardian
Photo: Shale Shock Media

Who Is Mercy Corps?
Mercy Corps is a non-profit organization that was started in 1979 and based in Portland, Oregon. Their mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities. They aim to help people grappling with hardships survive by turning crisis into opportunity.

Mercy Corps is structured on a set of core values, which include belief in the intrinsic value and dignity of human life, and the belief of all people to thrive. Additionally, they believe that all people have the right to live in peaceful communities and participate in decisions that affect their lives. Mercy Corps members strive to be stewards of the Earth’s health, as well as stewards of the financial resources entrusted to them. Mercy Corps strives to use its resources to achieve peaceful change.

Mercy Corps is staffed by individuals who speak the local languages, know the culture, and understand the challenges of each community. Most of the time, their representatives are from the countries where they work. This enhances the sense of community and allows community members to help lift their neighbors from poverty.

The type of work Mercy Corps is involved in focuses on places in transition where conflict, disaster, political upheaval and economic collapse are present. The organization strives to provide emergency relief and to move quickly to help communities recover and build resilience to future shocks. They work to support community-based initiatives that are community-led and market-driven. And finally, Mercy Corps seeks to use innovation to fight against poverty in the places they work.

Mercy Corps has established programs in forty-six countries. Their programs have many different themes including agriculture and food, children and youth, conflict and governance, disaster preparedness, economic opportunity, education, emergency response, environment, health, innovations, water, and women and gender.

An example of an agriculture and food initiative Mercy Corps works with is in Timor Leste, one of the newest, poorest, and most poverty-stricken countries in the world. Mercy Corps is working with 4,500 subsistence farmers to improve their crop production, increase their income and diversify their diets. The goal of this project is to create a solid foundation for sustainable development in the country.

Access to freshwater is a serious problem for many communities in the developing world. In Yemen, Mercy Corps is working with local water vendors to accept vouchers to provide families with 20 liters of drinking water a day. Additionally, they have trained community members on the importance of hygiene practices such as hand washing, and they have installed a 5,000-liter plastic tank to store washing and general use water closer to people’s homes. This initiative has given over 1,000 people better access to water, greatly improving health in the communities.

Mercy Corps relies on donations and fundraising to sustain its programs. They encourage people to attend their events, donate, and volunteer with their organization. For more information, visit their website here.

– Caitlin Zusy
Source: Mercy Corps

According to a recent Namibia Population and Housing Census Basic report, approximately 80 percent of all Namibian households have access to clean drinking water. However, a great disparity is seen when urban and rural areas of Namibia are separated. Access to clean drinking water in urban areas rises to about 98 percent whereas the percentage of households with such water access drops to about 59 percent in rural areas.

The government of Namibia is now working on bridging this disparity, spending 2.6 billion Namibian dollars, which is approximately 283 million USD, to improve rural water access and sanitation. This will be done by providing households in rural areas access to toilet facilities (like flush toilets), as well as building a second desalination plant along the coast. A desalination plant removes the salt from seawater making it a useable water source.

As of now, approximately 16 percent of rural households utilize unsafe water from local water supplies, such as streams and rivers, while another 13 percent utilize unsafe water from wells. Lowering or eliminating these percentages is the goal and primary subject of the $2.6 billion Namibian investment into improving rural sanitation and water supplies. Through improving access to safe water, improvements in health and the decrease in the spread of disease will also occur. Eliminating these conditions will lead to major improvements in health, even helping combat the prominence of diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: Guardian