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Water in India and Nepal
With populations totaling over one billion people and high economic growth rates, the middle classes of India and Nepal are rising quickly as the 21st century progresses. However, with this rise in standard of living comes increased demand for resources. This includes one of the most precious resources on Earth – water, or “paani” in Hindi, a commonly spoken language in both India and Nepal. As Indians and Nepalis elevate themselves out of poverty, the demand for freshwater grows higher. Water in India and Nepal is used for activities ranging from cooking to leisurely use. The limited financial resources of the Indian and Nepali governments pose a significant challenge for ensuring adequate water for each nation’s urban middle classes and rural, largely subsistence farmers. Luckily, local initiatives and international partners are chipping in to solve this issue, with considerable success.

The Challenge

India is home to 1.3 billion people, and its population increases by over 10 million people per year. With an urbanization rate of 34.9% and rapidly growing, the strain on natural resources is significant. The quick expansion of India’s middle class and the problem of resource mismanagement lead to the popularization of the term “Day Zero” across India’s metropolises. “Day Zero” refers to a hypothetical future date in which Indian cities will run out of the groundwater supply required to quench the thirst of their urban populations. Unfortunately, for some Indian cities, that hypothetical scenario is already reality.

The city of Chennai, home to over 10 million people, experienced a “Day Zero” event last year. After losing access to groundwater resources, Chennai and cities like it are forced to tap into the resources of neighboring towns and villages, jeopardizing millions of farmers and their livelihoods. This also limits farmers’ chances at rising out of poverty. Some estimates suggest that by 2030 demand could outpace supply by a factor of two.

Similarly, the nation of Nepal faces rising challenges ensuring water for its people. While considerably smaller than its southern neighbor, Nepal’s population density is high, home to the same number of individuals (over 30 million) as the much larger Canada. With higher average glacial melt as a result of climate change and an increasingly thirsty economy, the Nepali government must contend with more flooding coupled with more consistent drought. Its financial issues mirror those of India, so it too must find innovative ways to conserve and replenish its water supplies. Addressing water in India and Nepal is essential for their success as emerging economies.

The Paani Foundation – India

Though many NGOs, IGOs, and state governments are currently attempting to address challenges with India’s water supply, one in particular stands out: The Paani Foundation. Founded by famous Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, The Paani Foundation assists villages in creating natural water tables and irrigation systems. It works to sculpt the land in order to limit topsoil runoff, maintain water levels during drought and improve local biodiversity. The foundation’s focus is primarily in the Indian state of Maharashtra, located west of the Arabian sea, home to 110 million people. The scale of The Paani Foundation’s work in Maharashtra is so immense that it is often recognized as the largest permaculture project in the world. The work of this NGO showcases how inexpensive and innovative solutions are working today to address the growing water challenges in India.

The Paani Programme – Nepal

Unlike the Paani Foundation, developed by a famous Bollywood actor, the Paani Programme is a cooperative between Nepali villagers, the non-profit AVKO and the United States Agency for International Development. Though the focus of this initiative centers on biodiversity conservation, this program, like India’s Paani Foundation, aims to develop irrigation and management systems that are sustainable in design and easy to maintain. The benefits of preserving biodiversity are two-fold, as resilient ecosystems that improve local wildlife numbers also contribute to the sustainable use of water supplies. With more reliable water access and more resilient ecosystems as a result of the investments of the Paani Programme, villagers across Nepal are more able to enjoy economic resilience and elevate themselves out of poverty.

With booming populations and increasingly thirsty economies, water in India and Nepal must rely on better systems to maintain its flow. Homegrown initiatives like The Paani Foundation are showcasing how local creativity can earn international praise. At the same time, programs like USAID’s Paani Programme provide an important example of the necessity of American federal interest in global poverty reduction and sustainable resource management. With “paani” being the most valuable natural resource on Earth, it’s time to give it the attention it truly deserves.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

PCPartPickerPCPartPicker and charity: water formed an unexpected partnership, united in their common goal of providing clean drinking water for communities in developing nations.

PCPartPicker

PCPartPicker was founded in 2011 by Philip Carmichael. The website was designed to guide computer enthusiasts on how to build their PCs from scratch.

Carmichael, a Texas A&M University educated software engineer, started PCPartPicker with the intention of creating something that would impact more than just the PC-building community: “My desire was, and still is, to help people with fundamental needs that we often take for granted, such as access to clean water and sanitation.” That is why PCPartPicker has supported charity: water, a non-profit organization that provides access to clean drinking water in communities across 29 developing countries.

The World’s Water Crisis

In 2017, the World Health Organization reported that 2.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed water services. Of those 2.2 billion, 785 million do not have immediate access to clean drinking water. Immediate access in this case refers to access that takes less than 30min of travel time. In other words, 10% of the world’s population often have to travel long distances to collect water for themselves and their families.

Most of those who are unable to use a safely managed drinking water source end up using water that is contaminated as a result of poorly maintained sanitation and water services. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and dysentery can be spread through these contaminated water sources. Almost a million people die each year due to infected drinking water, unsafe sanitation and poor hygiene. These deaths are completely preventable.

If clean drinking water was more accessible, millions of people would not have to spend hours every day traveling to collect it. Instead, children could spend more time in school and community members could spend more time growing food, starting small businesses and earning an income. The 40 billion hours a year women spend walking to collect water in Africa alone could be invested in those activities which are far more beneficial for improving livelihoods and in turn alleviating poverty.

charity: water

Founded in 2006, charity: water seeks to end the global water crisis. The organization raises funds to provide safe drinking water in communities that historically have not had access. According to its website, charity: water works with experts within each community to develop clean water solutions that will be sustainable over time. Examples of sustainable solutions include rainwater harvesting tanks, wells, piped systems or BioSand Filters that treat contaminated water to make it safe for consumption.

Once the community has been provided access to safe drinking water, charity: water’s partners implement training for preventing disease through safe hygiene and sanitation practices. A “water committee” is also elected from within the community in order to keep the standard of the water safe for years after the organization completes its project.

As of November 2020, charity: water has completed or is working on 59,608 projects helping more than 11 million people across the world. Transparency is a priority to the organization, which has an interactive map on its website showing every location at which it has completed a project.

An Unexpected Team

In order to fulfill his desire to help others, Carmichael began donating PCPartPicker profits to charity: water right from the start of the company’s journey. After many requests, the website launched a merchandise store in 2012 and Carmichael pledged 100% of proceeds to be donated to charity: water. The first completion report was posted in 2014 when Carmichael shared that the merchandise proceeds as well as the portion of earnings he donated monthly, funded access to clean drinking water for 373 people in Malawi.

The latest report, posted in July 2020, shows that charity: water has completed several projects in Ethiopia, Malawi, Bangladesh, India, Rwanda, Niger, Nepal and Uganda as a direct result of PCPartPicker’s donations. Together, these organizations have helped 34, 853 people gain access to clean drinking water.

Clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. Organizations such as charity: water and PCPartPicker are dedicated to helping the cause and ensuring clean water access for as many people as possible.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

Ganges RiverMore individuals depend on the Ganges River in India than there are people in the United States. More than 400 million people live at the basin of the Ganges, making it one of the most important natural water resources in the world. A holy river in the Hindu faith, the Ganges River (or Ganga) is used to bathe, cook, wash clothes, conduct funerals and more. Entire businesses along the basin depend on the river, adding an economic dependence to it as well. Due to this immense usage, pollution has run rampant. The Ganga Action Parivar estimates that “2.9 billion liters of wastewater from sewage, domestic and industrial sources are dumped” in the river every single day. Pollution reduction in the river is a top priority to prevent hundreds of millions of Indians from facing water insecurity.

The World Bank Assists

In 2011, the World Bank targeted the Ganges River pollution issues by launching the National Ganga River Basin Project (or NGRBP). A $1 billion initiative, the NGRBP looked to create bank investments in the water sanitation department and develop better waste management control in India. While this did prove to be a step in the right direction, the Ganges still saw a rise in pollution. India’s inability to properly dispose of waste outpaced the World Bank’s project. After nine years, the World Bank looked to bolster its contribution to the fight to save the Ganges as more and more Indians were becoming sick. In June 2020, the Second Ganga River Basin Project received approval from World Bank directors despite the bank focusing on COVID-19, proving how dire the situation at the basin truly is. An 18-year commitment, this second NGRBP adds another $380 million to clean up the Ganges until 2038.

Ganga Action Parivar’s Impact

Along with international help from the World Bank, India also made pollution control a national issue. An array of agencies have come about in India centered around the purification of the Ganges. For over a decade, the Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) has taken a diplomatic approach to fight water pollution. Through communication with government officials, media outlets and fundraising, the GAP looks to bring awareness to the issue and demand action from within India. In 2016, the GAP launched the National Ganga Rights Act and began asking for support for it. The act detailed how there are both natural environmental and human rights on the line with the continued pollution of the Ganges River. More than just a body of water, the Ganges is an epicenter of religion, prosperity and life. Creating a natural rights act helps to ensure that action will mobilize to protect the water resource and that is exactly what the GAP has set out to do.

The Year 2020 and Beyond

The year 2020 has been a promising year for pollution reduction in the Ganges River. The World Bank launched and financed its second project centered around cleaning the water back in June 2020. New research suggests that there has also been a natural cleansing that has taken place over the past few months. Since COVID-19 forced India to shut down, the Ganges’ usage has dropped. In a video released by BBC News, just a mere 10% drop in usage throughout the pandemic has led to significant improvement in the sanitation of the Ganges. For years now, India’s government has been trying to find ways to heal the Ganges. While India and the world fight the COVID-19 virus, the Ganges River is healing. Once the lockdown ends, the work of the World Bank and GAP will be vital to keep the momentum going. If pollution rates continue to climb, India will have a water crisis on its hands. Sanitizing and protecting the Ganges is instrumental in helping India reduce its poverty rates and preserving a crucial water resource.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The One WaSH National ProgrammeGlobally, at least 2 billion people do not have access to clean water. The ability to access clean water supplies and sanitation is a vital aspect of a country’s development. Improved water supply and sanitation positively affect economic growth and poverty reduction as water is essential domestically and agriculturally. Furthermore, clean water and sanitation are imperative to human health. Contaminated water can cause diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. The issue of clean water is present worldwide and demands preventative action. Thankfully, the One WaSH National Programme is here to help.

Ethiopia is one country where the water crisis needs to be addressed. Close to 33 million people in Ethiopia lack access to a safe water supply and nearly 89 million don’t have access to basic sanitation. This lack of access is responsible for 90% of diarrheal disease occurrences, which is a leading cause of child mortality in Ethiopia. To fight this, the Ethiopian government along with partners developed the One WaSH National Programme in 2013. The goal was to drastically improve access to safe water and sanitation services throughout the country.

The ONE WaSH National Programme

The One WaSH National Programme aims to improve the health and well-being of communities in rural and urban areas. Their strategy to achieve this is to increase equal and sustainable access to clean water supplies, sanitation services and good hygiene practices. As explained by the IRC, “It combines a comprehensive range of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions that include capital investments to extend first-time access to water and sanitation, as well as investments, focused on developing the enabling environment, building capacity, ensuring the sustainability of service delivery, and behavioral change. It has rural, urban, institutional WaSH and capacity building components.”

Impacts of The Programme

Phase one of The One WaSH National Programme in Ethiopia began in October 2013 and lasted till July 2017. It boasted great results. In four years, 18.7 million people gained access to water supplies and the practice of open defecation reduced from 44% to 29%. Additionally, 1,280 school WASH facilities were constructed.

The One WaSH National Programme approved its second phase in 2018. This time, the overall growth and transformation of the program was the main target for improvement. Another objective was to diminish vulnerable infrastructure in drought-prone areas in Ethiopia. Doing so would create a climate-resilient water supply system that provides the community with safe and sustainable access to water. Results for this second phase are still being collected as it was expected to run through July 2020.

The Importance of Clean Water in Poverty Reduction

Access to basic water and sanitation are vital parts to improving the economy. As such, it is essential for eradicating poverty. Many health issues faced by the poor arise because of the consumption of contaminated water. Increased availability of basic water and sanitation services can aid in general public health and assist in reducing health care costs.

The ONE WaSH National Programme has not completely satisfied their goals of extending safe water supply to 98% of the country’s rural population and 100% of city dwellers. Nevertheless, they have made many great strides toward improving sanitation services. Overall, the program has contributed significantly toward improving the standard of living within these Ethiopian communities.

The ONE WaSH National Programme and similar endeavors have the power to greatly improved the population’s access to a safe water supply and reduce poverty in Ethiopia and worldwide.

Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Water Access in PakistanJust a few months after assuming office in 2018, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a dire declaration to his nation, pronouncing the water crisis to be the most pressing problem facing Pakistan today. Soon after, one team of Pakistani-American college students decided to launch the Paani Project to address the issue. Since then, the group has made astounding strides toward improving water access in Pakistan.

The Water Crisis in Pakistan

The Paani Project is addressing one of the most acute water crises in the world today. With a population of 212 million, poor water management, climate change and intensive agriculture, access to clean water can be scarce. An estimated 40% of deaths in the country are linked to unclean water.

Pakistan also has a shocking disparity in water access between its urban and rural areas. With up to 70% of rural regions having no access to clean water, millions in Pakistan’s more remote areas face a severe risk to their health and livelihoods.

Origins of the Paani Project

In order to combat this critical issue, four University of Michigan students decided to launch the Paani Project. The mission began on a local scale. For three months, on their way to class and around campus, the students would sell doughnuts, slowly collecting enough funds to build their first well in a rural region of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh.

Since funding their first well, the team has put hours of effort, collaboration and organization into the project, creating a fully functioning nonprofit that has seen widespread success.

The Paani Project Impact

With over 850 wells built across rural areas as of 2020 and more than $300,000 donated, the Paani group has made an undeniable impact in improving water access in Pakistan. Their work has spread from Sindh to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, serving rural needs across the country.

In addition to building wells, the project has also diversified its mission by leading a number of different humanitarian efforts around the country. In Azad Kashmir, Paani led a winter coat drive and in Karachi, the group operated a dental clinic to provide care for those that would not have access otherwise.

The organization has also provided relief from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing food to thousands of workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh who rely on daily wages to support their families.

Other Initiatives

Paani also believes that education is an important step in combatting poverty and increasing water access in Pakistan. With every well that has been built, Paani has held “hygiene education seminars” to teach community members about proper sanitation practices and how to maintain the well. The group has also helped develop education curriculums in Sindh, through which they hope to increase knowledge about the water crisis and proper hygiene practices.

Although Pakistan’s water crisis is one that continues to make headlines and threatens the lifestyles of millions of people across the country, work by organizations such as Paani has helped to turn the tide. With tens of thousands of people directly reaping the benefits of Paani’s wells, the group’s contributions are sure to be much more than just a drop in the bucket in the fight for universal water access in Pakistan.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr

 Cape Town Water Crisis
Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital, has a population of about four million, which is nearly 8% of the entire South African population. South Africa has been successful in cultivating a democratic country, but it has a persistent inequity issue. In 2015, the bottom 60% of the country only held 7% of South Africa’s net wealth. Although more than 55% of South Africans live below the poverty line, 93% of black South Africans live in poverty. Cape Town, although not exempt from issues of inequity, is a thriving metropolis to South Africa. When the Cape Town water crisis rose to a peak in 2017, it became imperative for the city to make some serious changes before they ran out of water completely. Here is how Cape Town recovered from its devastating water shortage and a look at where the city is today.

How the Crisis Began

Cape Town has long been praised for its award-winning water management achievements and efficient use of the city’s six largest reservoirs, which can hold up to 230 billion gallons of water. The city was well aware of the impending climate changes and took measures to decrease overall water consumption.

Despite their efforts, Cape Town neglected to factor in the steady decreases in annual rainfall. This oversight was minor at the time and the city’s reservoirs were full in 2014. However, a sudden three-year-long drought drained the reservoirs to only 26% capacity by 2017. The city declared they would shut municipal water taps off when they reached 13.5% capacity.

City Measures

The term “Day Zero” became the name for the day that water taps would be shut off city-wide, essentially the day Cape Town would officially run out of water. With Day Zero looming and reservoirs draining, the city and its residents sprung into action to avoid the ultimate Cape Town water crisis.

At the beginning of 2017, the average city resident used 600 liters per day. City officials lowered that daily limit to 50 liters per day. To put that number into perspective, the average Californian used 321 liters of water per day during the 2016 drought. If a household went above that 50 liter limit, it faced hefty fines and a meter installation to shut off the water automatically once it exceeded the daily limit. The city also implemented severe quotas for agricultural and commercial institutions.

Residents Doing Their Part

The Cape Town water crisis could not have been averted if not for innovative action from the residents themselves. People began to recycle shower and washing machine water as well as limit toilet flushes to once a day. Farmers diverted their water supply away from their own farms for the city to use. Swimming pools and lawns were no longer essentials and residents no longer used water for such amenities. Social media played a key role as well by being a platform to share advice with a large audience. Local restaurants and bars started competitions to see who could refrain from washing their clothes the longest. The combination of these efforts is what saved the 4 million people from ever having to experience Day Zero.

The Role of Poverty

Although the Cape Town water crisis affected the entire city, it hit some residents much harder than others. South Africa is already a country known for its inequity issues, and the water crisis exacerbated that fact. Wealthy residents found ways to get around the restrictions by hiring companies to dig $6,000 wells for them, buying large amounts of drinkable water at inflated prices, and even installing filtration systems to make groundwater drinkable. Poor residents, on the other hand, were at the mercy of the city and had to sacrifice buying food to be able to buy water.

Where is Cape Town Today?

Cape Town finally experienced an average rainy season in January 2018, allowing the city to postpone the arrival of Day Zero indefinitely. After the immediate crisis had been averted, the city began planning for ocean water desalination and groundwater extraction as backup water sources. These are more long-term solutions, but they present issues of their own such as the affordability of such intense installations and the impact on local ecosystems.

Limits on water usage have been loosened slightly; however, they still exist and are strictly enforced. This continues to negatively impact the city’s poorest residents. Perhaps the most helpful action taken since the crisis has been the weekly reports on dam capacities. As of July 2020, all the dams are holding steady at around 80% capacity.

Although the Cape Town water crisis never fully culminated in a citywide water shutoff, the impact of the event still resonates with the poor. Moving forward, efforts need to be made to ensure equal water access for all residents.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Flickr

Water CrisisDespite recent growth in the economy, Uganda is facing a national water crisis. Almost 24 million people in Uganda do not have access to clean water. On average each person in Uganda uses only about 4.7 gallons of water a day. Communities need clean water sources for drinking, cooking, farming and general personal hygiene. Clean water scarcity creates difficulties for all of these basic needs and negatively impacts the economy.

What Uganda’s Water Crisis Looks Like

Although Uganda experienced three decades of a growing economy, almost 40% of Ugandans still live on less than a dollar a day. In addition to its history of poverty, many people in Uganda struggle to find clean water. Traditionally, communities with high poverty rates rely heavily on natural water sources because they lack the technology to build wells and plumbing. The lack of clean water sources in impoverished communities propels the cycle of poverty.

A video by a global relief organization called Generosity.org documents the lives of Ugandans who struggle to find clean water. The video features a Ugandan mother, Hanna Augustino, who spends three hours a day getting water for her family of nine. Hanna explains that the water is so dirty it has worms and gives them diseases like Typhoid Fever. However, when the family gets sick, they cannot afford to go to the hospital. The lack of clean water in an already impoverished community leads to disease. In 2015 Uganda experienced a Typhoid Fever outbreak that was mainly due to contaminated water sources. For many in these communities, medical care is unaffordable. The water crisis causes a need for medical care for a treatable disease. The need for more medical care creates more financial hardship on families already struggling in poverty.

Economic Impacts

In addition to disease, collecting water is very time-consuming. In some areas like Hanna’s, it can take hours to retrieve water.  People spend hours getting water instead of working to provide income for their families or as caregivers themselves. Water retrieval is another aspect of the water crisis that negatively impacts local economies and continues the cycle of poverty.

Farmers are some of the most negatively impacted by the water crisis. Farming and agriculture make up a large part of the Ugandan economy. Poverty-stricken communities need water sources for irrigation and farming, which some families rely on as a household income. About 24% of Uganda’s GDP comes from agriculture. This portion of the economy is dependent on clean, accessible water sources. Without clean water sources, farmers’ animals and crops would die. Without farmers, local communities would have no food. As a result, farmers are an important local resource for local communities and an important cog in local economies.

 A Helping Hand

Despite the rippling effects of the water crisis, there are many organizations working to alleviate the crisis. For instance, Lifewater is an organization that funds “water projects.” These projects build clean water sources for villages that have none. Lifewater is currently funding 220 water projects in Uganda alone.  If you are interested in learning more about Lifewater, you can go to their website at Lifewater.org.

Lifewater is one of many organizations working to provide villages in Uganda with clean water. Along with being essential to human life, water can affect many different aspects of daily life. Spending hours fetching water or drinking dirty, disease-ridden water can negatively impact the local economy. Any negative impact on the economy is especially devastating for communities already affected by poverty. Like Lifewater, there are many organizations bettering local economies through their clean water efforts.

Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

10-Facts-About-Sanitation-in-Yemen
Yemen is currently going through a severe civil war. The Yemeni government’s failed political transition has led to multiple uprising since 2015. As the conflict enters its fifth year in 2020, the effects are becoming clearer. At the end of 2018, over 6,800 civilians had been killed. An additional 10,768 people were wounded and the conflict also had a significant impact on Yemen’s infrastructure. Sanitation is one aspect of Yemen’s infrastructure that has been affected the most by the ongoing conflict. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Yemen

  1. Water is a scarce resource in Yemen. Before the current civil war began in 2015, experts already warned that Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, might run out of water in 10 years. In a BBC report, they noted that this water problem is exasperated by farmers drilling underground wells without any government regulations.
  2. In 2018, an estimated 19.3 million people did not have access to clean water and sanitation. Years of aerial bombing and ground fighting destroyed Yemen’s water facilities. The power plants that supplied electricity to power water pumps and purification plants were also destroyed. This has put the quality of water and access to water in jeopardy.
  3. People in Yemen depend on private water suppliers for their water, as a result of the destruction of public water infrastructure. An estimated 56 percent of residents in the city of Sana’a and 57 percent in the city of Aden depend upon these private water distributors.
  4. This reliance on private water distribution contributes to high water prices. Private water distributors set their water prices based on the prevailing market price and the distance traveled to deliver their water. Since many of the wells close to populations are drying up, the distance these distributors need to travel is increasing. In the city of Sana’a, on average, people are paying 3.8 times more for water than if they had access to the public water supply network
  5. The weaponization of water use as a siege tactic in Yemen. The Saudi-UAE coalition and the Houthi rebels use water as a way to carry out strategic military operations. In 2016, Saudi forces carried out a strategic bombing of a reservoir that served as a source of drinking water for thirty thousand people.
  6. Access to improved latrines decreased from 71 percent in 2006 to 48 percent in 2018. Unsurprisingly, places that prioritized the rampant famine and cholera outbreak had the lowest rates of access to improved latrines. Furthermore, the majority of female respondents reported that their access to the latrines was particularly challenging because the majority of the latrines are not gender-segregated.
  7. Water in Yemen is often not sanitary. This is a result of the direct impact the civil war has on the sanitation in Yemen. Cholera remains the most significant threat to water quality, with Yemen still recovering from the cholera outbreak of 2017. As of November 2019, there were 11,531 suspected cases of cholera in Yemen.
  8. Destruction of wastewater treatment plants is contributing to poor sanitation in Yemen. Without facilities to treat wastewater, raw sewage is usually diverted to poor neighborhoods and agricultural lands. This leads to further contamination of local water wells and groundwater sources.
  9. UNICEF undertakes many restoration efforts for water treatment facilities in Yemen. For example, UNICEF restored a water treatment plant named Al Barzakh. This plant is one of the 10 water treatment centers that supplied water to Aden, Lahij and Abyan governorates. This $395,000 restoration project had a major impact. Cholera cases in the region dropped from 15,020 cholera cases in August 2017 to 164 cases in January 2018.
  10. The World Bank Group’s International Development Association is working on a 50 million-dollar project to provide electricity in Yemen. The project aims to provide solar-powered electricity to rural and peri-urban communities in Yemen. In addition to supplying powers to Yemeni schools, the project will improve sanitation in Yemen by providing power to water sanitation facilities. This is especially important for girls’ education in Yemen since the burden of water collection usually falls upon girls, often deterring girls from going to school.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen highlight continuing problems as well as several efforts to address them. Water was already a scarce resource in Yemen even before the current conflict started in 2015. As the Yemeni civil war enters its fifth year, the effects of the deteriorating sanitation in Yemen are more than clear. However, efforts by groups such as UNICEF and the World Bank are working to fund, build and restore many sanitation facilities in Yemen. With the recent indirect peace talk between the combatants, many hope that conditions in Yemen will improve in the future.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in the Middle East
Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan are among the bottom 10 countries when talking about access to clean water. Water is a primary necessity for human life. Without food the body can survive for up to three weeks, however, without clean water, the body will perish within three to four days, but not before going into shock and fading in and out of delirium. The water crisis in the Middle East is a serious problem now that ongoing conflicts in the region have only worsened.

Afghanistan

Of the three countries listed above, the water crisis in the Middle East affects Afghanistan the least. Despite that, Afghanistan is in the middle of the worst drought it has seen in the past 10 years. In addition, it cannot effectively distribute resources since 40 years of armed conflict following Soviet intervention in Afghanistan has ruined the country’s infrastructure. As a result, about 260,000 Afghani civilians living in extremely dry areas have had to leave their homes, making them refugees.

The drought has drained natural water sources such as the Kabul River Basin, the primary source of water for the nation’s capital. The established system for distributing water is no longer applicable, so civilians must draw water from unofficial wells. In Afghanistan, a country with over 35 million people, 87 percent of accessible water is polluted. Fortunately, India is providing assistance with the Afghan-India Friendship Dam on the Hari River. With further plans to build another dam on the Kabul River, Afghanistan will have water for irrigation and will not have to live with the threat of flash floods.

Syria

In 2006, a massive drought began that would displace tens of thousands of Syrian farmers. By 2011, there were over a million angry, unemployed former farmers in the country ready to fight in a violent civil war that would go on for years. If one said that the water crisis in the Middle East was the proverbial lit match in the powder keg, it would be inaccurate. One cannot, however, deny that it did fan the flames.

Now that tensions are dying down, Syrian civilians have little infrastructure to help provide them with water. Militant groups that occupy water plants and reservoirs hold monopolies on the water for entire regions. Oftentimes, these groups distribute water selectively to blackmail their enemies. Prior to the civil war that started in 2011, water allocation was already inequitable. President Bashar al-Assad allocated more water to fellow members of his particular sect of Islam. Now that Syria is rebuilding its infrastructure, there exists an opportunity to distribute water equally across the country in order to help prevent humanitarian disasters like this in the future.

Egypt

Even in the time of the pharaohs, Egypt has owed its life to the Nile. The Nile is the primary source of water for a country with rice as its number one agricultural export. Rice requires a great deal of water for cultivation and harvest. One kilo of rice needs about 3,000 liters of water. The water in the Nile now contains dead fish due to heavy metals from industrial pollution. Using heavily polluted water diminishes crop yields leading to a further strain on resources.

Egypt faces more than just a drop in the quality of water. As a result of the Blue Nile dam that Ethiopia built, Egypt is also concerned about the quantity of water. By building a hydroelectric dam on the Nile upstream from Egypt, Ethiopia is developing a power grid to reach 86 million Ethiopians living without electricity. Consequently, this will divert about a quarter of the Nile’s water away from Egypt. The Nile supplies 85 percent of Egypt’s fresh water. Egypt has the most to lose in the event of armed conflict breaking out because of its water scarcity, so it is now pushing for diplomatic and scientific solutions to the problem. Negotiating with Ethiopia to share in the dam’s benefits and investments in desalination technology is helping to alleviate the water crisis.

The water crisis in the Middle East is serious and requires much work to alleviate the problem. Through the building of better infrastructure, however, Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan should be able to improve.

– Nicholas Smith
Photo: Flickr