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Water Quality in BangladeshBangladesh, a South Asian country bordered by India, is one of the most impoverished and most densely populated countries in the world. Bangladesh currently has a population of 161 million in an area slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Iowa. Bangladesh’s economy relies heavily on agriculture as 63.2% of the country’s population works in industry and agriculture. Even with an unemployment rate of less than 4%, the poverty rate is 21.8%. The dense population, small area, reliance on agriculture and poverty rate cumulatively create a crucial need for clean water. Humanitarian organizations aim to improve the water quality in Bangladesh.

10 Facts About Water Quality in Bangladesh

  1. Water quality in Bangladesh has been a long-term struggle. Since the country’s independence in 1971, international aid agencies have helped Bangladesh with its water crisis. At the time, a quarter of a million Bangladeshi children were dying each year from bacteria-contaminated surface water. Bacteria and pathogens, such as E. coli, cholera and typhoid, were causing severe health problems for both children and adults.
  2. Bangladesh relies on groundwater. Because of contaminated surface waters in the region, 90% of the population relies on groundwater. Groundwater is the water that lies below the earth’s surface between soil pore spaces and fractures of rock formations. This water source is accessible through tube wells in the region.
  3. UNICEF and the World Bank attempted to improve access to water in Bangladesh. To combat the poor-quality surface drinking water and provide more water for agriculture, these organizations funded the installation of about four million tube wells between 1960 and 1970. The tube wells created access to groundwater throughout the entire country. Unfortunately, this led to mass poisoning due to contaminated groundwater.
  4. The largest mass poisoning in history occurred in Bangladesh. In the 1990s, arsenic was detected in the well water. The wells dug in the 1960s and 1970s were not tested for metal impurities, impacting an estimated 30-35 million people in Bangladesh. Ailments from exposure to arsenic include gastrointestinal diseases, physical deformities, cancer, nerve and circulatory system damage and death. About 1.12 million of the four million wells in Bangladesh are still contaminated with arsenic.
  5. Poor water quality significantly impacts public health. Arsenic poisoning is now the cause of death for one out of five people in Bangladesh. An estimated 75 million people were exposed to arsenic-laden water. The poisoning can cause up to 270,000 future cancer-related deaths. E. coli is also still present in 80% of private piped water taps and 41% of all improved water sources. Sickness from poor water quality is a major issue and 60% of Bangladeshi citizens do not have access to modern health services.
  6. Poor water quality impacts agriculture. Bangladesh relies heavily on agriculture with 70% of its land dedicated to the cultivation of rice, jute, wheat, tea, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables and fruits. The contaminated tube wells provide a majority of the water used for irrigation. As a result, high levels of arsenic are absorbed by many crop plants, specifically rice and root vegetables. This can be deadly to those who consume the produce.
  7. Contaminated wells are still in use. After the testing of tube wells in 1997, the government painted the contaminated wells red and the safe wells green to reduce exposure. However, officials used poor testing kits to examine the wells, leading to incorrectly marked wells. Unfortunately, many green-marked wells hold contaminated water that the public still uses. Additionally, the wells that were marked red were never properly closed off and can still be used today.
  8. Poverty plays a role in access to clean water. Both the wealthy and the impoverished in Bangladesh struggle greatly with poor water quality. However, the population living below the poverty line struggles three times more from water-related diseases and illnesses. Roughly two million people in poverty still lack access to improved water sources. Bangladesh is also one of the most impoverished nations in the world, with a per capita income of around $370. This greatly affects the government’s ability to combat the water crisis.
  9. Poor water quality limits the country’s potential. The economy, public health and education all rely on access to clean and usable water. Poor water quality has led to stunting in more than one-third of Bangladeshi children. These developmental impacts limit education and result in an increase in poverty. The mortality rate of those who have come in contact with contaminated water sources will continue to devastate the economy. Over the next 20 years, this could lead to a loss of about $12.5 billion for the Bangladesh economy.
  10. The water quality in Bangladesh can improve. There are many ways to combat the water crisis in Bangladesh. Creating mechanisms to enhance rainwater capture would provide a better-quality source of usable water. Along with rainwater capture, water purification methods and the construction of a water treatment plant would eliminate contaminants from surface and groundwater. Funded projects by groups like Charity: Water, Lifewater and WaterAid are working to improve sanitation and water quality in Bangladesh.

The Road Ahead

Bangladesh has shown steady and vast improvements in many areas. Life expectancy has grown dramatically in the past few years and now averages 72 years. Bangladesh’s per capita income has also increased and is growing faster than Pakistan’s. Furthermore, Bangladesh shows an upward trend in per capita GDP with an increase of 6% per year. However, water quality still poses a critical issue in Bangladesh. With commitment from the government and humanitarian organizations to resolve the water crisis, Bangladesh will continue to grow and prosper.

Kate A. Trott
Photo: UNICEF

Safeguarding ToolkitThe Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) created a report to address why aid effectiveness and quality are so important to development goals. Increasing effectiveness is defined as ensuring that the most impoverished populations are receiving quality aid to improve their quality of life. In order to achieve this, donors and developing countries must be mutually respectful of one another in order to achieve the desired development goals. This means countries providing aid and on-the-ground development need to be mindful of and respectful to the communities they are aiming to lift out of poverty. A community-based safeguarding toolkit was launched to ensure that people are aware of their rights and protections when it comes to developmental aid efforts.

Dignity at the Center of Aid

Jonathan Glennie of Open Democracy presents the question, “What if dignity was placed at the heart of all development work, from planning, through implementation, to evaluation of its impact?” Glennie explains the importance of a dignity-centered approach when lifting individuals and communities out of poverty and how such an approach is a more effective way of alleviating poverty. Engaging in foreign aid with dignity for communities experiencing extreme poverty leads to the empowerment of these populations. According to Glennie, when communities are empowered they can reach their real goals, resulting in concrete benefits such as improved health and food security, quality education and higher incomes.

Safeguarding Toolkit

The concept of mutual respect and dignity is now generally accepted as a norm in the development world. However, communities are not always aware of their rights. Given this, Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam International and WaterAid collaborated to launch a “community-based safeguarding visual toolkit” in February 2021, with plans to review and update the toolkit in 2022, resources allowing. The toolkit was created to allow humanitarian and development organizations to give visual information regarding the Six Core Principles Relating to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse to the community members these organizations are working with.

NGOs are continuously evolving and many have recognized that safeguarding measures will be most effective with intentional and focused community engagement. This toolkit was designed to protect and embolden communities in which development is taking place to understand their rights, prevent exploitation and abuse and promote a speak-up culture in the world of development globally. The toolkit has been released in 24 languages so far and can be downloaded for free, making it widely and equitably accessible.

Encouraging Ethical Development

The toolkit contains 11 key messages with 29 corresponding visuals. Some examples of these messages are “aid workers are not allowed to ask for or accept bribes for aid” and “aid organizations encourage complaints — there are safe ways to complain.” Other visuals explicitly state community members’ rights against sexual abuse and/or exploitation by aid workers. These visuals are not intended to be a stand-alone effort in creating respectful and ethical development efforts but are to be utilized in conjunction with wider training and conversations.

Strategic and ethical aid promotes the economic prosperity of developing communities while creating self-reliance. It is important that such communities are aware of their rights and are engaged in the development process. This community-based safeguarding toolkit is working to ensure that efforts to lift people out of poverty respect the basic rights of the communities humanitarian organizations serve.

Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Water Solutions in Tanzania
Every country should have access to sanitary water. Clean water provides nourishment, prevents diseases, kills toxins and is essential for agriculture. About 2.5 billion people in the world do not have adequate access to water. Additionally, 80% of illnesses that arise in developing nations are due to a lack of clean water. Having proper water solutions for developing nations is essential in fighting global poverty. This article will examine water solutions in Tanzania specifically.

About the Water Situation in Tanzania

Five million people endure serious water shortages in sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, 4 million people do not have access to clean water. As a result, women and children spend a lot of time traveling to find water. Additionally, people traveling to Tanzania receive advisories to bring their own water. Tanzania and others have put substantial efforts into finding clean water solutions in Tanzania. However, there is still much to do.

WaterAid in Tanzania

WaterAid is an NGO that aims to aid countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Central America. Its goal is to provide water, sanitation and education to impoverished areas. WaterAid has been able to provide clean water to 17.5 million people. Furthermore, it has been able to improve sanitary conditions for 12.9 million people.

In Tanzania, this organization has successfully supplied 1.5 million people with water solutions and 97,000 people with better sanitation. Additionally, WaterAid focuses on delivery and advocacy. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of rallying support for policies that aid those living without sanitary water or sanitation services. This NGO’s goal is to provide water solutions for vulnerable communities in Tanzania by creating low-cost, sustainable projects.

Nonprofit Organizations that are Making a Difference

LifeWater is a nonprofit organization that strives to create water solutions and better sanitary conditions for struggling communities. The organization builds safe water sources and tests and maintains sanitation to keep impoverished nations safe. Furthermore, Lifewater has many goals for its 2021 water projects.

LifeWater identifies communities with a high need for clean water, sanitary conditions and better health. Then, staff who are familiar with the culture and language help instill sanitation regulations within these communities. These impoverished areas are able to obtain clean water and LifeWater is able to follow up with their progress.

Additionally, Water.org is another nonprofit organization that aims to bring clean water and sanitary conditions to everyone. It operates in countries within Asia and Latin America. This organization’s low-cost, accessible water solutions have positively impacted 31 million lives.

Water.org provides small, affordable loans to impoverished nations through its WaterCredit initiative. This initiative provides access to “affordable financing and resources for household toilet and water solutions.” This nonprofit continues to impact lower-income communities by providing water solutions in Tanzania.

Success Story in Tanzanian School

Water from wells in Bagamoyo became undrinkable due to seawater intrusion. As a result, students were unable to study because they spent most of their time fetching water. Students at Kingani school had to choose between drinking unsanitary water or having none at all.

With the United Nations Environment’s and its partners’ support in the rainwater harvesting project, living conditions improved. The project involves rooftop guttering and collecting large tanks that can store 147,000 liters of water. Thus, these tanks store rainwater for students to use for drinking, cooking and washing. Fortunately, this new project has generated a boost in attendance, health and motivation.

Organizations, projects and loans are beneficial in aiding impoverished communities. Providing water solutions improves nourishment and prevents illnesses. Furthermore, when women and children do not have to travel long distances to retrieve water, they are able to attend school, go to work and take care of their families.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Water poverty in NigeriaWater poverty in Nigeria is still a pressing issue today. Only 30% of northern Nigeria’s population can access safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities. The subsequent use of unclean water leads to the spreading of waterborne diseases such as cholera, guinea worm and hepatitis. The lack of water has impaired the livelihoods of farmers and led to a lower enrollment rate at schools, especially with girls. However, the situation is not without aid.

The History of Water Poverty in Nigeria

Since 1995, Nigerians have benefitted from WaterAid, a charity organization that has established a multitude of water and sanitation projects. The organization works through partnerships with local government authorities, civil society groups and state agencies to implement its programs. The projects have led to progress in development plans and data collection efforts that have increased clean water supply and access to safe toilets.

WaterAid has worked to improve water poverty in Nigeria by implementing its services in over 100 of Nigeria’s poorest communities, which include:

  • Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, where safe tap water is only acquired by 7% of the population.
  • Bauchi State where fewer than 50% of its people can access safe water and sanitation.

  • Benue State where most streams are contaminated.

  • Ekiti State where the main source of domestic water is pre-packaged water sachets and water vendors during the dry season.

  • Jigawa State where waterborne diseases are common.

  • Plateau State where most households rely on an unsafe water supply from government sources.

WaterAid, along with government support, has provided over three million Nigerians with clean water, hygiene and sanitation.

The Data4WASH Programme

The Abuja-based nonprofit Media for Community Change and US-based NGO BLI Global have a similar goal of eliminating water poverty in Nigeria. On August 27, 2020, they formed a partnership to launch The Data4WASH Programme. The program consists of an interactive online platform that accumulates data and maps GPS coordinates. It then creates a map that water-impoverished communities can utilize to advocate for themselves.

Through the map, empirical and widespread evidence can prove the need for adequate investment in the design and installation of clean water and sanitation facilities. Additionally, the program empowers civil society by involving them in the national initiative to improve water poverty in Nigeria. The map encourages people to identify and report water-deficient and poorly sanitized areas in their communities. For instance, final year students from The Department of Statistics at the University of Ibadan will participate in the data collection process.

COVID-19

The Data4WASH Programme has been especially valuable after COVID-19 disrupted Nigeria’s progress in alleviating water poverty. According to WaterAid, 60 million Nigerians lack access to a clean water supply and services, and 150 million people lack basic hand-washing facilities with soap and water.

By enhancing data collecting processes, Nigeria can fortify its most vulnerable communities and health care systems to withstand the present detriments of COVID-19. Further, it can institutionally protect against potential health threats in the future. These measures established by The Data4WASH Programme’s interactive map system would also satisfy The U.N.’s Global Goal 6 — “clean water and sanitation access for all, including safe and affordable drinking water.”

Locally crafted, community-driven initiatives like The Data4WASH Programme and intergovernmental organizations are vital to ending global poverty. One sets guidelines and the other provides outlets that encourage entrepreneurship. The two must work together to end water poverty in Nigeria and all around the world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

The Adventure Project's Initiatives in IndiaThe Adventure Project (TAP) is a nonprofit that addresses global issues affecting people living in poverty. With innovative entrepreneurial solutions, the organization improves the lives of millions of people in developing countries by addressing issues relating to health, hunger, clean water and environmental safety. The Adventure Project’s initiatives in India involve clean cookstoves and water handpumps.

Clean Cookstoves in India

A particular area of concern for the organization was open fire cooking in India, Many people in India cook over open fires, which leads to about 4 million people dying each year from breathing in toxic cooking smoke. As toxic as the smoke is to people in India, it is just as detrimental to the environment as the percentage of carbon gases in the environment rises. The Adventure Project’s solution to this is clean cookstoves. These environment-friendly stoves save a family 20% of their daily expenses because of the 50% decrease in charcoal use per day. Furthermore, the use of one stove saves six trees from being cut down and also reduces carbon emissions by 1.5 tons.

Handpumps for Water Access

The Adventure Project wanted to create a solution to help with access to clean water in India. Wells provides a source of water and the people in India use handpumps to collect and carry clean water from the wells. The issue is that handpumps often break, and as long as a handpump is broken, people cannot access water. WaterAid partnered with The Adventure Project to run a handpump mechanic business in northern India. The two-year-old business, which trains both males and females, teaches budding mechanics how to fix well handpumps. When a handpump breaks down, villagers call the mechanic shop and someone bikes over to fix it. This means that people are able to fix their own handpumps and assist other villagers with theirs. The business also provides an income for the locals employed there.

Breaking Gender Barriers

Many women are breaking gender barriers by working alongside men in the handpump mechanic business. As the first female well mechanic in Mahoba, India, Ram Rati is inspiring women to follow their dreams. Rati grew sick of the broken handpumps in the village and decided to become a handpump mechanic herself. In her village, traditionally only men ride bikes. At 40 years old, she broke this gender barrier as well by learning how to ride a bike in order to travel around the village and fix handpumps.

By implementing clean cookstoves and creating a handpump mechanic business, The Adventure Project’s initiatives in India contribute to alleviating global poverty.

– Isha Bedi
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Nigeria
Nigeria is located on the western coast of the African continent. Home to more than 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. The nation is no stranger to diseases: a dense population, frequent travelers and the Ebola outbreak have impacted thousands. Although the government successfully contained the Ebola outbreak, similar action was not taken to deal with COVID-19. As COVID-19 surges, several global humanitarian organizations are working with Nigeria’s government to combat the virus. Here are four organizations fighting COVID-19 in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been actively involved in projects promoting health and safety in Africa for years. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the WHO helped contain the virus in Nigeria. Recently, the organization has shifted its focus to COVID-19. In early June, the WHO recognized a lack of COVID-19 testing in many of the country’s rural communities. In response, the organization planned to educate health officials and community members on the pandemic’s severity.

The WHO has since been working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to conduct country-wide testing and sample collection. The two organizations are now locating and mapping at-risk communities to better coordinate treatments and procedures.

World Food Programme

World Food Programme (WFP) is a food-assistance branch of the United Nations. The WFP has been especially active in recent months, combatting the food insecurity accompanying economic hardships caused by COVID-19. The program has also established and deployed food assistance task forces to reach the country’s remote communities.

Throughout the pandemic, WFP has assisted more than 715,000 of its targeted 890,000 beneficiaries. The organization continues to offer life-saving food assistance to Nigerians while providing valuable education about sanitation and safety measures.

WaterAid

WaterAid is a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization focused on providing clean water and promoting hygiene and sanitation across the globe. Amidst COVID-19, WaterAid has been collaborating with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources to incorporate clean water resources and hygienic behaviors into communities across the country.

The organization is placing an emphasis on implementing routine hand-washing practices using clean water. WaterAid is also working to educate Nigerians about the importance of staying hygienic and sanitized to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.

The World Bank

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides countries with loans and financial services. Its current work involves collaborating with the Nigerian government to monitor and analyze the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s socioeconomic health. The World Bank is also working to determine the amount of financial aid the country requires to adequately address the pandemic. The organization has initiated a household survey called the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey to assist in this endeavor.

In early March, the World Bank prepared initial financial packages of up to $12 billion to assist more than 60 countries heavily affected by COVID-19. Such financial packages have helped countries like Nigeria strengthen their healthcare systems and reduce the damage to the economy. The $12 billion funding includes contributions from various facilities within the World Bank, including International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Development Association (IDA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

When Nigeria’s first cases of COVID-19 emerged, international humanitarian and financial organizations quickly prioritized containment. While COVID-19 in Nigeria continues surging, organizations like the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, WaterAid and the World Bank Group have stepped in to support the country. As these organizations work to promote hygiene and offer treatment, the risk of contracting COVID-19 in Nigeria continues to decrease and ultimately brings hope to the nation.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, formerly known as East Timor, is a small nation located in the expansive seas of Southeast Asia. As one of the youngest countries in the world today, it holds its fair share of successes and problems. Homelessness in Timor-Leste is one of these problems, which is an issue common in many countries.

Homelessness in Timor-Leste is unique due to the several social, historical and political factors contributing to housing insecurity in this country. Though organizations such as UNICEF and United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) have implemented efforts to combat this quandary, much work still remains in order to eradicate homelessness. Listed below are eight facts about homelessness in Timor-Leste.

8 Facts About Homelessness in Timor-Leste

  1. Timor-Leste separated from Indonesia in 2002, making it the first country to gain independence in the 21st century. With this, the country had much to sacrifice. In 2006, factional fighting within Timor-Leste resulted in the loss of many lives and left as many as 150,000 citizens homeless.
  2. During the fight for independence, Timor-Leste faced many challenges in regard to housing security. In 1999, military turmoil caused the destruction of nearly 70% of the nation’s housing stock (approximately 85,000 houses). Though UNTAET was able to provide temporary shelters for displaced individuals, the government continuously struggled to fund and reconstruct housing to satisfy this high demand for permanent residences.
  3. Internal military conflict has also contributed to the displacement of individuals from their homes. By April 2008, the sporadic conflicts (including arson/looting) in the capital, Dili, had resulted in several thousands of people leaving their homes in fear of violence. A third of these displaced individuals remained in humanitarian camps within Dili, while the remaining people moved to rural districts.
  4. The effects of the 2006 crisis are longstanding. Between 1999 and 2013, the Timorese government and various NGOs/humanitarian organizations have helped move 92,000 displaced individuals into secure housing. Thousands still face uncertain futures in 80 resettlement camps across the country. As of 2015, approximately 22,000 individuals still reside in four main camps in the country and lack access to secure housing.
  5. Timor-Leste had vastly improved its policies in its initial response to the housing crisis. In December 2007, the government created a national recovery strategy, Hamutuk Hari’I Futuru (Together Building the Future), in order to overcome the 2006 displacement crisis. This allowed citizens to claim a $4,500 recovery grant to fix damages on their property. The government also offered transitional shelter to those who were open to temporary relocation. Overall, this strategy was fairly effective. By 2008, 28 camps in Dili closed.
  6. As of 2008, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Timorese government had built 667 transitional shelters. This offer improved living conditions and facilities (i.e. electricity, cooking facilities, etc.) previously unavailable at camps. Sanitary conditions also significantly improved. Though still prone to flooding/landslides, these shelters overall lessened possible disease outbreaks and vulnerabilities in displaced populations.
  7. By 2012, CARE and WaterAid implemented the MAKA’AS (Mudansa Klimatica iha Ambiente Seguru – Climate Change in a Secure Environment). This project aimed to improve resilience against the effects of environmental challenges for six villages in the Liquiça District of Timor-Leste. This allowed individuals to improve access to safe drinking water, improve sanitation in their homes and implement land management practices to reduce landslide risks/housing vulnerability. Between July 2012 and March 2015, this project had helped 1,525 households within the district.
  8. National poverty in Timor-Leste rate has declined from 50.4% in 2007 to 41.8% in 2014. Nationwide improvements to accessing basic needs, education and healthcare resources have allowed Timor-Leste to tackle poverty and homelessness at a faster rate than many other countries. In homes, electricity connection has jumped to 36% in 2007 to 72% in 2014. In this time, child education has also jumped from 58% to 83%. Since 2008, there have been continuous improvements in nationwide living standards due to changes in public policy and foreign aid.

As shown these facts show, the housing predicament in Timor-Leste is extremely complex and difficult to resolve quickly. While the Timorese government and various humanitarian organizations have made multiple commendable efforts to combat homelessness in the country, the issue requires more work.

The displacement of many individuals from their original homes has caused countless land and property disputes. Resolving these issues requires a sophisticated legal framework. Moreover, many displaced individuals lack secure work opportunities as well as access to basic health and social services.

While the displaced individuals remain strong and resilient through these times, additional legal, social and infrastructural changes must occur to provide long-term solutions to homelessness in Timor-Leste. Nevertheless, throughout the past 10 years, this country has made promising improvements in living standards for its citizens.

Vanna Figueroa
Photo: Flickr

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

The Problem of Water Contamination

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

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

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

Water Supply System in Nigeria

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

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

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

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

UNICEF’s Solution to Clean Water

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

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

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Improving Water Sanitation
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.4 million people die annually from water-related diseases. These illnesses disproportionately affect children, making up 90% of the 2.2 million deaths that diarrhea causes every year. Trachoma, another condition that unclean water causes, is the leading cause of preventable acute blindness across the world. Simple filtration mechanisms can prevent all of these water-related diseases. Yet, the world’s poor lack access to the life-saving filtration devices available in other parts of the world, leaving them with high numbers of water-borne diseases. New technologies improving water sanitation are reaching the impoverished and saving new lives each day. Here are four innovative technologies helping to guarantee clean water for all.

4 Technologies Improving Water Sanitation in Developing Countries

  1. The Drinkable Book. The effect of The Drinkable Book is two-fold. First, it provides vital water sanitation information to readers in the developing world who would not otherwise receive such education. Second, the pages of the book themselves act as water filters. These filters are incredibly effective, removing 99.9% of all bacteria to make water safe to drink. The books have experienced distribution across Haiti, India and several countries in sub-Saharan Africa. One book can produce 5,000 liters of clean drinking water to users, or enough to last up to four years.
  2. Fog Catchers. The Morocco-based nonprofit Dar Si Hmad has developed a revolutionary new technology that improves water sanitation by harvesting water from fog. The device consists of large nets built on the sides of mountains that collect moisture from the air and store it for later use. Dar Si Hmad has intentionally involved women in the organization and maintenance of the project in order to provide a holistic community impact. The new technology can produce up to 6,300 liters of water per day and has garnered attention from international investors across the world.
  3. Livinguard Water Filter. The India-based company Livinguard developed an innovative way to fight water-related diseases in India and across the world. The Livinguard water filter has a design suitable for remote locations and depends only on gravity to function. The installation process takes under three hours and the filter lasts up to seven years, making it reliable easy to use. The Livinguard filter uses microscopic knives rather than potentially hazardous chemicals to provide safe drinking water for consumers.
  4. Ceramic Filters. Places across the world are using ceramic water filters as affordable ways to limit the spread of water-related diseases. With microscopic pores that filter out bacteria and other impurities, potable water can pass through. Many have touted these filters as the most cost-effective water sanitation devices and have thus been in wide use worldwide. Ceramic filters caused a 50% reduction in diarrheal disease in Cambodia since 2002, demonstrating the power of this technology in combating water sanitation issues.

These devices exhibit the innovation necessary to rid the world of prevalent yet avoidable water-related diseases. Entrepreneurs across the world are challenging the deaths that lack of clean drinking water causes head-on. With the continued development of new technologies aimed at improving water sanitation, there is hope that water-related diseases might become preventable for all.

– Garrett O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

bathrooms and girls’ education in AfricaIn the developed world, private bathroom stalls and toilets are largely taken for granted, especially within schools. The issues of period poverty and girls’ education in Africa do not seem like topics that would be intertwined. However, they are in fact completely dependent on one another. Most period poverty efforts focus on access to sanitary products. While this is an incredibly important component, bathrooms within schools are just as important. Without a safe space to change them, the work of providing reusable sanitary napkins cannot work. These two factors have to work together. Here are facts to know about the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa.

What is Social Infrastructure and Why Is It Important?

Social infrastructure refers to facilities that include education, health and youth services that promote a high quality lifestyle. It is created with the public good in mind, and the intent to provide better outcomes for peoples’ livelihoods. It impacts the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa directly. Buildings with a socially-minded design make children, and especially girls, feel safe, included and acknowledged. It will keep them coming back to those places. 

Research explains the positive impact of infrastructure on communities in Africa to the intersectional issue of girls’ education. It shows how infrastructure is more than just buildings and highways. Creating a physical space where girls feel safe is crucial to their personal and educational development. Focusing on infrastructure has been proven to create a more equitable society, especially within rural communities. This is due to the lack of accessibility to resources that are more likely present within urban areas. 

The Link Between Menstrual Stigma and Girls’ Education

Girls’ education in Africa faces many obstacles. This is largely due to gender stereotypes that are at the root of unsafe learning environments. Twenty-three percent of girls of primary school age are not in school, and that number jumps to 36% as they get older and enter secondary school. Menstruation is a factor in the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa. When girls begin to menstruate, they are faced with many barriers. These may include temporary social ostracization, missed school days and sexual violence by peers. 

One in ten girls misses 20% of school days because they cannot attend during their menstrual cycle. This largely due to the fact that – if they have access to sanitary products – they do not have a place to change them once at school. This discourages many girls from attending in the first place, and too many missed days ultimately leads to higher drop out rates because they cannot end up falling behind. 

Why Toilets?

Only 57% of primary schools within the world’s least developed countries have single-sex bathrooms. The good news is that countries such as Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco and Mozambique have single-sex bathrooms in 80% of their primary schools. However, the work is far from complete given that some countries such as Eritrea only have these facilities in 27% of schools, and the lowest being only 9% in Senegal

The majority of sexual assault and rape incidents happen in school bathrooms because there is only one facility for all students with very little to no privacy. So along with embarrassment regarding using the restroom and changing their sanitary pads in front of male students, they feel incredibly unsafe walking into the bathroom. When girls do not have to worry about their hygiene and safety at school, they will be more likely to continue attending. Creating a safe environment is key to ensuring girls attend and stay in school. This can help break the cycle of gender disparity in education.  

Organizations Doing the Work

The state of girls’ education in Africa is being greatly improved by organizations that are funding initiatives and creating them. Taking notice of the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa can greatly aid these girls’ futures. The Global Partnership for Education partners with national governments to create “girl-friendly” sanitation facilities in order to improve girls’ education in Africa. Its grants to countries like Guinea and Cameroon enabled the building of separate bathrooms and water stations within schools. 

Programs like FRESH and WaterAid are coming together to ensure the creation of safe and healthy physical spaces for girls to learn. They are developing infrastructure plans that follow UNICEF and WHO guidelines. WaterAid established a list of components that should be a part of girl-friendly infrastructure. These include single-sex bathrooms with locks and privacy walls and any mechanism that can work as a disposal place for sanitary products. The availability of clean water within the bathroom is included in order to clean reusable sanitary napkins. It also includes a mirror (even if it is broken) so girls are able to check for any spots or stains before returning to the classroom. 

Why Should We Care?

The connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa is a topic that deserves abundant attention. Everyone benefits from educated girls. When half of the world’s population is being excluded from equal educational opportunities it creates a greater human capital issue. The skills and talents of these girls might never be seen simply because they are unable to gain any upward mobility due to a lack of education. So on the next World Toilet Day, November 19, remember how something as simple as a private bathroom stall can make a huge difference in the life of a young, African girl. 

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr