Archives for Water and Sanitation
On September 2, USAID and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) announced a new program “Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development” to address water scarcity, one of the most pressing global challenges. Through this Grand Challenge, we will identify and accelerate science and technology innovations and market-driven approaches that improve water sustainability to boost food security and alleviate poverty.
To advance meeting this goal, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures announced last week that it will invest stage 1 funding in mWater’s mobile tech and open data solution to clean drinking water.
Learn more about the “Securing Water for Food” Grand Challenge.
Driving human progress is at the core of USAID’s mission, but what do development results look like?
USAID is measuring our leadership in results — not dollars spent — implementing innovative, cost-effective strategies to save lives. Through investments in science, technology and innovation, USAID is harnessing new partners and young minds to transform more lives than ever before. Our new model for development embraces game-changing partnerships that leverage resources, expertise, and science and technology to maximize our impact and deliver real results.
Take a look at the Agency’s top recent and historical achievements in promoting better health; food security; democracy and good governance; education; economic growth, and in providing a helping hand to communities in need around the globe.
Read the stories behind the results in the special edition of FrontLines: Aid in Action: Delivering on Results.
I found myself transported back to childhood as I cheered with a group of boys and girls in a school auditorium. We were watching a USAID-sponsored puppet show, “Chasing after Water,” which ran in schools and public libraries in nine cities and villages across the Bekaa region of Lebanon.
Located 30 km east of the capital, Beirut, and part of the Litani River Basin, the Bekaa is the Lebanon’s central agricultural valley. The entire area has suffered from depletion of the water table due to unsustainable agricultural practices and individual water-use habits. Efficient management of the region’s water resources is paramount. It is also a region that has hosted large numbers of those that have sought refuge from the crisis in Syria.
To help raise awareness about this need, USAID’s Litani River Basin Management Support program collaborated with the Litani River Authority to put on a series of activities, including the puppet show I attended. Around 5,000 children between the ages of 6 and 11 attended the shows, in addition to 100 children with special needs.
The show starts by telling the story of a king who is concerned about a water shortage in his kingdom. He embarks on a mission to find the root of the problem and — eventually — a proper solution. With the help of a loyal citizen, he traces the causes of the shortage: water pollution and absence of water conservation practices. The children in the audience watched with great enthusiasm and were eager to hear about the solution. As it turns out, that solution lies in the hands of consumers, young and old.
As part of each performance, children were called on-stage to participate in a role-playing activity that emphasized the show’s theme: that it is everyone’s responsibility to conserve water. At the end, students heartily sang a jingle and took home a booklet with water-related games they could play with their families.
كلنا مسؤولين؟ ايه! مسؤولين كلنا!
كلنا بالهوا سوا وأكيد بمايتنا!
Are we all responsible? Yes, we are all responsible!
We are all in this together … when it comes to our water too!
— Refrain from the “Chasing after Water” jingle
The students’ enthusiasm as they learned about managing their water consumption habits and protecting water resources confirms the importance of initiating awareness in early life. Such initiatives complement USAID’s other efforts to develop infrastructure that will improve water service delivery for all Lebanese citizens.
My journey back to innocence continued as I sang the jingle myself as we drove back from the school. I was even prompted to share the water conservation tips with my 9-year-old daughter and start practicing them in our home. So, we are also reinforcing the program’s message that “water is everyone’s responsibility.”
The USAID Litani River Basin Management Support is four-year program that supports more efficient and sustainable water resource management in Lebanon’s Litani River Basin. Learn more about USAID’s work in Lebanon.
In Liberia, open defection is the most common sanitation practice. This fact, coupled with a lack of access to safe drinking water results in high levels of fecal-oral diseases and related child deaths. The USAID-funded Improved Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (IWASH) program is addressing this problem, conducting behavior change activities in order to convince Liberians to change their sanitation practices and take responsibility for making improvement necessary in their communities to become open defecation-free.
Since February 2013, Global Communities (IWASH Implementer) has engaged 120 communities in an aggressive campaign to end open defecation. By July more than half were certified by the Government of Liberia (GOL) as Open Defecation-free and an additional 40% are on track to reach this status by August. This has been achieved without providing the communities any material or financial support to dig latrines or build the dish racks and clothes lines required for the designation. All the work is done by community members and all the materials come from the local area. Global Communities and the GOL are co-implementing the program, which is considered “community-led” as all decisions about what actions will improve the community’s sanitation practice are made by the community members. Through the process of community monitoring, natural leaders emerge, who become a key point-of-contact for monitoring the communities’ progress.
Once the communities’ become open defecation-free, the Natural Leaders are encouraged to form networks to provide mutual support to each other. These networks are also invited to participate in engaging with new communities to change their sanitation practices. The Natural Leaders understand the challenges innate in changing the personal habits of Liberian’s, as well as the work involved in becoming open defecation-free. They are the perfect advocates.
At a recent health fair held to celebrate the launch of A Promise Renewed, IWASH Natural Leaders were present to talk about their experiences with the program. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stopped by the WASH booth and talked with Esther Moye, a Natural Leader from a rural county. Esther located her village on one of the GIS monitoring maps and described the work that had been done to transform the community’s sanitation practices. President Johnson-Sirleaf was impressed by the activities and encouraging toward the program’s expansion, “Liberia needs more sanitation development and I am happy to hear people are stepping forward to take responsibility to meet these needs.”
The IWASH program is also training WASH Entrepreneurs to repair hand pumps and manage small businesses supplying WASH related products and services. The entrepreneurs will be sustainable through their own profitable businesses in pump repair as well as supplying soap and WaterGuard (water chlorination) in rural communities. These WASH Entrepreneurs are drawn from Natural Leaders and provided with initial contracts to repair hand pumps in school and health clinics to launch their businesses.
The IWASH program is addressing sustainable change in sanitation practices and safe water supply in Liberia. Through these activities the exposure of children to fecal-oral disease will be reduced and the promise of a healthier life for children under-5 will be renewed.
Learn more about the WASH partnership.
During my recent visit to Yemen, I had the opportunity to see the many ways that USAID is supporting development in the country at this crucial time. I was particularly impressed by USAID’s successful effort to demonstrate to Yemeni farmers how they can boost agricultural production and conserve water use at the same time by introducing new technologies in the fields.
Yemen faces many challenges, and one of the greatest is critical water shortages. Water is a precious commodity, and nowhere is it more so than in Yemen today. Recently, a school rehabilitation that USAID is supporting in the central highlands of Taizz has been stalled by a local conflict over scarce water resources.
This scarcity of water is also having a serious impact on agricultural productivity. Yemen’s agricultural sector needs to adapt green technologies to improve efficiency and raise productivity. USAID’s agricultural demonstration site in eastern Sana’a is showing the way.
In early 2012, as the country was embarking on a post-Arab Spring transition, USAID’s Community Livelihoods Project supported the construction of a solar-powered greenhouse with a highly efficient drip irrigation system at the farm owned by the Sawan Agricultural Cooperative Union in Sana’a. USAID’s support did not end there. USAID also recently completed the construction of a rainwater harvesting system on the site, which will give it a fully sustainable water supply going forward. This is another step further in demonstrating sustainable water solutions where they are most needed.
The greenhouse has since successfully demonstrated that it is possible to grow ten times more vegetables compared to traditional methods while saving water irrigation use by as much as 70 percent. Not only that, the produce from the Sawan greenhouse is of a superior quality, with farmers using just a fraction of pesticides – less than ten percent – normally used in other greenhouses. This is really impressive, I know, because my husband is a “city farmer” and perhaps he should take a look at the Sawan Demonstration Site to boost his crop yields.
When I visited the cooperative, it was expecting to harvest 12 times more than they could reasonably expect from a traditional field of a similar size. The farmers I met filled me with hope for the future of Yemen. I met the sharecropper at the farm, who is now making exponentially more money than he did before the greenhouse was built. I also met some of the farmers who have been inspired by what they saw to replicate these technologies on their own farms. Not far from the demonstration site, six new greenhouses are now up and running. There are now at least 25 new greenhouses farther south of Sana’a, in Damar governorate, initiated by intrepid Yemeni farmers who have been trained at the Sawan Demonstration Site.
I am encouraged to hear that the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and the nationwide Agricultural Cooperative Union are now looking at ways of joining forces to support more Yemeni farmers in adapting these green technologies.
In Washington, we talk about our vision of economic resiliency for vulnerable countries and of “feeding the future,” or helping countries transform their own agriculture sectors to forge long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. Our vision involves increasing the agricultural production and the incomes of both men and women in rural areas. My visit to Yemen confirmed to me how these concepts are translated into reality in places where they can promote much-needed stability. The happy and hopeful faces of Yemeni farmers and their children that I have seen must be a sign that we are doing something right.
In October 2010, the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population announced the detection of cholera in the Artibonite Department, located north of Port-Au-Prince. After enduring a devastating earthquake in January 2010, the cholera epidemic hit like a knock-out punch.
Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by a bacteria that spreads rapidly through contaminated water. When people get cholera, they get very sick, very fast, and the risk of death is high if left untreated. A matter of hours can make a difference.
In Haiti, cholera attacked a population with no previous exposure and therefore no immunity against the bacteria. Before this outbreak, Haiti had not been affected by cholera in over a century. Over the last two and half years, 658,053 people have contracted cholera in Haiti, and 8,120 have died.
The World Health Organization estimates that 1.4 billion people are at risk of getting cholera every year, and annually 2.8 million cases of cholera occur globally. Since cholera spreads via contaminated water, it thrives in post-disaster environments. Even in the United States, post Hurricane Katrina, emergency personnel attended to many people infected with a bacteria closely related to cholera.
The increased risk of infectious diseases is a recurrent public health concern in post-disaster situations. In the U.S., we have the infrastructure needed to detect and respond to outbreaks, to stop their spread. In Haiti, USAID is working to strengthen the Ministry of Health’s capacity to detect and control infectious diseases and provide timely life-saving care. USAID is committed to assisting the Government of Haiti to combat this epidemic.
When tackling an outbreak of this magnitude, it is essential to work with key partners to leverage each other’s strengths. Today, USAID became an official member of the Coalition on Water and Sanitation for the Elimination of Cholera in Hispaniola. To add to the ongoing efforts of the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and other strategic partners, USAID has pledged to support the Government of Haiti’s plan to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.
USAID’s current work already contributes to this goal through many different avenues that focus on cholera prevention as well as treatment and control. Since contaminated water is the source of cholera, USAID works via its implementing partners to ensure that Haitians have access to safe drinking water at their homes, health centers and schools and makes safe water products available for water decontamination. Since the beginning of the outbreak, USAID programs have mobilized thousands of community workers throughout Haiti to conduct awareness activities that focus on hygiene and sanitation practices that help prevent cholera.
When someone falls ill of cholera, it is important to recognize signs of dehydration and have swift access to treatment. USAID trains mothers and caregivers to recognize these dangerous signs and use oral rehydration products. If medical attention is needed, USAID’s extensive network of health facilities, present throughout the country, has the necessary resources and training to manage this disease.
USAID will continue to work in partnership with the Government of Haiti to improve the health of all Haitians and will coordinate extensively with members of the Coalition to leverage our efforts to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.
In late May, when USAID launched its first global water strategy, Administrator Shah, Democrats and Republicans alike agreed on the message: solving the water and sanitation crises is critical. The goal of the USAID Water and Development Strategy is to save lives and improve development in a world where practically 800 million people are without adequate water and 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation. To achieve its goal, the strategy sets out two overarching strategic objectives: improve global health and strengthen global food security through USAID-supported water programs.
Partnering with faith-based and community organizations—as well as other stakeholders – is critical to meeting these objectives. It is through partnerships that we combine the resources, expertise and wisdom necessary to meet the needs of literally billions of people.
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call hosted by Ms. Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Participants on the call included WASH Advocates, Blood: Water Mission, the Millennium Water Alliance, EROD, PATH, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, World Vision, International Orthodox Christian Charities, Episcopal Relief and Development, Catholic Relief Services, Engineering Ministries International and Lifewater International. During our call, we covered a wide range of activities—partnerships— to save and improve lives. One participant noted that it was exciting to see the strategy’s emphasis on women, in particular engaging women in WASH programming and leadership as well as focusing the strategy on countries and regions where we can have greatest impact. Others on the call addressed such matters as watershed management, evaluation, and the impact on NGOs of channeling development resources through national governments.
Regarding country focus, we discussed how the strategy advances activities consistent with the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 such as establishing criteria to designate high-priority countries for increased investments to support access to safe water and sanitation. We are designing criteria that designate which countries will receive water and sanitation funding. The criteria are based on a combination of factors, such as high childhood mortality rates due to diarrhea, and the capacity of governments to manage and sustain effective programs. Ethiopia is an example of a country that could meet the criteria. It has the requisite infrastructure, governance and institutional experience for USAID water programs that have a transformative impact.
Turning to engaging women in our water programs, we addressed the USAID-supported Somalia School Environment and Education Development Program (SEEDS) which plays an important role in providing water, sanitation and privacy needed to help keep young women in schools, as well as the Afghanistan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project (SWSS) where USAID is building the capacity of the Afghan government and local communities to provide potable water and sanitation facilities and to improve hygiene behavior. An important component of this program is to engage women in the delivery of training.
We also talked about the importance of setting and meeting specific targets. The strategy sets targets for a minimum number of people to be reached over five years: 10 million with sustainable water services and 6 million with sustainable sanitation services. The strategy emphasizes the need for increased investments and expanded attention to sanitation to translate into broader health and economic benefits. In Ethiopia, the USAID- supported Hygiene Improvement program (PDF) facilitated the implementation of the Government’s National Hygiene and Sanitation strategy. More than 5.8 million people in the Amhara region have been reached by hygiene and sanitation promotion activities, and an estimated 2.8 million people have stopped the practice of open defecation and now use a basic pit latrine.
In order to meet our objectives, the strategy relies on partnerships, innovation, and sustainable approaches. An example of USAID’s focus on innovation in the WASH sector is the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). Through WASH for Life, our partnership with the Gates Foundation, DIV is testing and scaling promising, cost-effective solutions in water, sanitation, and hygiene. DIV recently announced its biggest award yet to the Dispensers for Safe Water program. This approach seeks to scale safe drinking water to more than 5 million, including 1.6 million children, over the next three years. Ensuring long-term sustainability of water and sanitation infrastructure interventions is a central component of the strategy.
Clearly, faith-based and community organizations and our other partners play such a critical role in meeting the needs of millions of people. As was the case in our conference call , we learn a great deal from our partners. In this regard, I would also like to thank USAID’s Office of Faith Based Community Initiatives for its role in linking faith-based and community organizations with USAID’s global water related efforts.
Almost 800 million people in the world today lack access to clean water. Africa and the Middle East are the most water scarce regions in the world. Three hundred million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in water-scarce environments and every year the number of people under water stress grows larger and larger.
Fresh water scarcity affects everyone, but no one is touched more than women and girls. The consequences of constrained water access for them are dramatic. In much of the world, women and children are primarily responsible for water in their households. Some two-thirds of the households that lack easy access rely on women and girls to get the family’s water. Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely as boys their age to be the family member responsible for fetching water.
This may not seem so important but about 40 billion hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa alone. Those are hours that could be spent in school or earning an income. They also represent time when women’s and children’s health and safety are threatened. In Asia and Africa, it’s common for women to carry 40 pounds of water on their heads while making a trek than can exceed 20 kilometers each way, especially in times of drought. This increases their risk of violence and sexual assault
In 2010, this reality was brought home to me when I served on USAID drought relief task force for the Horn of Africa. I visited a Kenyan community where under-nourished women and girls were spending the vast majority of their time fetching water; their donkeys had died during the previous drought cycle, leaving them to hand carry water back and forth almost daily for their homes. The need for water to survive subsumed their ability to perform other basic tasks, obliterating any hope for an education and further undermining their nutritional well-being by inhibiting their ability to garden and grow food.
The broader implications of water scarcity can be dramatic too. It has been estimated that, 443 million school days are lost and 700 thousand children die each year due to water related disease and poor sanitation. Poor water and sanitation keep children, especially girls, out of school; inadequate sanitation and the lack of separate toilets in schools particularly reduces girls’ attendance, sometimes pushing them to drop out at puberty. According to the United Nations Development Programme: “every $1 invested in water and sanitation generates on average an $8 return in the form of saved time, increased productivity, and reduce health cost.”
While women and children are most burdened by the need to obtain drinking water and basic sanitation, they are often excluded from decision making about water. What’s more, if women were more regularly included in water management it could improve deliberations. They know a lot about the reliability of water supplies, where it can be found, and how availability varies by season. Their personal knowledge can improve water-related management. Community-based organizations that successfully involve women in discussions regarding water access, sanitation, and hygiene, are more likely to result in robust economic growth and improvements in the quality of life. Sustainable economic growth and development goals simply cannot be achieved without a focus on water and gender.
Now that USAID has released its new water strategy, we must remember that while easy access to clean water can have profound implications for the ability of societies to thrive, it can have particular importance for women and girls. Their lives and futures are often inextricably tied to whether or not water is available close by to meet families’ and communities’ basic needs.