Category Archives: Regions

Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why

Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why. Nat Geo Magazine, August 2017.

The problem isn’t just a lack of toilets—it’s a lack of toilets that people want to use. The result: millions of deaths and disease-stunted lives.

At 65, Moolchand, bandy-legged and white-haired, has no problem rising for his predawn hunts. In fact he revels in them.

“I hide along the lane with my flashlight,” he says in a low, excited voice, gesturing down the main road of Gaji Khedi village, in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. “And I look for people walking with a lota.”

At a community toilet complex in Safeda Basti, one of Delhi’s many slums, women wait their turn for the single functioning latrine—while covering their noses against the smell of feces left by someone who couldn’t wait. Many people skip the hassle of city-run facilities altogether and do their business in rubble-strewn lots.

At a community toilet complex in Safeda Basti, one of Delhi’s many slums, women wait their turn for the single functioning latrine—while covering their noses against the smell of feces left by someone who couldn’t wait. Many people skip the hassle of city-run facilities altogether and do their business in rubble-strewn lots.

A lota is a water container, traditionally made of brass but these days more often of plastic. Spied outdoors in the early morning, it all but screams that its owner is headed for a field or roadside to move his or her bowels—the water is for rinsing.

“I give chase,” Moolchand continues. “I blow my whistle, and I dump out their lota. Sometimes I take it away and burn it.” Moolchand sees himself as defending a hard-won honor: The district has declared his village “open defecation free.”

“People get angry and shout at me when I stop them,” he says. “But the government has given villagers lots of help to construct a toilet, so there is no excuse.”

Read the complete article.

Global Waters Radio: Establishing a Sustainable Market for Water Purification Tablets in Ghana

Global Waters Radio: Establishing a Sustainable Market for Water Purification Tablets in Ghana. Global Waters, July 18, 2017.

“We feed ourselves out of the sale of Aquatabs — so financially, Aquatabs has helped given us a very sustainable job, and we are proud of it.” 

Ernest Saka Ansong is managing director for Health Top Up Services, a private Ghanaian company that serves as Aquatabs’ official importer. Photo Credit: Health Top Up Services

Ernest Saka Ansong is managing director for Health Top Up Services, a private Ghanaian company that serves as Aquatabs’ official importer. Photo Credit: Health Top Up Services

Aquatabs are one of the world’s most popular water purification tablets, produced by Medentech, a company specializing in manufacture of disinfection products.

Through partners, more than 11 billion liters of water were treated with Aquatabs worldwide in 2016.

First introduced to the Ghanaian market roughly 10 years ago by the USAID Ghana Sustainable Change Project, the tablets remain in high demand today — more than 4 million tablets were sold in Ghana alone in 2015, with similar sales figures in 2016.

Why so popular after all these years? First and foremost, affordability — but also a proven ability to bolster community health, and reduce the prevalence of dangerous waterborne illnesses like cholera.

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In Mali, Communities Take Health and Well-Being into their Own Hands

In Mali, Communities Take Health and Well-Being into their Own Hands. Global Waters, July 18, 2017.

In the center of Simaye village in Mali’s Mopti Region, men, women, and children gather under a large tree to listen. Two USAID-trained facilitators discuss the health challenges facing the village.

Tackling open defecation in communities is a starting point for improved health. Ensuring the drinking water sources are clean is another. USAID works with local artisans in communities like Anga to repair or rehabilitate artesian drilling, such as this one, as an incentive to become ODF-certified. Photo Credit: CARE Mali

Tackling open defecation in communities is a starting point for improved health. Ensuring the drinking water sources are clean is another. USAID works with local artisans in communities like Anga to repair or rehabilitate artesian drilling, such as this one, as an incentive to become ODF-certified. Photo Credit: CARE Mali

Only three latrines serve many families, so more than half of the people are practicing open defecation; the water point no longer functions, so most families are pulling dirty water from the river; many of the infants and young children are not benefitting from exclusive breastfeeding or a diversified diet, so they are malnourished.

Holding a glass of clear water and pointing to feces on the ground, the facilitators paint a clear picture of the health risks associated with leaving feces in the open — contaminated drinking sources, diarrheal disease, and poor outcomes for children and their families.

Their objective: to trigger a sense of disgust, a determination in the community to control their own health and well-being, and to set in motion plans and solutions to create open defecation free (ODF) communities through a process known as community-led total sanitation (CLTS).

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You Probably Don’t Want To Know About Haiti’s Sewage Problems

You Probably Don’t Want To Know About Haiti’s Sewage Problems. NPR: Goats and Soda, July 2017.

People dump trash and raw sewage into canals that run through Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When it rains, the canals overflow and flood poor neighborhoods. John W. Poole/NPR

People dump trash and raw sewage into canals that run through Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When it rains, the canals overflow and flood poor neighborhoods. John W. Poole/NPR

The rain began on Good Friday. It fell into the roofless ruins of Port-au-Prince’s Catholic cathedral. It swirled through stalls in the market downtown. In the hills above Haiti’s capital, the rain ran off the clay roof tiles of upscale homes.

No matter where the rain fell, it was all destined for the same place: the system of concrete canals that cut through the city and down to the sea.

At the edge of the city next to the shore, the rain pounded on the zinc roof of Jean Claude Derlia’s single-story cinder block home. His neighborhood, Project Drouillard, is dense with families packed into homes like his. Most people who grew up in Project Drouillard have stayed, as he has. The community is close-knit, poor and socially isolated from downtown Port-au-Prince.

It is also extremely vulnerable to flooding from the canal full of trash and raw sewage that bordered it on one side. After a rainstorm a few years ago, Derlia had been swept away by a wave of sludge and nearly died before neighbors fished him out. He was sick for weeks after it happened, but he survived.

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Shared toilets as the path to health and dignity

Shared toilets as the path to health and dignity. World Bank Water Blog, July 19, 2017.

Mollar Bosti is a crowded slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh, home to 10,000 people: garment workers, rickshaw drivers, and small traders, all living side-by-side in tiny rooms sandwiched along narrow passageways.

With the land subject to monsoon flooding, and no municipal services to speak of, the people of Mollar Basti have been struggling with a very real problem: what to do with an enormous and growing amount of human faeces.

Traditionally, their ‘hanging latrines’ consisted of bamboo and corrugated metal structures suspended on poles above the ground, allowing waste to fall straight down into a soup of mud and trash below. Residents tell stories of rooms flooded with smelly muck during monsoons; outbreaks of diarrhoea and fever would quickly follow.

But conditions have improved for much of the slum. With help of a local NGO, the residents negotiated permission for improvement from a private landowner, and mapped out areas of need. Today, they proudly show visitors their pristine, well-lit community latrines and water points. They report fewer problems with flooding and disease.

Read the complete article.

We make fake poo in a laboratory – to improve sanitation in Bangladesh

We make fake poo in a laboratory – to improve sanitation in Bangladesh. Phys.org, July 12, 2017.

Across the world, almost three billion people do not have the luxury of a flushing toilet. Instead they rely on static sanitation systems, like pit latrines to deal with their waste. As these are not often connected to a sewer, they require manual emptying and disposal.

Poor understanding of the risks involved means that untreated sludge is often thrown into nearby fields and rivers. The impact of this can be devastating.

Manual emptying. Credit: sswm.info

Manual emptying. Credit: sswm.info

Yet is is estimated that every dollar invested in better sanitation returns up to US$5.50 in social and economic benefits. These come through increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs and prevention of illness and early death.

A crucial part of improving sanitation lies in researching and developing simpler, more efficient ways of treating sludge in places where a sewerage and centralised waste water treatment is not available.

My research is part of a partnership with the engineering firm Buro Happold (BH) who were asked by WaterAid Bangladesh to find a sludge treatment technology which was effective, practical and affordable.

After considering options which included biogas and pit additives – products used to try and reduce sludge volume – the company opted for unplanted drying beds. They are simple in design and make use of the reasonable amount of sunshine in Bangladesh.

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The Period Movement: Meet the Men Fighting to Stop Menstruation-Shaming

The Period Movement: Meet the Men Fighting to Stop Menstruation-Shaming. Newsweek, July 12, 2017.

Ganga Gautam stood at the back of a high school classroom in Kathmandu, Nepal, helplessly watching as a teenage girl started bleeding. Gautam, a professor of English education at Tribhuvan University, was observing one of his students teach a class two years ago.

Joshua Omanya, center, is an educator with The Cup program who teaches boys in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, about menstruation and gender equality.

Joshua Omanya, center, is an educator with The Cup program who teaches boys in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, about menstruation and gender equality.

Three girls were sitting on a bench next to him, and one of them was clearly in distress.“I noticed that she was menstruating. The blood was coming,” he says. “She wasn’t prepared. She didn’t have a pad, and there was a male teacher teaching.”

Gautam saw the young girl open her pen and drip ink over the blood in an effort to hide it. As soon as class ended, she placed a piece of paper over the red stain and ran out. He never saw her in school again. “That happened many times,” he says. “I saw so many girls bleeding in classrooms and panicking.

They leave the classroom and never come back. That just killed me.”Around the world, girls and women miss classes, drop out of school and fail to reach their full potential because of a natural biological process: menstruation.

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