Friday, April 11, 2014

Bridging the gaps: Leaders to map future of investments in water, sanitation and hygiene

Government ministers from 50 countries are expected this week to pledge concrete commitments to bring safe water, sanitation and hygiene to those who need it most.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the third biennial Sanitation and Water For All (SWA) High-Level Meeting today in Washington, along with World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim and SWA Chair John Kufuor, ahead of the 2014 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, World Bank Chief Economist of the Middle East and Africa Region Dr. Shanta Devarajan, and ministers from Ethiopia and Kenya will also speak about the crucial role safe water, toilets and hygiene play in development.
The theme of the 2014 High Level Meeting is: “Smart investments to achieve water, sanitation and hygiene for all.” Chief executives have issued a clarion call for the DC gathering to make the most of the High Level Meeting.
“On behalf of the Secretary-General, I have called for increased action on sanitation – in particular, to end the practice of open defecation by 2025,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. “This High Level Meeting is about solutions and how to ensure better sanitation, water and hygiene for all people.”

“Lack of adequate sanitation and water is most devastating for children, especially the poorest and most marginalized,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, which is convening the meeting. “We are asking everyone coming to this meeting to think of these children as they plan their commitments. When the lives and futures of children hang in the balance, how can we hesitate to act?”
“Lack of access to sanitation can contribute to keeping people in poverty and preventing equitable prosperity in society," said Jae So, Director, Trust Funds and Partnerships, World Bank. "And this is particularly troubling to us at the World Bank Group. 
Our goals are to end poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity for the poorest 40 per cent in developing countries. As SWA partners report on progress made and increased country commitments leading up to 2016, we have a chance to leap forward toward this goal by signaling to the world that solving sanitation is an essential step to ending poverty, and one that can see vast and rapid progress among poor people in a relatively short amount of time and for little cost."  
“This crisis in water and sanitation simply cannot wait. This meeting represents our best chance to reach the world’s poorest people with these basics of life. We cannot let this moment pass by – we need smart, sustainable, ambitious commitments to reach those who need help most,” said Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid.
“The scale of the global sanitation problem and of open defecation, in particular, is massive. Sanitation proponents can no longer just work in a village here or a slum there. Like a polio campaign, they need to work with many partners to cover entire districts and provinces. 
This meeting offers a real opportunity to harness community savings, public investment and private capital so that countries in Africa and South Asia can finally stop open defecation, move to safe sanitation, and have clean water," said Chris Williams, Executive Director at the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

Report: Access to Improved Water, Sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa Extremely Uneven

Access to improved drinking water and sanitation is extremely uneven within individual countries in sub-Saharan Africa.  That’s according to a new report by researchers with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.  The report, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, is the first study looking at access within individual countries in the African region. 

Investigators say access to clean water is highly variable, ranging from a low 3.2 percent in some districts of Somalia to as high as 99 percent in Namibia's urban centers.  Adequate sanitation facilities are equally inconsistent.  Improved sanitation, the report notes, ranged from 0.2 percent in parts of Chad to close to 100 percent in Gambia.

Researchers used statistical models in their analysis of data from 138 national surveys conducted in 41 sub-Saharan Africa countries between 1991 and 2012.  The surveys recorded information on household use of an improved drinking water supply, improved sanitation facilities and open defecation.

According to the latest findings, rural households in the districts - with the lowest levels of access within a country - were 1.5 to eight times less likely to use improved drinking water, two to 18 times less likely to use improved sanitation and two to 80 times more likely to defecate in the open, compared to rural households in districts with the best coverage.

The authors say strategies that target the areas with the lowest coverage are essential to achieving universal access to improved sources of drinkable water and sanitation.

According to a joint report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF last year, more than two billion people - or one-third of the world’s population - will remain without access to improved sanitation by 2015.

A United Nations Millennium goal on clean water and sanitation calls for cutting in half the number of people who, in 1990, lacked potable water and clean toileting facilities.  Last year's WHO-UNICEF report noted that the world has met the target of cutting in half the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water, five years ahead of schedule.

The global assessment, however, may be masking progress toward the goal in Africa.

Matthew Freeman of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta is co-author of the report on clean water and sanitation distribution in sub-Saharan Africa.

While the study did not address the U.N.’s Millennium goals, Freeman says the assessment of worldwide progress toward increased access to clean drinking water is being driven largely by progress by emerging countries in Asia.

“China and India, their rapid urbanization and infrastructure investments have led to dramatic changes in access to improved water supply.  So, globally that target was met; but, few countries in sub-Saharan Africa have met those targets," said Freeman.

Experts are quick to point out there’s still time for the U.N. goals to be met in sub-Saharan Africa.  Countries that have already achieved the clean water goal, according to experts, include Gambia, Congo, Gabon, Malawi, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau and Swaziland.

The authors of the London School report say making the in-country data on sanitation and drinking water available points up inequities hidden by national statistics.  They note it is essential to improving basic infrastructure in areas with the lowest access to clean water and sanitation to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sanitation and Water for All -- Because We Must

In just under two weeks around 50 countries from the Sanitation and Water for All partnership will meet at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. to make tangible, measurable pledges to deal with the problem of global access to two of the most basic necessities of life: safe drinking water and adequate toilets.

'Sanitation and water for all' is more than a title. It is a goal that is both morally right and unquestionably necessary.

Why is it so important? Because diarrhea from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene kills 1,400 children under five each day. This is like several jumbo jets filled with babies and little children crashing every single day, 365 days of the year. Were this to happen even two days in a row, it would cause a media storm, wouldn't it? As well it should.

Because, apart from the deaths, diarrheal diseases sicken many thousands more. Stunting, linked to frequent bouts of diarrhea, retards the development of about 165 million children worldwide. These figures can be drastically reduced if they get access to improved water and sanitation.

Because, as UNICEF noted on World Water Day this year, three-quarters of a billion of the world's population still do not have access to safe water.

Because we estimate that 2.5 billion people do not have adequate toilets. Of these, 1 billion have to defecate in the open. Because these are real people -- people living in the poorest and most marginalized regions of the world.

The good news is that many countries are making huge progress. For example, between 2000 and 2012, Ethiopia was able to cut in half the proportion of people practicing open defecation -- equitably across its 11 states, and with progress across all income levels.

However, we will not reach the last person with water and sanitation unless we find new, innovative, cost-effective and sustainable methods. One key challenge is helping people to get inexpensive, good quality products that they will use.

Martin Ayo, a carpenter in the village of Iyorpuu in the state of Benue in Nigeria, invented a simple latrine cover made of wood and mesh, which serves the dual purpose of keeping flies out of the pits, and releasing the build-up of gasses which was causing people to shun latrines as unhealthy. At $3 per cover, it is affordable and in high demand well beyond Martin's own community. We need more solutions like this.

Lower cost manual drilling technologies are helping to supply water to some of the world's poorest and most isolated regions. For example, UNICEF and partners have used hand-dug boreholes in Pakistan to supply safe water to around 100,000 people since 2012.

We are also using social media to generate awareness of issues in WASH. Like the hugely successful 'Take poo to the loo' campaign in India, which leads people to talk about the unmentionable subject of faeces and defecation through their various online platforms, and agree that a problem exists and the solution is in their hands.

 UNICEF is using mobile phones for water point mapping in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. This is helping to show where water sources are working, pinpoint where repairs are needed, as well as to identify the most deprived areas.

The SWA commitments -- and the commitment to hold ourselves accountable to them - will be one of many steps the world needs to take to get sanitation and water to where they are sorely needed.
We need to take these steps together -- communities, countries, donors, recipients, and ordinary people -- because when we leave one person behind, all of us have failed.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Asante Africa Foundation’s Wezesha Vijana Program best practice in UNESCO Report

Education can change a girl’s life and that of her family, community and society at large. When women are educated, child marriages and child mortality are drastically reduced. Even primary education alone substantially reduces maternal mortality.

To reap these benefits, girls have to stay in school long enough, at least through lower secondary. In many instances this is not happening. Girls are far less likely than boys to complete primary school, especially in low-income countries, where only 20 per cent have achieved gender parity at the primary level and 10 per cent at the lower secondary level.

These findings are highlighted in UNESCO’s Gender Summary Report, which analyses data from the 11th annual Education for All Global Monitoring Report. The report was released in partnership with the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI). The Gender Summary Report calls for girls’ education to be at the forefront of new global education goals after 2015.

“The gender gap in education must be addressed, not just for individuals but for the whole of society, in order for local and world economies to prosper,” said Erna Grasz, CEO of Asante Africa Foundation. “International organizations, governments, and the private sector must work together to overcome discrimination and exclusion.”

In Kenya, Asante Africa Foundation educates in- and out-of-school girls on puberty and reproductive health through the Wezesha Vijana Project. The program consists of workshops, most often held at school. Young skilled mentors teach a very comprehensive curriculum, covering the body and emotional changes that come with puberty, reproductive systems, hygiene and menstruation management, but also children's rights, relationships and the health risks of teenage pregnancy.

Through this holistic approach to puberty, girls learn about peer pressure and decision-making. The goal is to make girls more aware of their environment and culture and thus better able to make healthy choices. The Project encourages girls to share their doubts and feelings with parents and friends.

As a powerful outcome of the girls’ desire to continue puberty education, they proactively formed clubs meeting weekly to educate other girls who had not been Project participants. An evaluation highlighted the girls’ improved knowledge, increased self-confidence and positive attitudes toward coping with peer pressure, talking to friends and parents, and school attendance.

The Wezesha Vijana Project is featured in the UNESCO publication Puberty, Education, & Menstrual Hygiene Management.

Asante Africa Foundation believes in the power of knowledge as the catalyst that will empower the next generation of change agents. We provide African youth with access to high quality education and the tools to apply their knowledge beyond the classroom, creating opportunities to transform Africa and the world.

Toilet Helps Take Library into the Future for Accessibility

A state-of-the-art toilet is playing its part in helping Birmingham City Council deliver 21st century services.

The new £188million Library of Birmingham will achieve optimum accessibility with the inclusion of a Changing Places hygiene room to complement around 20 other wheelchair-accessible WCs.

The Changing Places toilet, on the lower ground floor of the building, makes the library the first Birmingham city centre local authority site to have the facility to accommodate anyone who needs the help of a carer to go to the toilet: the only other Changing Places toilet in the city centre is in Bullring shopping centre.

Supplied and installed by Clos-o-Mat, the UK’s leading provider of disabled toileting solutions including hygiene rooms and Changing Places toilets, the Changing Places toilet is bigger than a standard wheelchair-accessible WC and features additional equipment of a hoist, height adjustable adult-sized changing bench, and a height adjustable washbasin.

Head of Project delivery for the Library of Birmingham Terry Perkins elaborated, “Even the old 1970s library was accessible as possible to people with disabilities, featuring, for example,  magnifying glasses, and height adjustable reading tables.

We were keen to ensure its replacement, the new Library of Birmingham, excelled in its delivery of accessible services, hence our decision to include a Changing Places toilet as well as conventional wheelchair-accessible toilets.”

Clos-o-Mat has a 50+ years-long proven track record on the supply and installation of fully accessible toilets, and hygiene rooms, including a substantial number of Changing Places facilities.

Its ability to deliver design advice, supply, installation, commissioning and maintenance across the ambit of accessible toileting equipment, including the Clos-o-Mat wash and dry (automatic) toilet, means it is uniquely positioned to simplify the whole process for forward-thinking environments to which the public have access.

Sanitation gurus meet in Windhoek

By Deon Schlechter
In an effort to forge greater commitment and action to address sanitation, 80 experts from the USA, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa meet in Windhoek today for a three-day workshop that ends on Thursday.
The workshop comes in the wake of statistics revealing that in Namibia only one-third (33 percent) of the population has access to improved sanitation, with only 16 percent of the rural population having improved sanitation access.

Levels of sanitation coverage in some regions are lower than the national average with Ohangwena at 11 percent and Omusati at 17 percent. This leaves the majority of the population with no access to decent toilets, while the public health system is overstretched because of this anomaly.

“Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every year, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more,” said  Micaela de Sousa, the Unicef representative in Namibia.

Hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, in partnership with Unicef, the City of Windhoek, and the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Foundation, the workshop aims to build consensus among sanitanition experts for efforts to scale up sanitation coverage and promote sustainable hygienic behaviour change in the SADC region.

While the majority of countries in the eastern and southern African region have made major strides in ensuring their citizens have access to safe drinking water, sanitation remains a major challenge except in South Africa, Angola and Botswana.

Lack of progress in this important area will hamper the realisation of MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015, the experts say. The two MDGs are to by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate and to improve maternal health by 2015.

Global reports indicate that about 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to adequate sanitation – that is one in three people in the world. A number of countries in the eastern and southern African region have been receiving capacity-building, advocacy and other institutional support from the CLTS Foundation.

Madagascar is one such country, which has made remarkable progress in district and regional coverage. More than 150 fokontanies (subdivisions of communes headed by a chief designated by the mayor)., about 75 Open Defecation Free (ODF) communes and more than 5 ODF districts covering about 6000 ODF villages emerged over the last three years.

The country has been gearing up to declare ODF regions in the coming months. Some of these experiences are very rich and need urgent sharing with other countries to enable them to speed up their efforts in faster area coverage in the next 24 months of the MDG period.

“The Namibian government has undertaken important efforts in guaranteeing access to clean drinkable water to most if not all in the country. At the same time we recognize the major challenges faced in ensuring that every citizen has access to a safe and clean toilet. Hence we are hosting this workshop, so that we can find ways to address these issues, and learn from one another’s experience,” explained the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa.

Workshop participants will be able to share lessons learned, discuss the latest evidence from the region and gain a deeper understanding of the tools at their disposal to respond to the needs of communities.
The workshop will also garnish the commitment of decision-makers to embrace change, come up with a plan of action so that rural areas in particular become Open Defecation Free zones.

The Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) regime, which is now being introduced in Namibia has been identified as an innovative and inclusive approach that involves communities in ending open defecation in partnership with government, civil society and other stakeholders.

Successful implementation of this approach in Africa has enabled more than 32 countries to roll out the CLTS approach at different scales and have made differential progress. One of the notable delegates will be Kamal Kar the pioneer of CLTS – Community Led Total Sanitation and Chief Macha, Zambia’s chief of chiefs, who will talk about the role played by traditional leaders to influence communities and help them towards ending open defecation.

Sourced from New Era website

When Jack 'Mr Toilet' Sim visited an open defecation free village in India

Prof Jack Sim is the founder of World Toilet Organization(WTO). Not having a university degree did not stop him from starting his own business at age 24. At 40, having reached financial independence, he retired from his business and dedicated his remaining years towards humanitarian causes that can give real meaning to his life.

Prof Sim established the Restroom Association of Singapore(RAS) in 1998. He adopted the mission to raise the standards of public toilets in Singapore and around the world. Hence, with a dream to have a world body to unite various toilet associations, Prof Sim founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001 and the World Toilet College (WTC) in 2005. 

Prof Sim and Dr Pathak in Harmithala village that is now open defecation free
With members from 56 countries, it serves as a platform for knowledge sharing, public education, pooling of resources, and development of sanitation initiatives.

WTO names 19 November as World Toilet Day, a day widely celebrated by the world annually to advocate the importance of good sanitation. In 2004, Prof Sim was awarded the Singapore Green Plan Award 2012 by Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) for his contribution to Environment. He is also an Ashoka Global Fellow and Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum.

He was named by Asian Development Bank as a Water Champion and by Time Magazine as Hero of the Environment 2008.

In 2009, he joined the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy as a master student in Public Administration. He is now in the process of founding a new BOP HUB, a world trade center attracting entrepreneurs to the poverty market to serve the population of 4 billion people at the Base ofPyramid.

Indian ‘sanitation Messiah’ waves wand on Bihar district residents

The Founder of Sulabh International, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak listens to the grievances of the villagers of Chap Municipality

Over 500 residents of four villages in Chap municipality in Siwan district on Bihar State will be sleeping with hopeful smiles on their faces after the promise of the construction of toilets.

Speaking at a brief meeting the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak said that the construction would start early next month and ensured everyone would get one.

Villagers without toilets raise their hands in testimony
"It is saddening to hear that all these people in these villages are forced to ease themselves in the open because they lack toilets. I will make sure that within a year, all will get toilets such that women especially don't have to walk long distances and in the dark to ease themselves," he said.

Women with gloomy faces
Dr Pathak who is in his home town for a video shot for a documentary conducting by a team from California led by Ms Lily Zepeda that features leading personalities in the sanitation sector, promised also to buy 25 sewing machines that will be placed in the newly built Sulabh training center within the municipality.

The Sanitation Updates Portal states that the lack of safe toilets for women and girls is often linked to an increased risk of sexual harassment and rape. Earlier studies from Kenya, Uganda and India, and now a recent BBC news item are some of the few sources to actually quantify this risk.

Finally smiles of hope 
Senior police official Arvind Pandey from the Indian state of Bihar told the BBC recently that 400 women would have “escaped” rape in 2012 if they had toilets in their homes. The rapes take place when women go outside to defecate early in the morning and late evening. These “sanitation-related” rapes make up nearly half of the more than 870 cases of rape in Bihar in 2012.

In Bihar, 75.8 per cent of homes have no toilet facilities (Census 2011). Some 49 per cent of the households without a toilet wanted one for “safety and security” for women and children, according to a study by Population Service International (PSI), Monitor Deloitte and Water for People.

According to an article in LiveMint, data has been released by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) from a survey conducted in 2012; which has once again underlined the abysmal state of sanitation in the country, particularly in rural India.
According to this survey, only 32 per cent of rural households have their own toilets and that less than half of Indian households have a toilet at home. There were more households with a mobile phone than with a toilet. 

In fact, the last Census data reveals that the percentage of households having access to television and telephones in rural India exceeds the percentage of households with access to toilet facilities. Of the estimated billion people in the world who defecate in the open, more than half reside in India.

Poor sanitation impairs the health leading to high rates of malnutrition and productivity losses. India’s sanitation deficit leads to losses worth roughly 6 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) according to World Bank estimates by raising the disease burden in the country.   

Children are affected more than adults as the rampant spread of diseases inhibits children’s ability to absorb nutrients thereby stunting their growth.

UNICEF statistics reveal that drinking-water coverage in 2011 remains at 89 per cent – which is 1 per cent above the MDG drinking-water target. In 2011, 768 million people relied on unimproved drinking-water sources. Sanitation coverage in 2011 is 64 per cent. 

The world remains off track to meet the MDG sanitation target of 75 per cent and if current trends continue, it is set to miss the target by more than half a billion people.

By the end of 2011, there were 2.5 billion people who still did not use an improved sanitation facility. The number of people practicing open defecation decreased to a little over 1 billion, but this still represents 15 per cent of the global population.

For both water and sanitation there continue to be major disparities among regions. Sanitation coverage is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and South Asia, where 70 per cent and 64 per cent and 59 per cent of people do not have access to improved sanitation respectively. 

For water, coverage is only 56 per cent in Oceania and 63 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, but all other regions have coverage rates of 86 per cent or higher. Other disparities also continue: poor people and people living in rural areas are far less likely to have access to improved water and sanitation facilities than their richer and their urban compatriots.

It is not a coincidence that states with the poorest levels of sanitation and highest levels of population density such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh also have the highest levels of child malnutrition in the country.