Spotlight on 2019 Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Developments Around the World
Co-authored by Sarah Belay,
Ben Troutman, & Natalie Gill
Every year, November 19th marks World Toilet Day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Currently, 4.2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation, 673 million practice open defecation, and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities. This spreads disease, effects water and food supply, reduces human well-being, and inhibits social and economic development. Lack of access to safe toilets, as well as broader water and sanitation challenges, prevail in both rural and urban settings. One billion people in the world live in slums, where serious gaps in water and infrastructure services and delivery which increases inequality, damages health especially for women and children, and impedes the ability of individuals to determine their own life outcomes.
Yesterday, in observation of World Toilet Day and celebration of efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6 to ensure safe water and sanitation for all, IHC Global published the first of a two-part blog series on water, sanitation, and hygiene developments in 2019. The second part highlights World Water Day, World Water Week, and innovative WASH solutions. Find the first part here.
V. World Water Day 2019
- United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released the report “Water Under Fire,” that illuminates the effects of unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene on children during conflicts and emergency situations. In emergencies, children’s lives depend on rapid and comprehensive humanitarian responses that include safe water, sanitation and hygiene. In protracted conflicts, children younger than 15 are, on average, nearly three times more likely to die from diarrheal disease linked to unsafe water and sanitation than violence directly linked to conflict and war. UNICEF calls on governments and their partners to build a WASH sector that can consistently and predictably provide high-quality water and sanitation services in emergencies, stop attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure and personnel and link life-saving humanitarian responses to the development of sustainable water and sanitation systems for all.
- The United States Department of State observed World Water Day with the all day event: “Call to Action: Supporting Women through Water.” IHC Global was glad to attend the event co-hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Aspen Institute, Global Water Change, and U.S. Water Partnership. Participants included representatives from national governments, international non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia, and even professional athletes. A proverb first asserted by H.E. Dr Arikana Chihombor-Quao, African Union Ambassador to the United States in a panel, and iterated shortly thereafter by Ambassador Paula J. Dobrianksy embodied the key takeaway: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
VI. World Water Week 2019
International organizations met in Stockholm for World Water Week, August 25th-29th, for the 29th annual convening by the Stockholm International Water Institute. World Water Week (WWW) is a focal point for global water issues, bringing together experts and practitioners from governments, civil society, the private sector, and the academic and scientific communities. This year’s theme was “Water for society – including all.” SIWI published WWW’s overarching conclusions here.
In support of WWW efforts, IHC Global published a 3 part blog series on urban water, hygiene and sanitation, and its relationship to gender inequality. Blog author and IHC Global intern Gaby Alfieri highlights water insecurity’s effects on pre- and post-partum mothers, the significance of menstrual health for women’s education and economic empowerment, and how women can be drivers of change.
VII. Innovative WASH Solutions
2019 saw a plethora of innovative WASH solutions. Below are just a few:
- Solve MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) selected winners of its Healthy Cities Challenge and as winners of their. Solve MIT supports solutions focused on improving the mental and physical health of a city through a $10,000 grant. Urban WASH solutions featured this year:
- Change: Water Labs—iThrone Evaporative Toilet won for its cheap, waterless toilet that can be used in slums and even turns urine into electricity. Implementation will pilot in Uganda.
- Faircap Clean Water won for its small water bottle cap filter that filters water through a system that removes pathogens and chemicals. Pilots are ongoing in Kenya, Lebanon, Mozambique and Syria.
- International Water Association launched its Digital Water Programme to help integrate digital technologies into water services, especially in urban settings. The Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company, a member of IWA, has partnered with Grundfos to install water ATMs in Nairobi slums. Water scarcity often forces Nairobi slumdwellers to purchase potentially unsafe water from vendors. These ATMs allow users to (use) mobile payment services to key in the amount of water they would like to purchase, which is then dispensed into a waiting container.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continued to generate and support new approaches for toilet technologies that safely and effective manage human waste. Last year in November 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates co-hosted the Reinvented Toilet Expo, where Bill created an iconic and oft-reprinted image of himself holding a beaker of feces at the podium as he spoke to attendees. This year, Neflix’s three-part docu-series “Inside Bill’s Brain” expands on the Gates Foundation innovative work, positioning Gates as a man determined to “save the world, one toilet at a time.
Sarah Belay is a senior at the George Washington University studying public health and pre-medicine. Sarah will begin her Master of Public Health at GWU this Spring, focusing on global health policy and global health development.
Ben Troutman is a junior at George Washington University and a fall intern for IHC Global. He studies political science, international affairs, and Mandarin. Ben has worked at a number of grassroots organizations raising money for environmental issues in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Natalie Gill is Program Associate for Research and Policy at IHC Global. Her work on gender and technology has been featured in Open Global Rights and Land Portal. She co-authored IHC Global paper “Storytelling: A Powerful Strategy to Increase Land and Property Rights in Uganda and Beyond,” presented at the 2019 World Bank Land and Poverty Conference.