Archive for the ‘Water and sanitation’ Category

By: Mikas Hansen

The East African region has experienced a period of immense growth and development in the last ten years. Unfortunately, not all communities have benefitted to the same degree. A recent trip back to Nairobi, Kenya blew me away as the bustling, pot-holed, and integrated city I had once grown up in had developed into a paved, efficient, and organized metropolitan hub. I was excited for the nation and the progress it had made towards solving many of its historic political, medical, and economic issues. I was blinded by all of the positive influences that globalization had on the nation. However, a friend recently shared a YouTube documentary named “Zombies of Nairobi” which investigated the domestic drug scene and the reasons for its abuse. This documentary brought a point of realization to my initial outlook on the modernization of Kenya and inspired me to dig deeper and explore the underbelly of a city I once called home.

Though Kenya has managed to double its GDP in the past ten years, the main issue comes with economic inequality and the distribution of wealth across the population. The top 0.1% of the wealthiest individuals own more wealth than the next 99.9%. Furthermore, a massive influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa has even further increased the number of individuals living under the poverty line. As of 2016, 46% of the population lives under the poverty line, only 20% have access to medical coverage, and there is a 67% enrollment in primary education with illiteracy still rising. (“Kenya at a Glance”, 2016) The combination of these factors has led to a number of public health issues to arise, one of which being the abuse of vapor solvents.


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By: Morgan Duffney

Today, when we watch cable news and see the banner ‘Crisis in Pakistan’ shoot across the television screen, a few thoughts and fears come to mind: terrorism, political instability, and loosely controlled nuclear weapons. What no one ever thinks about is the public health disaster currently looming over the country, which is already in a fragile state. What never appears on a breaking news banner on Fox News or CNN, but does appear on the front pages of Pakistan Today is that in Pakistan, an estimated . The inability to treat contaminated water, supply its citizens with this basic necessity to live, and stem the tide of human suffering is not only a problem faced by the Pakistani government, but is currently a global public health crisis.

Pakistan is just one country out of the many throughout the world currently struggling to relieve the suffering of their people and resolve this public health emergency. To put this crisis into a global perspective, as of 2014, the United Nations estimated that 2.5 billion people receive their drinking water from sources without improved sanitation, with roughly two million tons of sewage and other pollutants entering the world’s water system each day. Without an adequate response and action on the part of public health organizations throughout the world, the future looks quite bleak; as the World Health Organization (WHO) now predicts that by 2025 half of the world’s population will live in “water-stressed areas” (2017).


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By : Anthony DePinto


The threat of global warming and changing weather patterns is something that has been in the public eye for decades now. For many the issue of climate change is seen as a distant problem, but for the people of Cape Town, the issue is a lot more relevant.

Over the past few weeks in Cape Town — the second largest city in South Africa, an expanding tech center for the African continent with a fairly large economy of its own — has been facing imminent threat of “Day Zero.” This doomsday title is given to the day in which municipal water sources will be shut off and the residents will no longer have public access to water. To provide some context, the Western Cape province of South Africa had recently experienced an abnormally long period of drought and as a result are faced with a severe water shortage. “Level 6b” water restrictions have been in place for weeks, instructing the residents of Cape Town to limit their consumption of water to 50 L per day per person; to put this into perspective, a 2-minute shower could use up to 20L of water.


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By Emily Chau


“What was the first thing you did when you woke up this morning? Chances are, you used water. Try to imagine life without water.” 1 (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=womIxQqO2tE )


According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund), approximately 663 million people in the world live without access to clean, safe drinking water.2 What if I told you an answer to this water crisis was as easy as pledging your next birthday? That’s what Charity: water, a non-profit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, has come up with.3 People can pledge their birthday, asking for donations, instead of gifts, to their campaign to reach their set goal with the promise that all of the money raised will go directly towards funding water projects. This is known as Charity: water’s “100% Model,” in which 100% of public donations go towards funding water projects, while overhead costs are covered by private donors, foundations, and sponsors.4 This “100% Model” is what drives their popularity with donors. It was what drew me in.

Women at well

In the spring of 2014, I pledged my 19th birthday to raise money and provide clean water to people in need.5 With help from friends and family, my campaign raised $500. I was so thrilled and excited that I raised this money and I knew 100% of it would go directly to the worksite to fund a water project, while overhead costs were covered by someone else. Eighteen months later, I was notified that my $500 helped fund a hand-dug well project in a rural community in Ethiopia.6 I was provided with information, pictures, and the ability to see where the water project was built via Google maps as proof that my money made a concrete impact on a real community with real people. I shared the news with friends and family who donated to my campaign and they were also pleased they were able to see how their donations made a real impact. The 100% Model and the proof that Charity: water provides is what sets them apart from other non-profits.


Charity: water prides itself on this transparency. They wanted to be a “charity that would use 100% of the money raised to fund clean water solutions and prove each project,” and show their donors the impact their money made.7 On their website, they break down their approach: what goes into the planning process, the implementation, the maintenance, and, most importantly, the proof.7,8 They take every effort to be as transparent as possible.

However, critics9,10 accuse Charity: water’s “100% Model” to be problematic, and in fact, they aren’t very transparent after all. Joe Garecht, founder of the Fundraising Authority, claims that Charity: water is creating a problem for other non-profit organizations because they have propagated the “overhead myth,”9 in which overhead expenses are bad and perhaps even unethical. Charity: water is hurting the non-profit sector as a whole by undermining the importance of operations. In actuality, you can’t have one without the other. Overhead expenses go towards the betterment of non-profit organizations by allowing them to carry out their work. 9 It’s just as necessary to fund overhead as it is to fund  direct on-the-site work.


In a 2013 investigative report on Charity: water from Truthout,11 the author raised additional issues. One particular concern came directly from Charity: water’s Partnership Manager, Sarah Cohen: “What we don’t know and are currently investing in, is technology to tell us in real time when the pumps are broken or need maintenance.” 1

In March 2014, they launched Pipeline, a sustainability project where they equip local leaders and mechanics with the tools and knowledge they need to fix broken pumps.12 Pipeline’s singular purpose is to help communities keep clean water flowing, and create reliable local systems that can one day function without [their] support.” 13 The “technology” that Cohen mentioned above is a sensor within the pumps that detects when the something is faulty and alerts local mechanics trained by Charity: water.12


As of today, Charity: water has yet to announce plans to restructure their 100% model, but I still believe in this charity and I’ve seen the good work that they do. I recognize that they have flaws and it’s necessary that critics continue to critique their work if we want to see improvement. We’ve already seen how they listened to concerns about their sustainability issue and brought Pipeline to life. Only time will tell if Charity: water plans to take further steps to improve accountability and transparency.


  1. “Why Water.” Accessed on Feb 21, 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=womIxQqO2tE&gt;
  2. “UNICEF: Water and Sanitation.” Accessed on February 22, 2016. <https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/survival/water.&gt;
  3. Charity: water. “Birthdays Are Changing the World.” Accessed on February 22, 2016. <https://www.charitywater.org/birthdays/history.php.&gt;
  4. Charity: water. “The 100% Model.” Accessed on February 22, 2016. <http://www.charitywater.org/100percent/.&gt;
  5. Mycharity: water. “19 for 19.” Accessed on February 22, 2016. <https://my.charitywater.org/emily-chau/19-for-19-1.&gt;
  6. Mycharity: water. “Gerebhinguluk Community.” Accessed on February 22, 2016. <https://mycw.charitywater.org/p/myprojectsview?campaign_id=52817&project_id=ET.RST.Q2.14.162.252.&gt;
  7. Charity: water. “Dollars to Projects.” Accessed on February 22, 2016. <http://www.charitywater.org/d2p/.&gt;

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-By Du Vo


Back in high school, my uncle heard some rumors from the mainstream media that drinking from plastic bottles that have been left in the car or out in the sun could cause cancer.  Since one of our relatives passed away a couple years ago due to cervical cancer, my whole family has tried to avoid drinking from water bottles. During session three of our PH511 class, we had a chance to discuss the correlation between health and poverty. Somehow the topic of Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) was introduced. This is the research and development done to help purify water in developing countries. However, the method seems ideal and too good to be true. Thus, it causes a conflict with what I have been told at home. If microwaving food in plastic could leak some dangerous substances into the food, why couldn’t this? Weighing the pros and cons between diseases caused by polluted drinking water or chronic diseases like cancer, I wonder whether it is ideal to support SODIS if it could possibly cause cancer in developing countries, as the new cases of cancer grow. (more…)

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-By Nina Misra

In mid-December 2013, violence erupted in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country. The president, Salva Kiir, accused his former vice-president Riek Machar of planning to upstage the presidency. Kiir had eleven people associated with this planned coup arrested. Fighting first started in the capital, Juba, amongst Presidential guards. This conflict between Kiir and Machar turned into a war between ethnic groups. Kiir is somewhat followed by the Dinka people, while Machar is fully supported by the Nuer.  Machar says that “the conflict is not yet over”, and refuses to stop fighting until the eleven politicians are released from detention.  Machar says, “these are events of war”- events that include “extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and massacres committed by both sides”. The death toll is unknown, and the violence unspeakable. The effects of the fighting are felt by all the citizens of South Sudan, even those who are not directly in the line of fire.  (more…)

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By Jenna Binkhorst

While the River Ganges in India is most widely known for its holiness to Hindus and the support it provides to millions, the real story of the river is a much darker tale. For centuries, the river has been regarded as Mother Ganges – a holy river to Hindus, which is believed to possess somewhat supernatural powers. However, largely due to the improper sewage management of the treatment facilities surrounding the Ganges, the river is a cesspool of various pollutants. Although the river actually does provide a great deal of agricultural support to nearby communities, it is also believed to redeem the sins of the sinful, heal disease for the sick, and bestow blessings for the virtuous. This romantic view of the river is partially derived from the belief that the river is an earthly reincarnation of the Hindu deity, Ganga. Seen as a gift from the gods, millions of Hindus flock to the river on a daily basis to bathe in it, consume in it, do their laundry in it and cremate their deceased family members on the banks of it. While this religious dedication to the River Ganges has been a staple of the Hindu religion for generations, the river has an equally dark and disturbing side to it. (more…)

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By Juan German Jr

Three years after an earthquake shook up Haiti, we can still feel the consequences today. In October of 2010 Haiti saw its first detrimental outbreak of cholera listed as one of the worst in human history. Numbers affected by the epidemic surged because of the lack of access to proper sanitation in the country. The cause of the outbreak is up for debate, especially because there had been no documented cases of the disease for 50 years1. (more…)

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By Nisha Dhawlikar

Water is an essential resource for all those who live on Earth, however, for people in some countries, especially in rural areas, water is a scarce commodity. Access to safe drinking water is essential not only for daily life, but also for ensuring the health of all communities and their populations [1]. Water-borne illnesses, such as cholera and hepatitis A are transmitted through unsafe, dirty water sources. By ensuring that communities have safe and stable access to clean water, many health risks such as those mentioned could be greatly diminished. Last year in 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF declared that the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target was met, by successfully halving the proportion of people in the world without sustainable access to safe drinking water [2]. According to these organizations, about 6.1 billion people, or 89% of the world’s population, gained access to improved drinking water between 1990 and 2010 [3]. However, with this success also comes the grave realization that 11% of the world’s people have yet to receive adequate or improved drinking water. Could we improve water supplies to these communities efficiently and in a sustainable manner, while also ensuring that this access remains safe? Perhaps an affordable desalinization technology such as the one used in Qatar could become part of the solution. (more…)

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