Water and Sanitation

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U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).

Policy Responses Needed To Address Global Water Security

In his Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) blog “The Internationalist,” Stewart Patrick, senior fellow and director of the CFR Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, writes about the first U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Global Water Security (.pdf), which “predicts that by 2030 humanity’s ‘annual global water requirements’ will exceed ‘current sustainable water supplies’ by 40 percent.” According to Patrick, the document says “[a]bsent major policy interventions, water insecurity will generate widespread social and political instability and could even contribute to state failure in regions important to U.S. national security.” He describes several factors that are pushing a “combination of surging global demand for increasingly scarce fresh water in certain volatile regions of poor governance.” Though “the intelligence community has performed a great service” with this report, “the policy response to date has been just a drop in the bucket,” Patrick concludes (5/8).

Canadian Study Quantifies Effects Of Safe Water, Sanitation On Health For First Time

“In a study of 193 countries to be released Thursday, Canadian-based researchers say they’ve been able to quantify — for the first time — how safe water and public sanitation efforts affect health when factoring out other variables such as a nation’s wealth, fertility or location,” USA Today’s “Your Life” reports (Koch, 2/15). Dividing the countries into four quartiles, researchers at the United Nations University and McMaster University “found that countries ranked in the bottom 25 percent in terms of safe water had about 4.7 more deaths per 1,000 children under five years old compared to countries in the top 25 percent tier” and “when judged on access to adequate sanitation, countries ranked in the bottom 25 percent tier had about 6.6 more deaths per 1,000 children under five years old compared to countries in the top 25 percent tier,” a United Nations University press release states (2/14).

Cyclone Kills At Least 16 In Madagascar; UNICEF Responds With Medicines, Mosquito Nets

“At least 16 people have been killed this week when a category four cyclone lashed Madagascar’s eastern shores, rescue authorities said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, adding, “Some 65 people were injured and about 11,000 people left homeless after Cyclone Giovanna pummeled the country’s eastern seaboard causing power shutdowns in parts of the island’s port city of Tamatave, rescue officials said” (Iloniaina, 2/16). UNICEF “will start distributing medicines and mosquito nets [Thursday] to the parts of eastern Madagascar hardest hit” by the cyclone, the U.N. News Centre writes.

Urbanization Leaves Millions Of Children Without Access To Vital Services, UNICEF Report States

“Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services, UNICEF warns in ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World,'” released on Tuesday, the agency reports in a press release (2/28). “Children in slums and poor urban communities lack access to clean water, sanitation and education, as services struggle to keep up with fast urban growth, says” the agency’s flagship report, according to AlertNet (Caspani, 2/28). The report “calls attention to the lack of data on conditions in slums, particularly as it relates to children, and it calls for a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding poverty and inequality in cities and increased political will to improve the lives of the most marginalized,” UNICEF writes in an accompanying article (2/28).

Haiti Faces Rise In Cholera Cases After Flooding Caused By Hurricane Sandy

“Flooding in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in cholera, with three deaths and almost 300 suspected cases, adding to a death toll from the storm of 54,” the Financial Times reports (Mander, 11/2). “Already struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Isaac in August, which in turn set back rebuilding from the earthquake of January 2010, Haiti now faces renewed crises on multiple fronts,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” writes (Lazaro, 11/2). “Three days of torrential downpours and strong winds brought by Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Haiti’s fragile agriculture and have put a million and a half Haitians at risk for hunger, the United Nations’ humanitarian-aid coordination office said over the weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Potential food-price increases worry international and Haitian officials” (Arnesen, 11/4).

Nigeria Experiences Worst Flooding In 50 Years; Officials Fear Disease Outbreaks, Food Shortages

“Nigeria’s worst flooding in at least half a century has killed 363 people since the start of July and displaced 2.1 million people,” according to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency, Reuters reports. Between July 1 and October 31, 7.7 million people were affected by the flooding and 18,282 people were injured, the agency said, the news service notes (11/5). In makeshift camps without “water, sanitation or medical care, authorities fear outbreaks of disease could make things worse,” VOA News reports. In addition, “emergency officials say with tens of thousands of hectares of farmland destroyed, they fear food shortages in the coming months,” according to the news agency. In October, “[t]he Nigerian government … allocated $112 million to help families that have been displaced in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states since the flooding began in July,” VOA writes (Murdock, 10/30).

IPS Reports On World Toilet Day, Observed November 19

Inter Press Service reports on World Toilet Day, observed on November 19, noting, “Currently, over 800 million people have no access to safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion people are living without adequate sanitation.” “While most developing nations have made limited progress in providing clean water, the targets for sanitation have remained virtually unreachable,” leaving “a lingering question in the minds of activists: how best can water and sanitation be given high priority in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the U.N.’s post-2015 economic agenda?” the news service writes. “A new goal on universal access to basic water and sanitation services as a fundamental human right, with a target date for achieving universal access to basic water and sanitation services by 2030 would be a good start,” Hannah Ellis, international campaigns manager for the London-based WaterAid, told IPS, the news service adds. Last week in a joint statement, the government of Finland, UNICEF, U.N. Women, WaterAid, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, “called for an end to water and sanitation inequalities in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda,” IPS notes (Deen, 11/15).

Peace Corps, USAID, Coca-Cola Company Announce WASH Training Initiative

“The Peace Corps has announced a strategic partnership with the Water and Development Alliance (WADA) — a long-standing public-private partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola) — to improve local capacity to deliver sustainable water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for the reduction of waterborne disease around the world,” a Peace Corps press release reports. According to the press release, “WADA will work with the Peace Corps’ WASH initiative to raise awareness and build capacity among Peace Corps and community trainers around sustainable water supply and sanitation services, as well as improved hygiene behaviors” (10/12). “The training package will equip more volunteers to help communities create and strengthen WASH efforts in their homes, in schools, and in health facilities,” Jill McGrath-Jones, program specialist for the Peace Corps Office of Global Health and HIV, writes in the AIDS.gov Blog. She adds, “Key actions promoted in the training include building tippy-taps to increase access to water, maintaining latrines, ensuring safe water supplies, and educating others about hygienic practices and behaviors” (10/15).

More Toilets Would Help Save Lives In India

The controversy in India over “a self-evident statement by the rural development minister that India needs toilets more than it does temples … is a perfect example of the stupidity that too often dominates Indian politics,” GlobalPost senior correspondent Jason Overdorf writes in his blog “On India.” He continues, “Rather than shutting up and getting down to the business of improving lives, we’re descending into pointless name-calling and protesting over something on which, quite frankly, everybody secretly agrees.” Noting India has temples “just about anyplace that isn’t moving too fast,” he says,”[O]ne of the most salient differences between toilets and temples is that people will donate land and money and labor to build temples, they will fight for them tooth and nail, and the government will let them get away with virtually any skirting of the law in the process. Toilets? Not so much.”