The world is not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
This report provides an update on the status of the 8 targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. The overall conclusion is that the world is not on track to achieve SDG 6.
Billions of people worldwide still live without safely managed drinking water and sanitation, especially in rural areas and least developed countries; the current rate of progress need to quadruple to reach the global target of universal access by 2030.
For wastewater treatment and water quality, it is not possible to assess the global situation since country data are missing for large parts of the world, leaving billions of people at risk.
Water use has remained relatively stable at the global level during the last 10 years, and with 17 per cent of available water resources being withdrawn, the world as a whole is not considered water-stressed. However, this number hides stark regional differences: in some regions the level of water stress has increased by 35 per cent during the last two decades, and many countries withdraw all their renewable water resources or even rely on nonrenewable resources that will eventually run dry.
When it comes to integrated water resources management (IWRM), the current rate of progress needs to double to meet the global targets, and only two SDG regions are on track to have all their transboundary water bodies covered by operational cooperation agreements.
One fifth of the world's river basins are experiencing rapid changes in the area covered by surface waters, indicative of flooding and drought events, which are associated with climate change.
Although official development assistance (ODA) commitments to the water sector increased slightly in recent years, this is mainly due to an increase in concessional lending, and the gap between actual disbursements and future commitments is growing.
Participatory procedures are increasingly recognized in national policies and laws whereas their implementation have been moderate.
This is the final WASH research update from the WCKM project, which was supported by the USAID’s RFS Center for Water Security, Sanitation and Hygiene. This update features new additions to the Globalwaters.org website, 18 recent studies, reports and webinars and we hope these updates have been useful to you.
The UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 has gathered the latest country, region and world data on all the global indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which is … Read more
“With new and improved data-driven analyses capabilities and better, more frequent reporting accompanied by resonating public communication campaigns, local actors may be motivated — even compelled — to improve water resource management that can benefit all Filipinos.”
A changing climate is forcing a reckoning across the Philippines — a sprawling island nation spread across more than 7,500 islands in the western Pacific where water is virtually everywhere and informs every facet of daily life. As the Philippines finds itself on the front lines of climate change, the country’s proximity to water is both a blessing and a challenge. With government officials and water resource managers navigating complex and interwoven climate challenges — such as shifting precipitation patterns, intensified cycles of flood and drought, coastal erosion, sea-level rise, and stronger typhoons — it has become crystal clear that water poses a pressing national security threat.
Decision-makers in the Philippines increasingly view water and its sustainable management as foundational in any successful long-term effort to build a more resilient country capable of withstanding — and indeed thriving in the face of — future climate shocks. To support the Philippine government’s water security efforts, USAID, through its five-year, $18.4 million Safe Water Project (SWP) has been working with national and local government partners, community leaders, municipal officials, water service providers, businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other partners around the country since 2019 to strengthen the country’s Philippines’ water security and climate resilience. Implemented in the provinces of Negros Occidental, Sarangani, and Palawan, the project provides new sustainable water resource management technology and techniques, improves access to a reliable, resilient water supply, and incentivizes more accountable, sustainable, and financially-disciplined water sector governance.
On the Front Lines
The effects of climate change on the Philippines have been anything but subtle. The extraordinarily powerful Typhoon Haiyan that made landfall in November 2013 registered as one of the strongest tropical cyclones in recorded history and caused widespread devastation. A severe drought in 2015 led many cities and provinces to declare a state of calamity due to serious water shortages. More recently, Typhoon Vamco brought intense and sustained rainfall to the islands in November 2020, threatening dams and triggering devastating flooding of large and small downstream farming communities.
With its high degree of vulnerability and exposure to various climate change impacts, the Philippines has renewed its commitment, through a whole-of-government approach, to better plan for and respond to future natural disasters.
Adding further stress to the country’s overall water security is the fact that even during years of relative water supply abundance, water rights are often fiercely contested. Competing demands for allocating the country’s finite water supply are intensifying under the pressures of population growth, urbanization, and economic modernization. As if that weren’t enough, many people must contend with serious public health threats on a daily basis affecting tens of millions of Filipinos who lack reliable access to safe water and sanitation services.
“The Philippines faces a number of water-related challenges,” explains Lawrence Hardy II, Mission Director for USAID/Philippines, Pacific Islands, and Mongolia. “Recent studies show that the Philippines has the lowest water availability per capita among Southeast Asian countries [and] projections suggest the Philippines will continue to see a high degree of water shortages through 2040. About 12 million Filipinos do not have access to clean drinking water, while 80 percent of the country’s 100 million people are not connected to wastewater treatment services, [and] waterborne diseases remain among the top ten leading causes of morbidity in the country.”
“Challenges often present unexpected opportunities.”
In spite of the gravity of the Philippines’ water security and public health challenges, confronting and preparing for grave threats can also help open the doors to a more sustainable future. “Challenges often present unexpected opportunities for USAID to be adaptive, creative, and responsive in its interventions,” says John Edgar, Director of USAID/Philippines Environment Office.
Climate Is Water
While the relationship between climate change and water supply may not seem particularly obvious, the two are in fact deeply intertwined. Climate change can degrade water supply in a variety of ways.
For example, the heavy sustained rainfall that accompanies typhoons can trigger landslides, accelerate riverbank erosion, and wash agricultural chemicals and other contaminants into waterways as storm runoff — degrading water quality and threatening the health of communities that depend on these same waterways for their drinking water supply. Closer to the coast, intensified storm surges, sea level rise, mangrove habitat loss, and coastal erosion can accelerate saltwater intrusion into aquifers, which serve as key water sources for many towns and cities. And prolonged droughts can cause surface water levels to drop, concentrating harmful pollutants and encouraging overreliance on groundwater as an alternative water source.
Regardless of the cause of water supply degradation, water service providers across the Philippines are bearing much of the expenses. They are struggling with both higher water treatment and infrastructure maintenance costs due to damage inflicted during extreme weather events whose effects are felt for months or even years. Mounting operating expenditures are one of the many reasons SWP has been working closely with cash-strapped water service providers, and conducting financial stress tests to help steer them onto the path of long-term fiscal health. This is particularly important at a time when many service providers are experiencing significant revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponing improvements and expansions as a result.
Creating a Resilient Water Supply
Drawing on guidance from USAID’s climate risk assessment and planning tools, SWP has placed climate considerations at the core of its evidence-based interventions for creating a more resilient, reliable water supply. “Building on our past experience responding to the impacts of Typhoon Haiyan and severe droughts, USAID ensured that climate resilience is an integral part of SWP’s design,” Edgar says. “USAID applies climate risk assessment in all its projects to understand and mitigate risks from climate change. SWP benefited from USAID’s robust assessment of climate risks, making it well positioned to integrate resilience across interventions [including] integrating climate considerations in water-system engineering designs to ensure that systems can withstand impacts of typhoons and flooding.”
“Poor data availability, management, and accessibility have been hounding water sector planning and policymaking.”
Since its launch, SWP has been collecting climate and hydrological data to monitor and analyze the condition of watersheds that serve as critical drinking water sources. This ongoing effort to fill in longstanding data gaps will go a long way toward improving water management in the three project sites, as well as elsewhere across the country, according to Roderick Planta, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Development of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). As the Philippines’ planning agency, NEDA leads and coordinates water sector programming and serves as SWP’s key implementing partner. “Poor data availability, management, and accessibility have been hounding water sector planning and policymaking,” he admits. “Through the collection and subsequent analysis of these various data, a more informed and sound, scientific recommendation or decision can be expected. While the data to be gathered under SWP are context-specific, the tools and methods that will be developed may be further enhanced and scaled up at the national level.”
This month, SWP will present that data for the first time in a series of hydrological studies that seek to shape decision-makers’ thinking about water and hopefully lay the foundation for more sustainable water management practices. “With new and improved data-driven analyses capabilities and better, more frequent reporting accompanied by resonating public communication campaigns, local actors may be motivated — even compelled — to improve water resource management that can benefit all Filipinos,” says Hardy.
The new data-rich hydrological studies will shed further light on the islands’ delicate water balance and serve as “baseline data for more accurate and reliable predictions in the future,” says Francisco Alolod, a manager with the General Santos City Water District. This information in turn will empower water officials like Alolod to more effectively manage water supply in a manner that can withstand climate shocks and extreme weather events.
The studies “are crucial in establishing the baseline water security situation” of the three provinces where SWP is active, explains Alma Porciuncula, SWP’s director. “The reports include analyses of land cover and temperature and rainfall variations in the watersheds as factors impacting surface water runoff and recharge rates, establishing the current and projected conditions of the water resources. The findings of the studies will feed into policy actions, plans, and programs of the provinces.”
According to local SWP partners, better data can also go a long way toward shaping the design and implementation of more sustainable water management techniques and enhancing watershed protections. “Our local government will surely benefit from these hydrological analyses by using them as the basis for our future water-system projects and designs,” says Israel Delvo, an administrative officer in Alabel municipality. Delvo added that better access to hydrological data can help local officials — including emergency response personnel — identify patterns and more accurately predict and respond to future climate disruptions.
Facing Uncertainty, Well-Prepared
The path forward will not be an easy one, with all forecasts appearing to indicate rough weather ahead. “The Philippines is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the negative impacts of climate change,” points out USAID’s Joanne Dulce, who manages SWP. “Climate projections from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration indicate that increases in temperature, changes in rainfall, and extreme weather events nationwide will intensify between 2020 and 2050 and are likely to cause more droughts, floods, and storms.”
Despite the looming uncertainty, USAID’s partnerships in the Philippines are built for the long haul, drawing on a history of cooperation. After all, SWP “builds upon USAID’s previous successes that have promoted water security in the Philippines,” says Hardy. “Since 2013, USAID has invested $30 million to increase access to water supply and sanitation services for underserved communities alone.”
In the years ahead, SWP will continue to help better equip and position water managers across the Philippines to successfully respond to climate disruptions. Thankfully, the future looks bright. After all, Filipinos have demonstrated their collective resilience time and time again in response to a wide range of recent shocks, from typhoons and floods to droughts and COVID-19. “I have witnessed the Filipinos’ incredible resilience to bounce back from the wave of disasters that hit the country,” says Edgar. “While the economic recovery from the pandemic will be slow, I am fully confident that the Philippines will be able to adapt to a new and better normal.”
SWP and its partners are well-positioned to meet the moment and have ambitious plans: By the time SWP closes its doors in 2024, it expects to improve water and sanitation services for more than 1 million Filipinos, laying the foundation for a more resilient and prosperous future.
Burkina Faso and Niger have some of the lowest rates of access to safe water and sanitation in the world. Water scarcity and water resource mismanagement in both countries undermine farming and livestock livelihoods, and sometimes create conflict. Growing risks associated with droughts and floods, combined with populations that increasingly face internal displacement due to violent conflict, undermine the prospects for economic growth and poverty alleviation. People in these Sahel nations who face these shocks and stressors often suffer through one humanitarian crisis after another, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified these challenges.
USAID is working to break this cycle through an approach that combines emergency humanitarian aid with long-term development assistance. It is doing so through the second iteration of its Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE II) program, a broad five-year, more than $700 million program that is being implemented in Burkina Faso and Niger. RISE II addresses governance; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); health; family planning; nutrition; food security; economic well-being; and empowering women and youth.
Water insecurity and pervasive shocks and stresses are two of Burkina Faso’s and Niger’s most critical challenges. RISE II includes the TerresEauVie (TEV) activity, whose central focus is water security. TEV, started in 2019, also focuses on food security, land access, and natural resources management. The $39 million activity has helped vulnerable populations effectively manage shocks and stresses such as droughts and floods and pursue sustainable pathways out of poverty.
TEV has three objectives: improved water security; productive land use; and improved management of shocks, risks, and stresses. “I think it’s actually the first [activity] of its kind in the Sahel,” says Maggie Janes-Lucas, director of the Sahel Collaboration and Communication project, which works in partnership with TEV. “It is quite unique and quite important.”
Building the Capacity of Local Government to Address Water Insecurity
TEV works mainly at the commune level — the rough equivalent of a county government in the United States. It also collaborates with other RISE II related projects as well as government agencies at the village, regional, and national levels. TEV’s goal is to build local capacity for long-term management of water and land resources along with shock preparedness and response. TEV focuses on 25 (out of 250) of Niger’s communes, or 4,100 villages, and 15 (out of 350) of Burkina Faso’s communes, or 700 villages.
As one of its first tasks, TEV assessed the capacity of commune officials to manage people’s concerns and expectations about water and land related issues. “With [commune officials], we are developing plans for their improvement, where they see their issues, where they see their strengths, and where they want to take this,” explains Harvey Schartup, TEV’s director. “Together, we develop a capacity-building plan.” He says that over the coming years, TEV will train commune officials and their staff to increase their management, collaboration, and planning skills. These enhanced skills are one puzzle piece in the overall systemic approach to help officials better manage and improve operations. They also allow them to better anticipate, prepare, and respond to the shocks associated with more frequent extreme climate events and insecurity situations.
Making Data for Planning Available and Usable
TEV is also working to improve the data available to communes so that they can make more informed decisions about water resources and WASH investments. In both Niger and Burkina Faso, communes are responsible for managing land, natural resources, and infrastructure development. These communes need to know the condition and location of all their health centers, water wells, roads, and cattle corridors. “All of this information that is dispersed, we are trying to bring it all together so the users would be able to have a systemic and long-range view of a particular geographic area,” explains Schartup.
Communes are particularly interested in using these data to develop local land use and natural resource and risk management plans that address water resources, whether for agricultural, industrial, or household use. Currently, local water agencies do not have this sort of management tool. “This is new for them, and they are very interested in using and adding to this information we are providing them,” says Patrice Beaujault, TEV deputy director.
For example, in southwestern Niger, officials in Filingué looked for ways to solve frequent conflicts over water sources. TEV, in collaboration with other RISE II implementers, helped communal authorities and stakeholders map out the various resources and competing interests in the area. Together they developed a plan and a series of administrative ordinances, called a Local Convention, that established fair water and land use. The commune adopted its Local Convention in January 2020.
Coping with the Pandemic
Burkina Faso’s capital city Ouagadougou reported the country’s first case of COVID-19 on March 9, 2020. In the days that followed, leaders from around the country struggled to respond. “I quickly issued a municipal order to close the markets and ban demonstrations that could potentially mobilize large numbers of people,” says Amadou Tamboura, mayor of Seytenga in the country’s north. “I also asked people to respect the measures taken by the government. But what more can we do with our resources? It was at this point that TerresEauVie proposed that we draw up a communal response and prevention plan to respond to COVID-19.”
COVID-19 plans like these serve as roadmaps for communes preparing for and implementing prevention and response. They also foster communal leadership in directing where development and government agencies should provide resources. For example, the Seytenga commune drafted its action plan by involving key actors at the communal level, including those in health services, aligning with existing national guidelines. A communal response committee also meets once a month to plan major activities.
“I also noticed that people now wash their hands when they arrive at the Health Center.”
As part of the resulting plan, TEV supported the commune in conducting an information campaign via local radio in partnership with the Ministry of Health. One program featured a local nurse, Ahmadou Maiga, answering questions from listeners. “Some people thanked me by phone and in person at the Health Center for the clarity of the explanations,” Maiga said. “I also noticed that people now wash their hands when they arrive at the Health Center.”
TEV is doing similar work in Niger. In the Maradi region’s Chadakori commune, TEV worked with local officials to develop a simple framework for their COVID-19 contingency plan. Community members, including youth and women’s groups, worked together and led the data collection and analysis process to draw up the plan. TEV brought together the Crisis and Disaster Prevention and Management Sub-Regional Committee, the mayor, and communal technical services to review the first version of the plan together. This allowed them to go into greater detail around the plan’s objectives, vulnerability factors, and expected results, and to develop a more concrete working relationship between local and regional authorities.
“We have a contingency plan that meets our standards,” says Zeinabou Ibrahim, the commune’s secretary general. “We have now mastered the methodology for developing good contingency plans.” TEV has now begun supporting communes to transform their COVID-19 plans into communal multi-risk plans, encompassing a long-term perspective for addressing broader shock preparedness and response.
Goal Is Self-Reliance
In all of TEV’s work, the hope is to have a wider impact on water security in more than just the target communes in Burkina Faso and Niger. “Our vision goes beyond our targeted communities and those three component areas,” says Schartup. “We work with the communes and their support structures from day one, facilitating, mentoring, and assisting their efforts with the goal of long-term sustainable self-reliance. The aim is to develop successful, locally adapted models that the government will be able to expand beyond the 25 communes in Niger and 15 in Burkina Faso.”
“The idea at the end of the day is for self-reliance at the communal level,” agrees Beaujault.
Imagine a river basin — the rivers, tributaries, creeks, and wetlands that gather water and deliver it to the sea — as the vital network that all things, living and nonliving, are connected to and dependent upon. This complex ecosystem is ever-changing from human and natural forces, and its management is complicated by the fact that it often crosses political boundaries — state to state, province to province, and country to country.
Southern Africa’s Limpopo River Basin, the fourth largest on the continent, supports more than 18 million people in four countries — Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The basin is also home to most of the region’s largest cities and economies and boasts a rich diversity of flora and fauna. But the pressures on this transboundary system — which include pollution, climate change, and population growth — are immense. As a closed basin, the river basin’s inability to provide enough water to meet the growing demand has profound implications for livelihoods, wildlife preservation, and food production.
USAID launched the five-year, $32 million Resilient Waters Program in 2018 to improve transboundary natural resources management and increase the water security and resilience of communities and ecosystems that depend upon the Limpopo and nearby Okavango basins.
Along the Limpopo River, USAID is tackling severe water and sanitation challenges in targeted municipalities and protected areas from the river’s source in South Africa to its mouth at the Indian Ocean on the coast of Mozambique. These challenges range from industrial pollution and its impact on the health of the river and the environment and inadequate sanitation upstream, to saltwater intrusion and depleted groundwater downstream. More frequent droughts, stronger cyclones, and intensified flooding related to climate change are further straining this vulnerable resource.
Reducing Contamination Upstream
Combating pollution is one of Resilient Waters’ priorities for improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation services at key points in the Limpopo River Basin. “In South Africa, climate change effects, such as shortages in potable water due to prolonged droughts and minimum rainfall, have necessitated a change in sanitation sector planning,” says Lusanda Agbasi, acting director for the National Directorate for Sanitation at South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation. “This means reconsideration of on-site sanitation and decentralized sanitation technologies as viable options for the longer term.”
Case in point is Polokwane, South Africa, a burgeoning municipality in the middle of the basin. The majority of Polokwane’s residents are not connected to sewerage systems, and like many of the region’s rapidly urbanizing areas, the city has outgrown its existing wastewater treatment options. Further complicating matters, without a formal system for emptying, transporting, treating, or disposing of fecal waste originating from households not connected to the sewer network, Polokwane’s untreated waste is either overwhelming the limited number of wastewater treatment plants or being dumped illegally, contaminating waterways. A lack of infrastructure and regulation endangers the local water resources and supply and threatens water security for downstream users. To address the impacts on river resources upstream of the basin, Resilient Waters recently partnered with Polokwane Municipality to enhance its knowledge base for decision-making around fecal sludge management or non-sewered sanitation for the municipality.
Using an evidence-driven approach, this collaboration is piloting a series of tools — a climate delivery assessment, sanitation safety plan, fecal flow diagram, and an urban resilience toolkit — to improve the management of fecal sludge. Leonellha Barreto Dillon, a senior partner at Seecon and an expert in sanitation safety planning, is working on the pilot project in Polokwane, and says that greater recognition of the impacts of poor sanitation on water resources is needed. “The impact of unsafe fecal waste flows on people, and the environment is unknown, and therefore, not fully integrated in decision-making on sanitation management within the [Polokwane Municipality] Water Services Authorities.”
With support from the Regional Department for Water and Sanitation, Polokwane Municipality has committed to improve and refurbish its sanitation infrastructure. The evidence to improve fecal sludge management, collected through this pilot project, is expected to be integrated into the municipality’s overall planning and decision-making for sanitation service and infrastructure upgrades.
These newly embraced approaches have applicability well beyond Polokwane. “The lessons learned will be used to feed into the development of the fecal sludge management strategy for South Africa at large, because there are many other cities and other areas experiencing similar problems,” says Chief Technical Advisor for Resilient Waters Nkobi Moleele.
Because the Resilient Waters program is regional, Chief Partnerships Advisor Kule Chitepo adds, “Whilst we do have interventions that might be local in a particular country, we always want to see what the downstream and transboundary implications are of that localized or national activity. We’re also very interested to see how that contributes to building [the] resilience of the basin as a whole in terms of downstream implications of upstream or urban areas like Polokwane.”
Adapting to Change and Conserving Biodiversity
While it is crucial to safeguard the scarce water resources of the Limpopo River Basin from contamination, it is equally important to conserve and protect the high-elevation catchment areas that serve as water towers for the entire basin.
“The reason why a high-altitude catchment area is important is that it produces a lot of water per unit area for the basin [100 times as much as low-lying areas], but also these high-altitude areas are major storehouses of biodiversity,” says Moleele. Protecting diverse ecosystems upstream improves the quality and quantity of water flowing downstream, contributing to the sustainability of the community livelihoods that are dependent on these ecosystems.
To manage vulnerable areas more sustainably, Resilient Waters provided grants to local organizations working within a number of protected areas to improve catchment management; support sustainable use of natural resources; and help governments, park personnel, and communities prepare for climate change pressures on biodiversity and water supplies.
For example, the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, home to 5,500 species of plants as well as the endangered black rhino and wild dog, serves as an important water tower for three major catchments flowing into the Limpopo River. Resilient Waters is equipping staff with skills spanning field work, surveying, and Geographic Information System usage that will inform the implementation of a Strategic Environment Management Plan. A grant is also helping to engage traditional leaders and local municipalities to conduct socio-economic and water, sanitation, and hygiene surveys to determine upcoming climate change adaptation activities.
“This Strategic Environmental Management Plan is trying to look at all these challenges holistically with a view to ensure that water for all these different purposes is assured,” says Moleele.
To the east of the Waterberg lies another high-altitude catchment area, the Kruger to Canyons (K2C) Biosphere. This area is home to two of South Africa’s biggest tourist attractions in the basin, Blyde River Canyon and Kruger National Park, and it functions as a critical water source for a number of agricultural hubs. Pollution, invasive species, contaminated mine drainage, and poor waste management and sanitation are all threats to water security in the reserve. Resilient Waters supports the biosphere’s community-based environmental monitors to conduct village patrols, monitor river health, and raise awareness among the adjacent communities to increase the availability of clean water both locally and downstream. A recent clean-up campaign that involved more than 100 community members has led to some promising changes in waste collection and disposal practices. The program also supports restoration activities in the rivers, wetlands, and grasslands of the catchment.
Environmental stewardship is not limited to the high-catchment areas, however. The Limpopo River Basin is also home to numerous other parks and preserves, including the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, shared among Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, which connects almost a dozen parks and biodiversity hotspots adjacent to Kruger National Park, including Mozambique’s Limpopo, Banhine, and Zinave National Parks and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park.
Climate change is wreaking havoc on these unique landscapes; the weather has become hotter and drier, depleting food supplies for grazers and watering holes. As part of its mandate to strengthen the ability of communities and key institutions to adapt to climate change, Resilient Waters co-hosted a training workshop with UNESCO on Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis for South Africa’s parks department, local NGOs, and other regional institutions. These parties now have access to more than 40 global climate models and visualization tools that enable them to make data-driven decisions on local and regional water resources management. Putting its newly acquired knowledge into action, Kruger National Park management used the content of the training workshop to start planning for climate-related impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Resilient Waters also supported the participation of professionals from across southern Africa in the UNESCO Mozambique Flood and Drought Monitoring training, which uses global best practice systems and data sets to predict water-related natural disasters.
The Livelihoods Connection
Local communities are more likely to protect biodiversity and freshwater resources if doing so is connected to job creation and income generation. Supporting new livelihood strategies also helps people reduce their risk exposure in the face of a changing climate and increased water scarcity. Resilient Waters is building on livelihood strategies put in place by its USAID–funded predecessor, Resilience in the Limpopo River Basin (RESILIM), throughout the basin in locales as diverse as Polokwane, the buffer zones between communities and protected areas, and at the mouth of the Limpopo River in Xai Xai, Mozambique.
Upstream, a Resilient Waters grant is sharpening farmers’ skills to practice climate-smart agriculture and use water-wise farming techniques in an effort to boost income generation in areas where more severe droughts are predicted.
Downstream, the Limpopo River empties into the Indian Ocean in Xai Xai, a city of 120,000 people whose income depends upon viable fisheries and whose water supply depends upon available groundwater. All of the inputs upstream impact Xai Xai, including a heavy concentration of nitrates from poorly managed fecal sludge and reduced water flows from the Massingir Dam to the north. Saltwater intrusion from the sea further disrupts Xai Xai’s water supply, and the coastal town is increasingly vulnerable to flooding from more frequent and violent cyclones. The mangroves that once served as a natural buffer between the ocean and the river have been vanishing, eroding the area’s identity as a thriving estuary and limiting the ability of these vital coastal forests to provide natural flood protection.
“We are working to find ways to establish ecotourism activities that will also generate money for the communities so that they remain motivated to conserve the mangroves.”
“Mangroves are very productive ecosystems, they are also good spawning grounds for fish and many other things,” notes Moleele. “They also buffer the agricultural land from the intrusion of seawater…[and provide] many benefits. But as a result of a history of degradation from unregulated land uses as well as destruction from floods, the integrity of the Xai Xai mangrove ecosystems has been compromised.”
Through a grant to a local NGO, Resilient Waters is supporting local communities to restore the mangroves, work that began under RESILIM and which includes a strong livelihoods component. Women’s cooperatives are participating in conservation-based income-generation activities associated with the estuary, for example. “We are working to find ways to establish ecotourism activities that will also generate money for the communities so that they remain motivated to conserve the mangroves, because the mangroves play a critical function in that estuary,” says Moleele.
The Pandemic Challenge
A new challenge facing the basin emerged in 2020 — COVID-19. Activities previously seen as win-win approaches, such as linking biodiversity conservation with income-generating ecotourism in buffer zones, have ground to a halt.
“In this part of the world, in the Limpopo River Basin, a lot of the rural economies around the protected areas are built upon or reliant upon the ecotourism industry,” explains Chitepo. “And as you know, tourism has been very hard hit by the pandemic. So this has a direct effect on the livelihoods that are reliant upon the conservation area.”
Resilient Waters is having to adjust to this new normal, but with challenges come opportunities, according to Moleele. “We’re not just operating in a vacuum of what the needs are on the ground. And I think now more than ever, we have an opportunity to really ramp up our livelihoods work, especially given the impacts of the pandemic.”
Enhancing Transboundary Coordination
While many of the upstream and downstream challenges can be tackled at the local level, engaging national structures, such as water authorities, is critical to addressing water resources management and disaster risk reduction in the basin. Ultimately, the most pressing concerns must be coordinated at the transboundary level, whether such steps involve mapping an aquifer to explore groundwater depletion in each member country or devising robust early warning systems for the basin. To that end, Resilient Waters has embedded two technical experts within the Limpopo Watercourse Commission Secretariat, the structure put in place by the member states to govern the basin.
This level of coordination is “a lot of work,” admits Chitepo. “But the relationships are there, the intention is there, the political will is there, the countries themselves are contributing towards the costs. Obviously, some countries have got more resources than others to be able to contribute towards this functionality, but they work very well in terms of leaving no one country behind in their cooperation.”
Resilient Waters’ work to strengthen institutional connections, build up its partnerships, and address the shocks and stresses of climate change will help mitigate the pressures on the Limpopo River Basin for years to come. As the health of this vital ecosystem improves, so too will the resilience of the humans and natural systems that depend upon it.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of work on hand hygiene since November, e.g. this piece on the economics of hygiene for the Hygiene Hub and some costing work for WHO/UNICEF. It bothered me that definitions were not clear, so I put together this Venn diagram. It aims to be a broad means of categorisation, rather than a comprehensive listing of all possible aspects of hygiene. I had domestic settings in mind, and other factors may be more important in other settings, particularly health care facilities. Please flag other resources on this definitional question in the comments below, if you know of them!
Within and beyond the WASH sector, “hygiene” has often been taken to be synonymous with handwashing. However, it is really a broader concept than this, but how broad? At the extreme end of the spectrum, hygiene is “the practice of keeping oneself and one’s surroundings clean, especially in order to prevent illness or the spread of diseases” (Boot and Cairncross, 1993). This aligns with the adjective hygieinos in Ancient Greek, meaning good for health (Liddell and Scott, 1889).
Taking the broad Boot & Cairncross definition, many behaviours and practices would fall within the scope of hygiene, including: (i) excreta disposal; (ii) use and protection of water sources; (iii) personal hygiene (e.g. hand hygiene, menstrual hygiene management); (iv) food hygiene (e.g. handling, preparation and storage); and (v) environmental hygiene (e.g. surface wiping, solid waste disposal, animal management).
Personally, I think including sanitation and water within hygiene is so broad as to be unhelpful. It is more typical to take a narrower approach. For example, UNICEF and WHO (2019) define hygiene as comprising “a range of behaviours that help to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases, including handwashing, menstrual hygiene management and food hygiene”. Some studies also note face hygiene and bathing (Prüss-Ustün et al., 2019). You could argue for separating out other things like surface cleaning, toy cleaning etc. The various aspects are discussed in more detail by Curtis et al (2001) This and a suggestion from my colleague Karin Gallandat led me to separate out personal, domestic and food hygiene in the above diagram, but I am sure there are many other ways to cut it. More environmental aspects might be included, but then overlap with environmental sanitation (also ill-defined) would become more problematic. Another argument might be to include disease prevention behaviours such as wearing a face mask when exhibiting respiratory symptoms.
Zooming in on hand hygiene
The final definitional twist to note is that hand hygiene comprises not only handwashing with soap and water, but also handrubbing with alcohol-based hand rub (not technically “washing”). These WHO guidelines have lots of definitions along these lines. Ash can also be used as a last resort. For all your questions on rubs vs. soaps, see the Hygiene Hub, especially this piece. In short, soap is just as effective, relatively cheap, and more widely available by comparison to rubs – it is also more gentle on hands. However, the calculus is likely to be different in health care facilities where rubs are often considered more appropriate, for various reasons.
From an infectious disease perspective, focusing on clean hands (vs. other hygiene behaviours in the venn diagram) is warranted. Hand hygiene is likely the hygiene behaviour that makes the most important contribution to preventing faecal-oral disease and, annually, 165,000 deaths from diarrhoea are attributable to inadequate hand hygiene behaviours (Prüss-Ustün et al., 2019). However, food produce may be an important exposure pathway in many settings, and more evidence is needed on this (WHO and UNICEF, 2019).
Hand hygiene can prevent faecal-oral diseases by removing pathogens after fingers touch faeces (or things which have touched faeces) and before those fingers touch food, fluids, or the new host’s mouth. See the famous F-diagram below (Wagner and Lanoix, 1958). Human faeces might touch hands directly, before entering the environment (e.g. after defecation or child faeces management). Crucially, however, they are also transmitted indirectly once pathogens are already in the environment (e.g. surfaces, other people’s hands, animals and their faeces). Therefore, even with good water supply and sanitation services, pathogens can still circulate and hand hygiene is necessary to reap the full benefits of WASH.
[note – this post was updated after helpful suggestions in replies to this tweet – thanks!]
This is a guest blog by Amanda Mugwambi, a young professional from Zimbabwe enrolled as a mentee in the 2020 RWSN Mentoring Programme. I’m Amanda Mugwambi from Zimbabwe. I have been working in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector for over 5 years in addition to four years prior of environmental management. I am … Continue reading "My experience of the RWSN Mentoring Programme"
Highlights from a panel discussion on how cities are adapting to challenges such as the Covid-19 crisis.
At a WSUP event held yesterday, a panel of expert speakers outlined the challenges faced in the urban water, sanitation and hygiene sector as a result of Covid-19, and made recommendations on priorities for the sector.
The Adapting in a Time of Crisis event assessed the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries and was moderated by Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT and a member of the WSUP Board.
Gerald Mwambire, Managing Director, Malindi Water & Sewerage Company, Kenya started off the event by highlighting how the Covid-19 pandemic has put a strain on service provision.
“The government issued directives that we need to provide water [for free], because water is so important for mitigating Covid. But when we are giving free water, that means we have low revenue collection,” he said. Without subsidies from the government, Mwambire added, utilities have struggled to operate effectively.
2020 was a year of doing things differently, and of innovating rapidly to combat constantly shifting threats.
Jeff Goldberg, Director, Center for Water Security, Sanitation and Hygiene, USAID, highlighted how the crisis has been a forcing event to accelerate digital technologies in the sector to address the water and sanitation challenge.
As an example, Mwambire spoke of how in Malindi, the utility was compelled to look at SMS billing and smart meters to reduce the risk of customers and frontline staff being exposed to Covid-19.
Helena Dollimore, Senior Manager, Global Sustainability, Unilever, spoke about how Unilever worked with development actors who are already serving low-income income residents through the Hygiene & Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC). This included helping NGOs to adapt their work to the digital space and using mass media and digital channels to promote hygiene messaging.
In Kenya for example, through the HBCC programme, WSUP was able to use SMS hygiene messaging through our existing work with utilities who made use of their customer databases to reach a large number of low-income residents with vital information.
At WSUP we believe that utilities are the solution to comprehensive, safe water access in cities.
However, the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the vulnerability of utilities’ financial positions. Many utilities were – understandably – required to provide water for free to help in the fight against the pandemic, but this has come at severe costs for their sustainability and financial viability.
Investing in utilities and helping them become financially stable is crucial for improving services for the people most in need, and it is one of the most important steps that we can take to tackle the water crisis.
Andrea Jones, Program Officer, International Programs, Hilton Foundation said, “The blanket safety net approach has put service providers in a precarious position…We need to ensure utilities can reach the poor and vulnerable.”
Frank Kettey, Country Programme Manager, Ghana, WSUP, added: “The role that utilities play is crucial, and we all need to work towards supporting them to ensure they emerge stronger after the pandemic.”
Goldberg remarked that the crisis has given us the opportunity to look at the fundamentals of governance, policy, cost recovery and ensuring we build financially stable utilities that can withstand any kind of crisis moving forward.
Continuous water supply for all and climate change
“If climate change was a shark, then water would be the teeth of it,” said Dollimore, highlighting the link between climate change and water.
Climate change is threatening water and sanitation systems in cities. 74% of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 have been water related. Whether the problem is too much water or too little water, it is damaging people’s ability to have access to decent services.
In the face of this growing challenge, building the resilience of service providers has never been more important.
In order to deliver services to the poorest residents, utilities need to improve effectiveness across the breadth of their operations. WSUP’s Utility Strengthening Framework uses eight steps to move towards a stronger utility.
Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of WSUP, highlighted how following the cyclones that hit Beira in Mozambique in 2019, WSUP had to work with city authorities to build back better. He argued that adapting to climate change needs to become standard process within urban development and within those institutions providing water, sanitation and hygiene.
The last 12 months have shown us that even in a crisis – or perhaps because of a crisis – change is possible. As Jones commented, although the Covid-19 crisis has brought to the forefront the gaps in water, sanitation and hygiene systems, it has also provided an opportunity for leaders to address these challenges.
WSUP is determined to play its part in driving the change needed.
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation supports collective action in many countries. Ghana is proudly one of them.
Photo caption: Launch of ANAM implementation phase. IRC Ghana
In Ghana we believe that names influence character and behaviour. A name can be a good omen or spell doom and can also be a motivating influence for success. We also believe that a bundle cannot be fastened with one hand. These beliefs guided the chiefs and key local stakeholders in Asutifi North district when it came to naming their ambitious initiative to deliver safe water and sanitation to everyone within the district: the Asutifi North Ahonidie Mpontuo (ANAM for short) – or in English, the Asutifi North cleanliness initiative. They coined the name in acknowledgment that no single actor can deliver such an ambitious agenda alone. It was also to reinforce citizens’ understanding that their desire for a clean society can only be achieved with safe water, sanitation, and good hygiene.
The name and the vision of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) across the district, was arrived at following a year of extensive context analysis, stakeholder consultation and inception meetings to stimulate local understanding and buy-in.
Local authority driven process
The ANAM WASH initiative seeks to test a local-authority-led partnership with NGOs to drive district-wide access to WASH services. In recognition of the complex dynamics of providing access to everyone, the model further aims to give voice to and empower the socially excluded in decision making. This latter, by stimulating popular support for WASH through the creation of a WASH network supporting proactive citizen engagement.
To support the local authority in driving the process, the initiative includes a hub function to facilitate the intricate task of partner coordination. This function is performed by IRC, who have leveraged partners’ shared ambition for collective success by guiding the processes of joint visioning and implementation, fostering harmonisation of partners’ efforts and innovations, and ensuring mutual accountability for progress towards equitable outcomes.
Like assembling an aircraft
Being part of this discovery journey since its inception in 2017 has felt like working in an aircraft manufacturing process (impact lab). Each partner has focused on developing parts of the whole thereby contributing to a collective effort of knowledge building and developing harmonised, scalable solutions. We have co-created and tested solutions to improve aspects of the service delivery machinery required to drive universal WASH access in a district.
The principles and actions fostered by the initiative may not be particularly new, rather, the uniqueness of the approach lies in how district actors are being brought together through deliberate convening and coordination by the local authority and traditional leadership with support from a dedicated hub organisation.
Achieving WASH prosperity
The evidence thus far from the experiment points in the direction of a more coherent and productive WASH system in the making. A climate in which all experience a genuine stake in the district’s increasing WASH prosperity is being fostered.
It is gratifying to note that the Asutifi North District Assembly is becoming more confident and able to offer effective leadership to actors in its WASH sector. Likewise, citizens are feeling a greater sense of shared ownership of the district WASH agenda as their opinions are sought in formulating responsive solutions and their WASH grievances are addressed. There is a remarkable improvement in water services and the district is on track to achieve universal access ahead of the 2030 target. We see how collective power can drive success when challenges are locally felt, solutions locally owned and leadership is taken on at the right levels. By 2020, an estimated 11,500 people had experienced some level of water service improvement. This includes 7,000 people getting to safely managed services and 4,500 people getting to basic water services. A total number of 52,000 people (of a total population of 63,000 in 2017) now have at least basic water services in the district.
Adapting due to COVID
2020 has been an unusual year with the COVID-19 pandemic but there has been a bright side to the twist despite the disruption. Empowered and inspired by the ANAM initiative, the local authority is providing clear and responsive leadership in rallying its WASH stakeholders to mobilise resources to implement a range of short- and medium-term interventions to mitigate and recover from the impact of COVID-19.
As Asutifi emerges from COVID, the partnership will shift attention to ensuring the resilience of existing WASH systems, whilst identifying and addressing the specific needs of hard-to-reach areas. It will also continue to bring lessons to inform sector dialogues, policy reviews and scale-up in other districts.
"Good Practice of WASH”
In recognition of its success, the district was one of three selected by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) for documentation of inspiring examples of efforts towards achieving SDG6 in Ghana. Through this, the ANAM delivery approach has been included in the “Good Practice of WASH” compilation published by NDPC and shared with metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies across Ghana to inform their WASH delivery practices. Currently, NDPC is considering incorporating learnings from the initiative into the next cycle of planning: developing WASH guidelines for all districts in Ghana to use in preparing medium-term WASH strategies and plans.
This plan will not end up on the shelf
The sector in Ghana is charting a new course to respond to changing needs by formulating new national development policy frameworks, revising sector policies and strategies, and reforming institutions. The processes are providing an opportunity for the sector to engage and clarify roles, but many issues including the role of local government and communities in water service delivery in the future state remain undecided. The Asutifi North district authority, the traditional leaders and people, IRC and other partners working in and beyond the district, are well placed to constructively engage in the sector change dialogue using the evidence curated.
These processes promise to shape how to consolidate fragmented WASH interventions and improve accountability under a single institution through a network of people and functions working together to deliver WASH services to everyone.
The name ANAM WASH initiative will not be lost in sector history.
ANAM WASH is supported by a broadly based partnership of national and international actors including: the Asufiti North District Assembly, IRC, World Vision. Safe Water Network, Aquaya Institute, Netcentric Campaigns and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It receives financial support from these partners and also from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS).
While collective action such as that of the ANAM WASH initiative takes place at district level, our goal is to inspire replication and wider impact. Click here to find out how partners in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Uganda are working together for safe water, supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation's Safe Water Strategy. This setof advocacy and outreach materials has been designed to ensure that what we learn is shared and adopted in more districts in the countries where we work, and in other countries.
You will find even more examples of collective action under Useful Links.
Two new videos show how a district-wide partnership is transforming water coverage and lives.
Photo caption: Water vendor in Agravi, Asutifi North, Ghana. Peter McIntyre/IRC
Robel Lambisso Wahimso, Ghana WASH Program Manager for World Vision, reflects on the success of the Asutifi North Ahonidie Mpuntuo (ANAM) initiative to deliver WASH access to everyone in the district by 2030.
“We have all joined our hands towards achieving a common agenda under the umbrella of the Universal WASH master plan. It is a unique experience for World Vision. I believe it is a unique experience for the other partners as well.”
James Ata-Era, District Development Planning Officer confesses that the District Assembly has been amazed at the impact as the initiative they lead brings safe water to communities, who are willing to pay for it.
“The number of requests for maintenance of boreholes to the Assembly has reduced drastically. We ourselves are amazed.”
District Chief Executive, The Hon. Anthony Mensah, sees the ability of the district to deliver safe water as a key indicator of good government. “I am going to be measured based on my performance and part of it will be how I was able to deal for people to get potable and clean water.”
Joseph Ampadu-Boakye, Safe Water Network Sector Engagement and Partnerships manager, believes this approach could reach 3.2 million people in small towns and peri-urban across the country, provided the lessons are taken on board.
“Local government authorities are willing to invest in water services, provided as partners we are also willing to invest a lot more time and effort in taking them through a process where they completely understand what it is that they are putting their resources into. We need to understand the fact that they are duty bearers and for every single Cedi or dollar that they spend they have a responsibility of being able to explain to their constituents the reason why they are making that investment.”
IRC plays a hub role in this partnership. Jeremiah Atengdem, IRC Ghana WASH Expert said, “In a good working partnership you need to have backbone organization to drive change, ensure we have a master plan everyone believes in and is committed to ensure that at every point on the way partners are keeping their eyes on the ultimate vision which is to achieve universal WASH access.”
Two other videos that tell the transformational story of the Asutifi North District initiative, documented under the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) good practice for WASH in Ghana cases include:
How the ANAM WASH Initiative is transforming lives looks at the impact in three communities. In Wamahinso Town it contrasts the peace and calm at water points today with the near riots in 2018 when pumps ran dry. In Agravi village it shows how women have been relieved of a half kilometre uphill struggle every day with water from a contaminated open well. In Panaaba, Chief Nana Attakorah Amaniampong coined the phrase “Where World Vision goes, water flows” to sum up the transformation of his village. Water vendor Doris Bosompimaah even dreams of selling iced water from her stall.
WASH for schools and health centres shows how water in schools reduces absenteeism and improves concentration in class. In Gambia no 1, Vivian Kumah, nurse in charge of the CHPS health centre can at last practise effective infection control. “Doing childbirth without water is not safe,” she says bluntly.
Dr Kodjo Mensah-Abrampah, Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission in Ghana says the whole country must learn from these experiences. “I think that is the path that we need to go if you want to make an effect. Asutifi is not a special area in the country but it has now suddenly become the Mecca for good water management and how a team and a group can work together to responds to some of these areas.”
Join PRO-WASH for a new webinar series focused on operation and maintenance of WASH infrastructure! This four-part series will share lessons learned from USAID partners focusing on innovative advances in approaches to operation and maintenance (O&M) of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure. Speakers will discuss their program’s approaches to engineering, environmental, financial, and political-economy … Continue reading "Coming soon: USAID Pro-WASH webinar series on Operation & Maintenance"
Starting in February, the UNDP-SIWI Water Governance Facility, Global Water Partnership, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, and Cap-Net will deliver a 3-part series on water and climate. The webinars will … Read more
One of the approaches promoted by the SMART Centres is supporting self-supply, so stimulating people to invest in their own water system like a well and pump.
There is now the first ever book on Self-supply Filling the gaps in public water supply provision has been published by Dr. Sally Sutton and John Butterworth. By RWSN it has been called THE book and on the first day of publication, the book was downloaded more than 500 times already.
In the book several SMART Centres and the people involved like Rik Haanen, Walter Mgina, Reinier Veldman and Henk Holtslag are mentioned.
Self supply is increasingly seen as one of the options to reach SDG6.1 and related SDGs for food, income and employment. We highly recommend that you download and read the book. You can get your copy through Practical Action. The electronic version is for free and there are paid soft and hard-cover versions availble.
‘Self-supply has long been overlooked because it is largely unmapped, unmonitored and unregulated, and therefore invisible to policy-makers and decision-takers. This wonderful new book shows what they are missing by providing an accessible but comprehensive overview of self-supply in its many forms and contexts, from the lowest income countries to the highest. It puts people at the centre of the challenge to achieve universal water access and is a celebration of ingenuity and resilience – and highlights that household investment and remittances can play a vital role in plugging the investment gap in rural water infrastructure. This book is destined to become a classic reference that all rural water supply professionals should become familiar with.’
Sean Furey, Director, Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN)
Water resources management, equitable access and hygiene receive due attention.
The Government of Bangladesh has recently published its 8th Five Year Plan positioning water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) as a cross-cutting issue of different development initiatives. The plan, which was developed by the Planning Commission, was approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 29th December last year. It has become available online from 3rd of February.
The Five Year Plan (July 2020-June 2025) is a key document that illustrates the strategy and action plan of the country to achieve its development goals. It carries more importance as it illustrates the plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. WASH sector players, especially the advocacy leaders, campaigned to the government for better positioning of WASH issues in the development agenda, which has been reflected in the 8th Five Year Plan. The plan prioritises the need to increase storage in the existing water retention bodies [Part 2. Chapter 4: Strategies for Agriculture and Water Resource Management].
Overall the Plan acknowledges the inequalities in WASH access and disproportionate impact on the poor, and the environmental hazards from unsafe disposal of faecal sludge as challenge areas to address. It considers context-specific WASH interventions in hard-to-reach areas and creating an enabling environment for WASH services as preferred strategies [Part 2. Sector 7. Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives].
In the Plan, WASH is one of the key focus areas for the multi-sectoral, multi-agency approach to improved nutrition, especially through handwashing and other hygiene practices. Additionally increasing access to basic facilities such as toilets and sanitary napkins for women and girls in the work place have been considered as a part of the poverty reduction, social protection and inclusion strategy. [Part 2. Sector 9: Housing and Community Amenities and Sector 10: Health, population and Nutrition].
Despite the need for more focus on WASH issues in the fight against COVID-19, the inclusion of WASH in the Plan is expected to provide a positive contribution towards achievement of SDG target 6.