Take water shortage seriously

The World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of national leaders, economists and corporatists met last month in Davos, Switzerland. Before the meeting, a survey was conducted among some 900 leaders in business, politics and civic life that concluded that the most important global risk today is the world water crisis.

According to Circle of Blue, a programme of the Pacific Institute and one of the best web-based sources for water information, this is a major shift in world attention, explained in part by climate and weather phenomena, drought, pollution, and other limits on water that dramatically affect vulnerable populations, be they in California or the American southwest, China, India, southern Europe, South America, or Australia.

Circle of Blue quotes Bob Sandford, chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative, as follows: We did not realize until recently how much our economy and society relied on hydrologic stability.

Well, that is not entirely true. China, for example, has been building massive water transfer systems to move water from areas in the south to the more arid north where drought, industrial irrigation, and flagrant pollution have brought scarcity as well as economic and political crises.

There is a direct link between water abundance and human well-being, between adequate supply and the sustainability of any community, rich or poor. Northern California is a region of great fertility and wealth in the US, entirely dependent on water from the Rocky Mountains distributed by engineered solutions.

Water rationing, inadequate supply at key points in growth of fruit and crops and weak and declining harvests can bring even such a community to its knees. Right here in Kenya there are several communities who have been at war for decades over food and water. Each year the government spends millions of shillings on relief foods for these communities mostly in the north of Kenya and elsewhere.

The problem is not insurmountable. It was caused by our greed and carelessness with our resources and poor policies on how to conserve our resources, adapt to climate change and poor planning.

-PEOPLE DAILY

Say no to a starved nation

The current drought and starvation that has hit almost every part of the country is something that if not properly and timely mitigated, can lead to loss of thousands of lives.

It breaks my heart whenever I watch or view images of heart wrenching images of people and animals struggling to survive after spending months without neither food nor water. For those who have never spent a day without a meal (not by choice), might not understand what it feels to spend days, weeks or even months without having something for the stomach.

Whenever hunger strikes, children and women are the most affected. They have to trek miles away in search of food and water. Sometimes, the journey becomes tough and unfortunately lose battle to the adverse effects of starvation.

Watching people from Turkana, Samburu and other drought hit regions struggling to obtain water from already dry swamps and rivers leaves me wondering about how the situation will be in the next three or so months.

The water they are lucky to get for drinking is not fit for not only human, but also animals’ consumption. This exposes them to more serious health problems that could easily cut short their dreams of seeing another day. Remember, death by starvation is slow.

School going children are no longer in school just because they have to join the rest of the family members in the search for water and food. Theirs is a story of broken hopes and shuttered dreams. Their lives now depend on the muddy water and wild fruits that they are struggling hard to get.

Government has said that it has already spent more than 800 million shillings to supply relief food to deserving Kenyans. The truth of the matter is that, there is still a lot to be done. There is a Zimbabwean proverb that says, “You cannot tell a hungry child that you gave him food yesterday.” People are still being threatened by hunger, innocent children are still dying. There must be solution to this challenge.

Even as we head to the August 8 general election, as we tell people to vote wisely and maintain peace, let us not forget that a peaceful world cannot be created on empty stomachs and human misery. We must fill stomachs first to have a peaceful nation.

Kenya is a very beautiful nation with limited, but enough resources for everyone. As a country, what we have been unable to do mobilizing the available resources for the benefit of everyone. Last year, the country experienced more than four months of heavy rains.

Everybody witnessed floods sweeping through major towns including Nairobi. Even in Turkana where heavy rains are experienced once in a blue moon, massive flooding occurred. We watched as the runoffs destroyed our houses, business premises, roads, schools and other facilities and forgot to take advantage by conserving the water for future use.

It is very shameful that today, a few months after the heavy rains, there are people dying of starvation. What if we tapped the runoff and used it to irrigate our lands? Why do we have to wait until people die to realize that we can do something to safe lives? These questions among others can only be answered by people on their proper senses. We have to wake up and start facing the reality.

As a country, we have to start thinking about the future. It is very shameful that more than fifty years of independence, there are people whose lives are being threatened by hunger and starvation. We have to come up with alternative solutions to curb this nightmare; or we sit, relax and watch as innocent people lose lives to starvation.

Before I sign out, I wish to echo the wise words by Frances Moore, “Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but by a scarcity of democracy.”

 

Africaqua participates in the First Annual Kenya Water Week expo at KICC

Last week, Nairobi was a beehive of activities as the country held the first ever Kenya Water Week expo (KEWAWK) at Kenyatta International Convention Center.

Organized by water services trust fund, Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Society Network (KEWASNET),  Kenya Water Institute (KEWI) and other collaborating institutions, the expo brought together hundreds of water companies, government institutions, Non-governmental organizations, Private sector companies, water utilities among other stakeholders from across the world.

With the theme of From Aid to Trade: Enhancing business partnerships and innovation for sustainable water and sanitation provision and irrigation in Africa, the 5 day event enabled key stakeholders in the water sector to share ideas on how to stimulate and enhance trade, innovation and development in the sector.

Africaqua being a stakeholder in the water sector participated in the expo, where our various products including foldable bottles, collapsible water jerrycans among other products were exhibited.

At the end of the long and busy week, it was evident that the event was a success, as participants recounted their experiences and the new things they learnt from the expo. Many are those who wished the expo could have been extended.

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Entrance to the exhibition courtyard at KICC

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Some of the visitors at our stand at KICC

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A general view inside the exhibition courtyard.

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A general view of the exhibition courtyard at KICC.

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Some of the visitors at our stand at KICC

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Some of the visitors at our stand at KICC

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Our technical manager Andrew Ndai explaining a point to some of our visitors.

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Our technical manager Andrew Ndai explaining a point to some of our visitors.

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Our technical manager Andrew Ndai explaining a point to some of our visitors.

With such events it will be easier for us to handle the water challenge in Kenya and the whole of Africa, as people from across the world have different ideas on how to handle water problem.

Africaqua CEO David Kuria makes a special address at the HLM2

Africaqua CEO David Kuria yesterday took to the podium at Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) to make a special address on ways in which governments can encourage and support inclusive business to scale and contribute to the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Kuria was addressing thousands of investors, inventors, parliamentarians, heads of governments, ministers and other stakeholders attending the Second High-Level Meeting (HLM2) at KICC. Africaqua operates on an inclusive business mechanism where local community members who are the end users of our product (safe water) play an active role in the production, packaging, marketing, distribution and consumption of the commodity.

The 3 day meeting aims at amplifying the positive impact of development co-operation over the next 15 years.

Power to Improve Sanitation Standards Lies with us

Sanitation is a major priority in the world development agenda. It is an issue that has been addressed in the sustainable development goals launched in 2015, where the target is to ensure that every Kenyan has access to improved sanitation by 2030.

Toilets have a great role to play in stimulating the economy of a country, improving health standards as well as protecting and upgrading the dignity of people, especially women and girls.

Poor sanitation usually causes stress to women and girls, and this exposes them to more risks as they try to look for places where they can relieve themselves. Some of them have been sexually assaulted, leaving them with deep wounds in their hearts; wounds that are difficult to heal. They have also been exposed to serious health hazards.

The issue of poor sanitation is not only a national disaster, but an international nightmare mainly facing the third world countries. Although governments and Non-Governmental Organizations like World Health Organization are trying to curb the problem, there is a lot that is yet to be done.

Image showing garbage dumped in a river. Photo Credit: Google

Image showing garbage dumped in a river.
Photo Credit: Google

Currently, 2.4 billion people in the world lack improved sanitation, with one out of ten people opting for open defecation due to lack of toilets (World Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF, 2015). The open defecation exercise is a serious issue that has to be challenged by all means possible.

Mostly, people living in unimproved settlements commonly referred to as slums practice open defecation, and this has exposed residents to serious diseases like diarrhea, cholera and others. This has mostly affected children and women.

According to a research by WAS-Hwatch, 2016, diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water kills 315,000 children every year. This is a huge loss, bearing in mind that there are other challenges posing threat to the lives of children and humankind at large.

Poor sanitation also has negative impact on the economy as it reduces the productivity of the people. Those suffering from sanitation related illnesses are unable to work well and this costs countries a lot in terms of medication and also people being unable to engage in any development activities. This costs countries up to 5% of GDP (Hutton 2012)

As we approach the D-Day; November 19, 2016 when the whole world will be marking the World Toilet Day, I only have one hope; that conferences and forums being held all over the world to mark this auspicious occasion will come up with a solution to curb poor sanitation nightmare. We have the resources, we have the skills and we have full potential to ensure that everyone in the world has access to proper sanitation.

David Mwaura, Communications Officer-Africaqua

African cities must confront climate change

Public-private cooperation on a local as well as international level can help African cities play a key role in tackling climate change, argues David Kuria, Eco Ambassador and head of Kenyan social enterprise Africaqua.

Nearly 200 countries will convene in Marrakech on Monday to advance progress made on the Paris Agreement on climate change. The journey from Kyoto to Morocco offers relief, and hopes of a better Africa – and especially sub-Saharan Africa. But these hopes must be accelerated if we are to make sense of a fast-changing African urban landscape.

Africa’s population – currently 1.2 billion – is predicted to double by 2050, and reach 4.2 billion by 2100. Plagued by poverty, political instability, food insecurity and fast-growing, unplanned cities, Africa must be proactive in setting a new narrative.

Africa and its leadership must ask – and attempt to answer – hard questions. Do we mitigate or follow adaptation? Africa still has opportunities for mitigation rather than adaptation. But COP22 must be bold enough to provide solutions that are practical, immediate and realistic.

We have witnessed two decades of lack of substantial action by transnational networks on climate adaptation, poor leadership, little financial allocation for infrastructure system change, and an absence of practical support for fragile urban ecosystems in sub-Sahara Africa.

Last month, another major UN conference outlined some of the challenges the continent faces. The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Ecuador addressed issues of sustainability, and especially the urgent need to change our consumption patterns and implement an ecological approach to urban planning.

The city is an increasingly important site for climate response. While there remains much debate over the exact contribution cities make to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as who and what is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the New Urban Agenda adopted at Habitat III regards urban centers as a vital part of the global response to climate change.

Mathare slum, Nairobi: Africa's huge informal settlements posing special challenges for green urban planning.

Mathare slum, Nairobi: Africa’s huge informal settlements posing special challenges for green urban planning.

In Kenya, our urban ecosystem remains very delicate. A growing urban population, expanding urban slums and a lack of basic services in informal settlements, are a recipe for climate chaos.

In Nairobi, 60 percent of residents live on just 8.7 percent of the city’s land, mostly in informal settlements in the city’s most fragile areas, such as flood plains, steep slopes, river valleys, or adjacent to sewers or dumpsites. As these settlements expand, the quality and quantity of fresh water used for domestic purposes is drastically reduced, and the risk of epidemics rises.

To tackle this challenge and protect the population’s health, we need appropriate laws and practical models that offer solutions by improving governance, reducing waste and ensuring water rights for those living in poverty.

Africaqua is providing just that – piloting collaborative projects to strengthen Kenya’s safe water value chain offers relief to the “last mile” population through innovation in water treatment, packaging, distribution and health monitoring.

A social enterprise model such as this, bringing together government agencies and corporate and civil players, also offers a way forward for urban climate action.

Addressing climate change requires an unprecedented level of cooperation and commitment, not only between countries, but also between different levels of government and the private sector. We must save our cities, and secure a future for the next generation. This cannot wait any longer.

 

David Kuria is a project management PhD researcher and CEO of Africaqua. He is also a 2016 Eco Ambassador for Eco@Africa and 2015 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

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Water crisis cannot be solved through projects creating more problems to people

The term water usually sends cold shivers down the spines of millions of Kenyans whenever it is mentioned, due to the scarcity nature of this natural resource.

Although water scarcity is considered a global challenge, some people especially those living in developing countries where Kenya falls experience total lack of this vital commodity. This is a condition that has forced people to lead miserable lives; always experiencing health problems.

Approximately 17 million Kenyans lack access to safe drinking water, with the majority of them coming from North, North Eastern, some parts of Rift Valley, Eastern as well as coastal regions.  Surprisingly, it has emerged that urban residents also lack access to safe drinking water, Nairobi residents being among the most affected.

People living in informal settlements in Nairobi experience a total water scarcity. This means that they do not have reliable safe water sources. The settlements include Mukuru Kayaba, Kibera, Mathare among others. Proper sanitation in these slums is also a nightmare, adding to the woes of millions of people living in the settlements. People have to brave the harsh conditions that include drinking water from unhygienic sources, eating contaminated foods and sharing rooms with animals like dogs and goats, something that exposes them to serious health hazards.

A child collecting water from a stream full of garbage. Photo credit: Google

A child collecting water from an ill-conditioned tunnel. Photo credit: Google

The people have no one to look up to apart from the governmental, non-governmental organizations and well-wishers. Theirs is a story of broken dreams and lost hopes. They only hope that, one day they will lead a normal life. Their children will go to school just like the other children without spending time in hospitals seeking medications from water related infections and poor sanitation.

These are just a representation of millions of Kenyans who hope that, a long lasting solution we will come together to solve the water scarcity nightmare once and for all. It hurts them when people expected to help them start engaging in unnecessary arguments and politicizing every effort aimed at raising their living standards.

Northern collector tunnel project in Murang’a County is one initiative meant to supply Nairobi residents with water. The tunnel has already opened battle grounds for leaders and politicians. It is very sad that as a nation, we seem to politicize everything, even when our arguments have no grounds.

It is true that Nairobi region is not well served with water and therefore, all efforts to supply the region with water are welcome. The efforts and projects being fronted should meanwhile not be creating more problems to other people. We cannot solve a problem by creating more problems.

The issues being raised by critics of the project are matters of concern and should not be ignored. Experts and professionals from the authorized bodies should come out and advice accordingly. This is the time for politics to take a back seat as professionalism takes control.

As I wind up, my only hope is that Kenyans will be supplied with safe water as this is their right. I also hope that the mechanisms aimed at supplying Kenyans with water will honor the set guidelines and follow the stipulated laws.

 

 

5 Stunning Facts About Clean Water You Must Know

Water is incredibly, astonishingly precious. Water allows us to stay hydrated and quench our thirst. Water allows us to clean our bodies and maintain proper hygiene. Water cleans our toilets and our cars and our windows. Water allows us to relax in swimming pools and clear lakes. Water is an absolutely integral part of our lives.

And yet so often we take clean water for granted. We use lavish, extravagant amounts of water when we bathe our children. We don’t think twice about flushing our toilets once, twice, even three times. We fill a glass with water, take a sip, and then dump the rest out. We buy clean ice in 20 and 30 pound bags. We fill swimming pools with hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. For many of us, water is an abundant resource that we never think twice about.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the goodness of clean water. But as Marcus Samuelsson said:

Clean water and access to food are some of the simplest things that we can take for granted each and every day. In places like Africa, these can be some of the hardest resources to attain if you live in a rural area.

For many people, clean water is not an abundant commodity to be wasted, but a treasure to be chased and hoarded. Many people, especially those in developing countries, go their entire lives without experiencing the joy of clean, abundant water.

At Business Connect, we are passionate about providing citizens of developing countries with affordable access to clean water. In order to do that, we need to first help people understand just how large a problem access to clean water really is.

As the World Health Organization says:

In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

So, with that in mind, here are 5 facts about clean water throughout the world. We encourage you to ponder these facts and consider how you might be part of the solution.

Water Fact #1 – Approximately 1.1 Billion People (1 in 10) Lack Access To Safe Water

An astonishing 10% of the world’s population lacks access to clean, safe water. The World Health Organization and UNICEF define safe drinking water in the following way:

  • Drinking water is water used for basic household purposes, such as drinking, cooking and personal hygiene;
  • Access to drinking water means that the water source is close (less than 1 KM away) and a person can reliably secure at least 20 liters of water per day for each household member.
  • Safe drinking water is water that is in alignment with WHO guidelines or national standards on drinking water quality, including microbial, chemical and physical characteristics.
  • Access to safe drinking water is the proportion of people in a given population using improved drinking water sources such as a household connection, standpipe, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring, or rainwater.

Water Fact #2: The damage and suffering caused by unsafe water is massive

Approximately 2.6 billion people (half the developing world) lack access to an improved latrine, and 1.1 billion people lack access to an improved water source.

The damage caused by unclean water is absolutely catastrophic. Every year:

  • 1 million people, mostly under the age of 5, die from diarrhoeal diseases directly attributable to unclean, unsafe water. Almost all these deaths occur in developing countries.
  • 160 million people are infected with schistosomiasis. 500 million are at risk for trachoma, which in turn puts 146 million people at risk for blindness.
  • 133 million people suffer from intestinal helminths (ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection) caused by unsafe drinking water.
  • 300 to 500 million people are afflicted with malaria, which is caused by mosquitos. Mosquitoes typically breed in standing, stagnant water. Approximately 1 million children die every year from malaria.
  • 12 million people are infected with typhoid, which causes headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite. Typhoid is typically caused by ingesting water filled with bacteria.

Clearly, unsafe, unclean drinking water is causing massive damage on a global scale, affecting hundreds of millions of people and causing untold suffering.

Clean water is the only way to prevent the water borne diseases that afflict so many people in the developing world. Without clean water, adults and children are forced to drink and bathe in water that is riddled with bacteria and parasites.

Additionally, clean water is crucial to preventing infections and sickness in those with AIDS/HIV. Those infected have depressed immune systems, which in turn leads to more health problems.

Water Fact #3 – The primary populations without access to clean water are found in

                                                      Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are the most affected by the unclean drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, the top 5 areas for unsafe water are:

Sub Saharan Africa – 319 million people

– Southern Asia – 134 million people

– Eastern Asia – 65 million people

– South Eastern Asia – 61 million people

– All other regions – 84 million people

Consider the following troubling situations.

Only 13% of Afghanistan has access to clean water. There are some areas in Afghanistan where water is scarce as a resource, but for the most part, the problem is caused by inadequate infrastructure. With the country in turmoil from war, clean water is desperately needed.

Only 11% of the population in Ethiopia has access to clean sanitation. As a result, the country has a frightening infant mortality rate (77 out of 1,000), significant health problems, and poor education. The task of securing water falls primarily on women and children, who must trek exceedingly long distances to find water.

In Cambodia, 84% of the population does not have access to clean water or sanitation. Even though monsoons often dump massive amounts of water, this water is quickly contaminated due to poor infrastructure and a lack of proper technology. Until the country has access to clean water, the population will continue to rely on rainwater for their water supply, even though it is not safe or clean.

In Haiti, 20% of the population does not have access to a clean toilet and 50% of people lack access to clean water. The massive earthquake in 2010, in conjunction with soil erosion and a lack of water treatment facilities, has caused an ongoing water crisis.

The point is simply this: the residents of these areas must constantly contend with the challenge of finding clean drinking water. They cannot simply stop drinking water.

Water Fact #4 – Children are hardest hit by unclean water

One of the saddest realities of unsafe, unclean water is that children are hit the hardest. UNICEF estimates that approximately 1,000 children die every day due to diarrhea diseases, most of which could be prevented simply through access to clean water. A child dies every 90 seconds from a water-related disease.

Diarrhea, which is easily preventable with clean water, is the 3rd leading cause of child death, a majority of which are water-related.

Some 161 million children suffer from stunting, or chronic malnutrition, much of which is directly tied to unsafe, unclean drinking water.

Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme, says:

If 90 school buses filled with kindergartners were to crash every day, with no survivors, the world would take notice. But this is precisely what happens every single day because of poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

Every day, women and children spend approximately 125 million hours gathering water. This burden typically falls heaviest on women and girls, who spend up to 6 hours per day trying to find water for their families.

In Asia and Africa, women and children walk approximately 3.7 miles per day just to locate water.

 Water Fact #5 – Progress is occurring…slowly

Now for some good news: progress is being made in giving more people access to clean drinking water. Since 1990, 2.6 billion people have been given access to clean water, raising the global percentage to 91%. And, thankfully, that number is still growing every year. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa (one of the worst areas for unclean water), 427 million have gained access to clean water since 1990.

There has also been progress in decreasing the number of children hurt by unsafe water. The number of children dying every day from diarrhoeal diseases has been cut in half over the past 15 years, from 2,000 to 1,000.

Unfortunately, the model for progress starts with the wealthiest people first. As Sanjay Wijesekera says:

What the data really show is the need to focus on inequalities as the only way to achieve sustainable progress. The global model so far has been that the wealthiest move ahead first, and only when they have access do the poorest start catching up. If we are to reach universal access to sanitation by 2030, we need to ensure the poorest start making progress right away.

Additionally, many countries still accept, and even encourage behaviors that contaminate drinking water, such as open defecation. Furthermore, those in rural areas (7 out of 10) tend to have less access to clean water compared to those in urban areas (9 out of 10).

Yes, progress is being made, and we should be thankful for that progress. But it is also crucial that we continue to push forward clean water initiatives.

Conclusion

Clean water is both an essential human right and essential for life. Those with access to clean, safe water have markedly improved lives compared to those who don’t. The water problems in Flint, Michigan have given us in the United States a tiny glimpse into the everyday struggles so many face.

Manoj Bhargava said:

People with water-borne diseases occupy more than 50% of hospital beds across the world. Does the answer lie in building more hospitals? Really, what is needed is to give them clean water.

Our mission at Business Connect is to, “…give hope to the impoverished by creating employment, in the marketing of life enhancing products, within a business model that is sustainable and environmentally balanced.”

One of the ways we do that is by helping people gain access to clean water.

Women Empowerment Through Water

A huge number of individuals live in abject poverty due to absence of clean water sources. Regularly, the water sources that are accessible are dirtied and are found exceptionally far away. In developing nations, the task of water collection tumbles on women and young ladies.

Frequently, the women and young ladies put in hours a day flying out to gather water to address their family’s issues. As this assignment is so tedious, they are frequently not able to complete their training, concentrate on local obligations and find other openings for work. Having admittance to spotless, close-by water sources engages ladies to enhance their fates and to bring their families and groups out of neediness.

Education enables ladies to enhance their prospects and the eventual fate of their communities. As per The World Bank, young ladies’ education is fundamental in “the lessening of child and maternal mortality, change of child sustenance and wellbeing … upgrade of ladies’ residential part and… change of the monetary efficiency and development… “.Many young ladies don’t have time for learning since they are expected to gather water day by day for their family’s ordinary needs. Having a nearby water supply enables them to spare time for studying.

Programs like the One Safe Drop Initiative by Africaqua that integrates high-end technological innovations in the water value chain to convey safe drinking water nearer to people living in arid and semi-arid areas have done a lot of favors to women and ladies. They do not need to go for a considerable length of time a day to gather the water for their families. They have more opportunity to take a shot at their learning to enhance prospects for their fates and that of their families and communities.

With nearer water supplies, ladies have additional time in the residential setting. While at home, the additional time allows them to better deal with their families and to enhance the general wellbeing and sustenance of their families. With enhanced wellbeing, these families can cooperate to build up their communities and enhance their prospects and enhance the lives of future generations.

With the additional time, ladies are given more room to work outside home to acquire additional salary for their families. This additional wage can be utilized to enhance their lives and those of their families by giving them better money related access to medical services, training, and nourishment.

Africaqua is engaging ladies in its water value chain by making sure that they actively participate in the production, marketing and distribution of safe drinking water. This is enabling them to participate in the economic development of the country as they also alleviate poverty among themselves and community at large. This will make them feel as part of a larger society.