We Are Water Foundation


We Are Water Blog

2014 December 12
  • To celebrate World Toilet Day, the We Are Water Foundation organised a series of debates in different countries with the aim of raising awareness and making the public think about the lack of basic sanitation in 2/5 of the world.
  • The lack of access to basic adequate sanitation… is a problem of dignity”. Statement made by the Director of the We Are Water Foundation, Xavier Torras, during the live interview for the Noticias Cuatro television programme. (see video)
  • 2.5 billion people do not have access to a dignified toilet according to data from the UN. Inadequate sanitation causes 80% of diseases in developing countries.
  • Every 20 seconds a child dies because of insufficient sanitation and a total of 1.8 million people lose their lives each year for causes related to diarrheic diseases. Safe access to water, sanitation and adequate hygiene could save the lives of 1.5 million children each year.
  • Theme of World Toilet Day 2014: end open defecation through equality and dignity.
Suitable and dignified sanitation for all

Approaching the global challenge of providing basic sanitation for all has been the aim of the We Are Water Foundation when organizing several international meetings under the name of World Toilet Day. Improving sanitation #nopodemosesperar #wecantwait. The action took place on the 19 November, to celebrate World Toilet Day.

World Toilet Day

These meetings, in the format of round table discussions of an international nature, were held in the Roca Galleries in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, London and Shanghai. They respond to the foundation’s desire to provide a reflection regarding the problem from different angles and perspectives. So taking part were representatives of the We Are Water Foundation, heads of cooperation bodies, such as UNICEF, architects and designers, specialists in sustainability and diverse collaborators of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge project, of the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation.

We should be aware that on the planet we are some 7 billion people, of which 2.5 billion to not have access to dignified sanitation. For the more developed societies such as ours, in which we have a drainage system and marvellous toilets and baths, there is no problem; but we think that for the majority of societies this is not the case; what this generates is a series of massive problems.

With these words the director of the Foundation, Xavier Torras, opened the round table discussion in the Roca Barcelona Gallery, and he expressly stressed the complex problem of lack of basic sanitation the proportions of which acquire an alarming dimension regarding the future of our society.

All the speakers of the discussions agreed that the problem is complex and the solution must be holistic and transversal between professionals, organisms, experts from the cooperation world, and the private and public sector; without this change of mentality it is very difficult to fulfil the millennium goals.

Despite the fact that in 2005, for the UN in its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), access to sanitation constituted one of the problems to progress on, we are approaching 2015 and we have progressed in questions such as hunger or water and, although we have ensured that 600 million more people have access to drinking water, we have hardly moved forward at all in questions of adequate sanitation.

The work undertaken on the sanitation chain must be holistic, and the research programmes must also be focused from a global point of view. It is not just about installing toilets, but is a matter of prime importance at a world level.

Everyone coincided in that the problem is greater than people are aware of and also the solution: “habits must change, providing educational tools for empowerment and good hygiene practices; as well as providing infrastructures adapted to the specific setting and achieving good administration in the places where the problem exists”.

World Toilet Day

From a multidisciplinary viewpoint, this group of experts from different areas and specialities in sustainability argue for adequate sanitation as the key for eradicating poverty and for having a dignified life.

During their talks, the experts coincided in that the main victims of a lack of adequate and dignified sanitation are children. Every 20 seconds a child dies due to insufficient sanitation, and a total of 1.8 million people lose their lives due to causes related to diarrheic diseases; and, paradoxically, all this at a time in which there are more people in the world with a mobile phone than with a toilet. Adequate sanitation would avoid 391 million cases of diarrheic diseases every year and reduce by 32% the number of deaths caused by this in the world: “Unfortunately children are the main victims, the most affected and they have rights; it is not just the responsibility of the families, but the states must also take on these commitments for change”.

World Toilet Day 2014 also dealt with one of the major concerns: equality and dignity. Today open air defecation affects 1 billion people; and the lack of privacy that involves means that thousands of girls and women are exposed to risks such as attacks and sexual abuse.

Additionally, during the discussions an example of toilet was shown developed by the team at Roca and RTI International as the result of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge programme with which Roca and the We Are Water Foundation collaborate.

Within the framework of this day, the Foundation also promoted awareness-raising actions in India, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The commitment of the We Are Water Foundation

With these initiatives, the Foundation reaffirms its commitment when raising awareness in all sectors of society before the necessity to create a new water culture, which enables us to progress in the imminent improvement of dignified sanitation and to alleviate the negative effects of the lack of hydric resources.


Today, the We Are Water Foundation undertakes projects in collaboration with, among others, World Vision in the rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems in the zone affected by the Haiyan typhoon (Philippines); as well as with UNICEF in the improvement of sanitation and hygiene in primary schools in Zagora (Morocco) and in Guarani communities and schools in Chaco-Chuquisaqueño (Bolivia).

World toilet Day 2014

The General Assembly of the UN adopted the resolution in July 2013, designating the 19 November as World Toilet Day.

Equality and dignity is the theme for World Toilet Day 2014. The campaign aims to end open defecation as well as underlining how access to better sanitation services lead to a reduction in harassment and violence against women and girls.

Basic sanitation is improved sanitation; installations that ensure a hygienic separation of faeces from human contact.

This category includes:

- Toilets or latrines that pour into a drainage system, a septic tank or a simple well tank

- Black well improved with ventilation

- Black well with slab

- Dry toilet system

About the We Are Water Foundation

The We Are Water Foundation, promoted by the Roca company, has as objectives, on the one hand, to raise awareness amongst the general public and the administrations about the need to promote a new culture of water and, on the other hand, relieve the negative effects related to the lack of hydric resources, through the development of cooperation and aid programmes alongside diverse organisations such as Education without Frontiers, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Intermón Oxfam and UNICEF.

2014 December 9
  • The UN predicts that in 2050 more than six billion people will be living in urban areas and will be faced with difficult challenges of governance, social equality, resilience, finances, sustainability and water management.
  • “Cities for all” was the slogan of the XI Metropolis World Congress, the grand world reference forum in sustainable urban development.
  • "The question of water will be the true challenge for the future in the Post2015 process”, pointed out Carlos Garriga, Project Manager of the We Are Water Foundation, during his speech at the water management session.
Facing the challenge of water in the big city of the future

Development with equality in Indian cities will depend to a large extent on the assignation of resources and the ingenuity of their poorest inhabitants. This would lead to more sustainable models of urban development that cities all over the world could follow”. These words of Somesh Kumar, director of the XI Metropolis World Congress, held in Hyderabad from the 6th to 10th of October 2014, although focused on the problems of India, synthesised the international concern and a proposal for a roadmap to work towards the large city of the future.

The city of Hyderabad, India, became for the first time the host of the Metropolis World Congress which held its eleventh congress this year. The Congress is an urban forum that has become the grand international benchmark regarding the problems of development of large cities. This year’s congress brought together more than 2,000 heads of decision-making bodies and experts in the sphere of sustainable urban development, both from India and the rest of the world.

Reto del agua

More than 250 speakers and 1,800 registered delegates demonstrated the size of this year’s event, which had the slogan of “Cities for all”. The debates revolved around the subjects of smart cities, metropolitan governance, sports and culture, the role and development of companies in cities, sustainability, achieving homes, empowerment of youth, financing cities and perspectives for cities in India. Special emphasis was given to the question of water and its projection in the Post2015 Development Agenda of the UN.

A challenge for 6 billion people in 2050

The cities are becoming the epicentres of human development, growth and sustainability. The concentration of the population of the major cities is a reality that is increasing year after year and points to an unprecedented transformation in the history of humanity. According to the UN, today more than half the world population lives in cities and the forecast is that in 2050 more than 6 billion people will be living in urban areas. The most concerning factor is that the majority of them will be doing so in the less developed regions of the planet.

Cities afford the opportunities for social equality, economic growth and innovation; nevertheless, there is little preparation, both locally and globally, to face the major urban challenges that we and future generations are presented with in the context of climate change. It was clearly stated at the Congress that one of the major challenges for leaders and interest groups of the cities is precisely the management of this massive urban growth with comparison in history.

All this obliges all the interest groups of the cities, from the leaders to the users, to begin to adopt inclusive, innovative and integrating solutions for the cities and their metropolitan regions. It was the essence of the slogan “Cities for all”.

The need for open dialogue for a democratic city

In the debates it was made patently clear of the need for dialogue and the creation of open forums, with special attention to social inclusion, governance, alliances and cities of the regions in development. The governing and non-governmental bodies dedicated to development, as well as the policymakers, emphasised the need to redefine urban finances with attention to the local financial resources in areas of sustainability throughout any type of project.

The importance of the participation of young people and women in the decision-making processes of the cities was a common message in all the groups consulted. Above all, there was consensus regarding the concept that “Cities for all” must adopt and demonstrate the fundamental values of democracy in our cities: equality, participation, freedom and commitment.

Water as a factor of change

The management of water in these large urban conglomerations is one of the main problems that the experts are faced with, since it does not depend only on the management of the urban sanitation system, but also the serious hydric crisis that the planet is faced with in an immediate future.

Reto del agua

In his speech on this forum, Carlos Garriga, Project Manager of the We Are Water Foundation, focused on the situation of water in the world and the goals of the Post2015 Agenda of UN Water. Garriga emphasised that the problem of water on a global scale had a repercussion on the cities, increasing the pressure on them, and explained the situation and problem of water in India, where the Foundation has collaborated in recent years with the Vicente Ferrer Foundation. Garriga highlighted that: "The subject of water will be the true challenge of the future in the Post2015 process".

About the We Are Water Foundation

The We Are Water Foundation, promoted by the Roca company, has as objectives, on the one hand, to raise awareness amongst the general public and the administrations about the need to promote a new culture of water and, on the other hand, relieve the negative effects related to the lack of hydric resources, through the development of cooperation and aid programmes alongside diverse organisations such as Education without Frontiers, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Intermón Oxfam and UNICEF.

2014 October 21
  • New project of the We Are Water Foundation to continue helping those affected in the Philippines.
  • Rehabilitating the water and sanitation systems is vital for the families with fewer resources.
  • The project will provide access to drinking water to 4,500 people.
More help for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan

The consequences of Typhoon Haiyan have left serious deficiencies in water and sanitation in the Philippines. The We Are Water Foundation is developing a new project jointly with the World Vision International Foundation to provide safe access to drinking water for the families most in need from the province of Leyte.

Afectados tifón Haiyan

The consequences of an unprecedented disaster

The disaster of Typhoon Haiyan, which last November devastated the provinces of Samar and Leyte, affected 14.1 million people, caused more than 6,200 deaths and 4.1 million people displaced. Currently, more than ten months after the tragedy, thousands of people are still missing and, according to the El País newspaper, losses are valued at an estimated 14 billion dollars.

As is usual in this type of disaster, the poorest are always the most affected, above all due to their reduced capacity for recovery. The Eastern Visayas, which the province of Leyte belongs to, was already the most depressed region of the Philippines before the typhoon passed, with 37% of the population living below the poverty line. In the case of Haiyan, 2.6 million homes and 5.9 million children have been left even poorer than they were and without resources to even survive in a dignified way. Just as UNICEF pointed out, the scope of the destruction caused is unprecedented and very difficult to take in. (See newsletter of the 13 December 2013)

Since then, thanks to international aid and the admirable resilience of the Philippine people, the area has been slowly recovering and, as often occurs in this type of devastation, safe access to water is one of the most serious problems, mainly due to the difficulty of restoring the necessary sanitation installations.

Afectados tifón Haiyan

Another factor to consider is the extreme vulnerability of the area affected. An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. If a heavy storm hit the province of Leyte again, the consequences would be much more serious for the already depleted resources of its inhabitants.

The new project: safe access to water for 800 families

One of the immediate and long-term consequences of Typhoon Haiyan has been the destruction of the community water systems, which has obliged the population to use contaminated sources, reduce water consumption and depending on external aid.

The We Are Water Foundation responded actively in the first stage of dealing with the emergency, immediately after hearing of the disaster. In collaboration with the World Vision Foundation it initiated a project with the aim of providing water drums for the most affected, a fundamental element for collecting water and purifying it. (See the first project with the World Vision Foundation)

In the current stage of reconstruction, the priority is to rehabilitate the water supply systems, supervise the quality and treat it. The new project, Rehabilitation of Water Systems and Sanitation in the Area Affected by Typhoon Haiyan, represents the continuity in the aid initiated by the Foundation.

Afectados tifón Haiyan

The goal of the project is rehabilitate eight community water systems, six level 1 (which comprises 4 or 5 wells, rainwater collectors or springs, supplied with a manual pump); and two level 2 (community taps connected by pipes to a deposit and a source of water with more flow).

This will enable access to drinking water to 4,500 people (900 families), which will have a direct impact on their state of health on having safe water for drinking and cooking, which in turn will enable a reduction in the effect of diseases linked to the ingestion of contaminated water. Indirectly, due to the impact on the conditions of health in the towns involved, another 3,000 people will benefit from hygiene and environmental care measures, which will also result in a better state of health.

The project will give priority to families in which one of its members is disabled, where there are pregnant women and/children aged below five, single-parent families or responsible for a minor, and the displaced.

The importance of the sustainability of the systems

The project deals with water safety plans with the eight water and sanitation committees chosen by the beneficiaries and made up of members of the community. These will organise and prepare in the communities, using a strategy of risk management to ensure the drinkable water can be achieved and improved sustainably.

This involvement of the population affected in the planning and execution of the actions of the project will encourage the communities to be responsible for the reconstructed water systems. All the systems will be transferred to the users, along with the details and specifications required for the know-how, good practice and maintenance.

Afectados tifón Haiyan

Complementarily, awareness-raising courses will be given about hygiene and environmental care to change the habits that put health at risk. This training will be done with proven methods, adapted to the culture and capacities of the beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries will be involved so that they participate in the planning and execution of the project, and will ensure that the community feedback mechanisms already existing function correctly. All the above is also key to providing the maximum sustainability of the actions.

As a result of all this, 900 families from Leyte will be able to have a better quality of life, the children make the most of the education they get in school and the adults embark on a productive activity that will lead them to a more dignified life.

About the We Are Water Foundation

The We Are Water Foundation, promoted by the Roca company, has as objectives, on the one hand, to raise awareness amongst the general public and the administrations about the need to promote a new culture of water and, on the other hand, relieve the negative effects related to the lack of hydric resources, through the development of cooperation and aid programmes alongside diverse organisations such as Education without Frontiers, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Intermón Oxfam and UNICEF.

2014 October 9
  • A new project of the We Are Water Foundation with UNICEF to create secure learning environments.
  • More than 17,000 children and 32,000 people would benefit from improvement in water, sanitation and hygiene in the region of Zagora.
  • Children and teachers will become agents of dynamic change in safeguarding and promoting improved services.
Support for the WinS programme in Morocco

Programa WinS

The WinS (WASH in Schools) call to action programme is one of the priorities of both the We Are Water Foundation and UNICEF to provide support to childhood. WASH is an acronym of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, the programme of the United Nations agency that works directly on the serious problem that the lack of drinking water and suitable sanitation causes for children in the most disadvantaged parts of the world. The application of the WASH programme in schools helps save the lives of many children threatened by diarrhoea and other infectious diseases due to the bad state of the water and greatly improves school attendance. In this sense, the availability of separate toilets for boys and girls, with suitable sanitation, is especially advantageous for girls since it provides them with the appropriate privacy, and is one of the most efficient supports to eradicate the blot of school absenteeism among them.

The situation in the schools of Zagora

This is basically the sphere of action of the new Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Morrocan primary schools  programme that the We Are Water Foundation is developing with UNICEF. The Moroccan region of Souss Massa Dra is in the south of the High Atlas, and Zagora is the largest of its provinces, with 22,215 km2 of land and 285,000 inhabitants who live mainly in the rural half. Its relief, made up of valleys and mountains, offers great contrasts between acacia woods and the desert plains and plateaus.

Programa WinS 1

Its economy is based on agriculture and access to water and suitable sanitation is scarce throughout the province. Moreover, as often occurs in these cases, education about water management and sanitation is practically inexistent, as is the culture of hygiene in the schools, which on the other hand offers very limited access to disabled children. All this has a bearing on the increase in water-related diseases, as occurs in the towns of Ait Ouallal, Agdez and Tamezmoute, some of the most affected in the region.

The area therefore clearly needs integral support external to the WinS programme in order to supply teams and maintenance services in the schools, as well as creating the educational base to favour changes in behaviour relating to hygiene.

More than 32,000 beneficiaries

The project is based specifically on improving installations of water, sanitation and hygiene, and contributes to the creation of a safe setting in the 19 primary schools set as the target, of which four are in Ait Ouallal, five in Agdez and ten in Tamezmoute.

Programa WinS 2

The separation of the toilets by gender, one of the essential features of the improvements, helps girls and boys to use them more and in a better way, and their location in controlled spots and with suitable sanitation avoids contaminating the land of the school, its resources and the water sources, which are very precarious throughout the area. The project also includes the safe and hygienic storage of food, improvement in the installations for preparing and eating it, and the waste elimination system.

The direct beneficiaries of this project, which will be undertaken until the end of 2016, will be the boys and girls from the 19 primary schools involved, as well as their teachers and educational staff, more than 4,100 people; whereas the indirect beneficiaries extends to the whole community and surpasses 32,000 (more than 7,500 women and almost 18,000 children aged under 15), thanks to the sensitizing plan in water management and sanitation, and raising awareness about the importance of hygiene habits in the entire community.

Pupils and teachers, agents of change towards a safe and sustainable school environment

Parallel to the improvement in access to water and sanitation, the project influences, in a very special way, in raising the consciousness about the best practices for water, sanitation and hygiene among the pupils, teachers and representatives of the community in the towns. The whole community clearly benefits.

The pupils of the 19 schools in the project are the main protagonists in its realisation. On the one hand, they take part in the decisions that are taken, will advise on the preparation of communication aids about hygiene habits and in the very mechanisms of school governance. On the other hand, they take part in the monitoring and evaluation of the project’s activities, as well as in the good management of the infrastructures created.

The school thus becomes a centre of community knowledge about good practices in water management, sanitation and hygiene. On transporting this praxis to their homes and local governments, the children and teachers become agents of change and thus guarantee the sustainability of the installations and the future promotion of knowledge regarding management and hygiene.

In this sense, the We Are Water Foundation and UNICEF place special emphasis on community participation being present in the whole cycle of the project from the diagnosis of the problems to the evaluation of the solutions. The hygiene promotion materials will be produced in the languages of the beneficiary populations, and will be accessible for people with different levels of training and education. On the other hand, the involvement of the local authorities guarantees a development plan, human and technical resources, and funding in order to respond to the priorities identified in the community.

About the We Are Water Foundation

The We Are Water Foundation, promoted by the Roca company, has as objectives, on the one hand, to raise awareness amongst the general public and the administrations about the need to promote a new culture of water and, on the other hand, relieve the negative effects related to the lack of hydric resources, through the development of cooperation and aid programmes alongside diverse organisations such as Education without Frontiers, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Intermón Oxfam and UNICEF.

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