Violence and the climate crisis have already displaced 100 million people worldwide. The meeting "Sanitation in Conflict," which we organized with World Vision, UNICEF, and UNHCR on World Toilet Day, revealed little-known aspects of a humanitarian crisis that is spreading and that, in many cases, we tend to forget.
In a new project in Malawi, we address menstrual hygiene and education in schools as a comprehensive and irreplaceable element of any approach to access to water and sanitation. Beyond clean water and safe latrines, school children need dedicated facilities, access to supplies, teacher training, and cultural changes among the children, their parents, and the rest of the community. Only then can we talk about complete sanitation.
Small-scale rainwater harvesting enables many families to drink, cook and wash when supplies fail. It is an increasingly useful resource when aquifers are polluted or depleted, and a tool for adapting to climate change in many dry and depressed areas.
India is the world’s largest groundwater extractor. The country is home to 16% of the world’s population but has only 4% of the planet’s freshwater resources. Many of its aquifers are overexploited. The solutions lie in promoting efficiency in local water management. This will only be possible if communities are involved in solutions and if they acquire knowledge and governance rights. A role model for dryland agriculture.
The Sahrawi refugees who have been living in the Algerian desert for 46 years continue to face an uncertain future. The Spanish government’s recent policy shift has rescued one of the world’s longest-running humanitarian crises from oblivion. The short 22nd of April by Cesare Maglioni, finalist at the We Art Water Film Festival 5, shows how difficult it is to wash one’s hands in Smara, one of the five camps that host them, where a daily struggle for water, malnutrition, and hygiene is fought.
The climate crisis is creating severe problems in Cameroon. Desertification and floods generate thousands of displaced people every year who end up in cities unable to provide drinking water for all. The short film Mami Wata, a micro-documentary finalist at the We Art Water Film Festival 5, provides a testimony of the vulnerability of millions of Cameroonians who survive in one of the most water-deficient African countries.
The terms describing hygiene facilities are simpler than those for access to water and sanitation; they refer to the existence or lack of handwashing facilities and the availability of clean water and soap. Covid-19 has increased the value of these practices, which are fundamental to human health and dignity, and inaccessible to more than 2.27 billion people.
A new refugee aid project in Rwanda reminds us of the helplessness of those fleeing the almost silent wars and conflicts that continue to sow destruction and death. Most of them barely get by in camps with inadequate food, water, sanitation, and hygiene, but the worst thing for their lives and dignity is that their tragedy falls into oblivion.
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