The resilience perspective needed to overcome water, sanitation and hygiene challenges

2022 / 8 / 1 | Author: enw_editor

One in four people — 2 billion globally — do not have access to safe drinking water. Meanwhile, 2.3 billion do not have basic handwashing facilities in their home, and 494 million practice open defecation (using bushes or other open spaces due to a lack of toilets in the home or neighborhood). (Source)

UNICEF is working to solve these issues related to water, sanitation and hygiene, referred to as WASH, and provides updates on their progress in annual reports.

The link between resilience and WASH

In their 2021 report summarizing results in the East Asia and Pacific region, the section heading “Climate-resilient WASH” caught my attention.

This region, which UNICEF is committed to, is one of the most disaster-prone areas of the world. The region’s vulnerability to disasters is addressed in the IPCC’s latest report and is illustrated by actual data. According to a report analyzing global disaster statistics, in 2021, 40% of all droughts, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and other disasters took place in Asia. The region also accounted for 49% of all casualties and 66% of those injured in such events. We can expect that the frequency and severity of these disasters will only intensify with the progression of the climate emergency.

How to make WASH more resilient

The sanitation challenges will only persist if the handwashing facilities, toilets and other sanitation infrastructure that are installed to remedy local WASH issues become unusable due to the impacts of disasters and the climate crisis. UNICEF has established three benchmarks to implement a more climate-resilient WASH program:

(i) climate-resilient WASH services
(ii) climate-resilient communities
(iii) use of renewable energy

As an example of this work, in Cambodia, flood risk mapping based on GIS software and historical flood data was used to identify at-risk areas and communities. In addition, with UNICEF’s aid, safe drinking water stations were installed to help minimize dependency on water sources susceptible to contamination during flood events (implementation of climate-resilient WASH services).

In Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu and other island nations, UNICEF helped strengthen the capacity of communities to assess risks and manage their drinking water safety to help them prepare for future impacts of the climate crisis (creation of climate-resilient communities).

In Myanmar, 18 communities were equipped with solar-powered water pumps (use of renewable energy).

The future of climate-resilient WASH

Currently, UNICEF is backing the development of a Climate Smart WASH Technology Catalog with Modeling that will allow people to identify solutions appropriate for the conditions of their countries and regions. In addition to technical specifications, the catalog will include information about the greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency associated with each solution. I can’t wait to see what kinds of solutions will be outlined and how those solutions will improve the state of global WASH.

Minami Tateyama (Author), Translation by Melody Poland


Photo by Gyan Shahane on Unsplash