World Toilet Day Highlights ‘Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change’

Tomorrow we celebrate World Toilet Day, a reminder to take action to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030. World Toilet Day is an official United Nations international observance day occurring annually on November 19.

This year’s theme is “Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change” in recognition of the fact flood, drought, and rising sea levels threaten sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. For instance, floodwater can damage toilets and spread human waste into water supplies, food crops and people’s homes. These incidents, which are becoming more frequent as climate change worsens, cause public health emergencies and degrade the environment.

World Toilet Day also brings attention to the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. Instead they often use unreliable, inadequate toilets or defecate in the open — in the streets, in the bushes and by rivers and other water sources — contaminating the water and soil that sustain human life. The crisis is most severe in parts of Africa and Asia facing extreme poverty and and a population boom.

Untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases. Sustainable sanitation systems, combined with the facilities and knowledge to practice good hygiene, are a strong defense against COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks.

For more information on this annual event occurring on November 19, visit the World Toilet Day website.

New World Bank Portal Provides Curated List of Water Data

The World Bank recently launched the World Bank Water Data Portal offering a curated list of water data from the World Bank and other sources and institutions. Previously the World Bank’s Open Data Initiative provided free, open access to the Bank’s development data but not in one place combined with outside data sources. Users can search by:

  • Country for specific national goals
  • Regional level for big-picture view
  • According to three pillars: water resources, delivering services, and building resilience

Created with support from the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), the new portal includes sourcing from World Bank-funded initiatives such as the International Benchmarking Network for Water and Sanitation Utilities (IBNET), the Rural Water and Sanitation Information System (SIASAR) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and supplementing that with dozens of quality data sources such as the OECD, the UN, World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and a number of governments.

The portal is aimed at client countries in need of data to help tackle some common development challenges as well as the World Bank and the broader development community to ensure insights and evidence from global research and analytics is widely shared and used in the field.

For additional information, please visit the World Bank Water Data Portal and/or watch this video the World Bank created about the new portal below.

ASPIRED Interns Learn About Sustainable Management of Armenia’s Groundwater Resources

In December 2019, two graduate students from the Yerevan State University, Department of Geography and Geology began their internship at the USAID-funded Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) Project. During a ten-month internship, Inga Siradeghyan and Nara Mnatsakanyan successfully completed multiple tasks aimed at sustainable management of groundwater resources in the Ararat Valley of Armenia. The tasks were quite technical and complex, and they were carried out under the continuous mentorship and supervision of the ASPIRED staff.

Inga Siradeghyan

Practical application of knowledge is the key to becoming a good professional…

Since I was a student, I dreamed of obtaining a Master’s degree to deepen my professional knowledge and pave my way for a future career. My Master’s thesis was about modeling and assessment of the level of danger of avalanches in the Zangezur Mountain Range of the Syunik region of Armenia. The topic was not easy, requiring advanced tools and skills for their targeted application. This is where the opportunity with the ASPIRED Project internship came to help.

After joining the USAID ASPIRED Project, a new horizon opened for me. As an intern, I came to understand the practical aspects of my profession and learned to effectively use my capacities and skills for the achievement of specific professional goals and tasks.

I applied the innovative approaches and tools introduced by ASPIRED for water resources management, to conduct the studies for my thesis, particularly the ArcGIS (Geographic Information System) and the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) analytical method. Working in the ArcGIS environment I developed the skills and experience of using practical tools, which were later applied to model avalanche-prone areas of the Zangezur Mountain Range and assess the risks of danger. Thus, the new skills I acquired can be used to conduct thorough analyses, both strategic and economic, and propose sound solutions to existing issues in different sectors. I am sure that this knowledge will help me, as a beginner, to be competitive in the labor market.

In addition, while working on the ASPIRED Project, I acquired a number of other skills that served as a cornerstone for my current work: the compilation and organization of databases, and the analysis of temporal and spatial datasets within ArcGIS.”

Since July, right after completing the ASPIRED internship, Inga started a new position as assistant to an expert at the “Community Consolidation and Support Center” NGO based in her hometown of Alaverdi. Together with her colleagues, Inga works on identification and analysis of various issues in the communities of the Lori region of Armenia, raising cases of human rights violations, and providing advice and support, while applying the knowledge and experience gained under ASPIRED.

At the end of our conversation Inga mentioned: “Apart from everything else, I would like to emphasize that during my internship with the ASPIRED Project, I learned to work with a professional team, acquire knowledge, listen to and learn from them, and grow professionally and personally. I consider this an important gain to serve as an effective member of the team and be part of an important program.

Nara Mnatsakanyan

My final thesis was “Real estate transactions in medieval Armenia,” linked to a prototype of the cadastral system and transactions in medieval Armenia. Obviously, this was a complex topic that required reliable data, identification of potential sources, and extensive data analysis.

Based on the modeling experience gained during my internship in the ASPIRED Project, I developed a large database for my final thesis. Apart from this, I often applied this practical knowledge to develop and design thematic maps.

The knowledge gained during my internship encouraged me to enroll in a business project and I am hopeful of success. No doubt, the ASPIRED internship was a great experience for a beginner to make her first professional steps. It was a great learning opportunity for a GIS analyst.”

At present, Nara is working at the Ijevan Branch of Yerevan State University, teaching information systems analysis using GIS.

My vision of my career and future are linked to GIS analyses. It is hard to explain, but I love my job and I yearn to improve my skills further in this field.

Why Global Handwashing Day is More Important Now Than Ever

On Global Handwashing Day, USAID is reminding people that handwashing is more important than ever during a pandemic that could be stemmed, in part, by everyone taking hand hygiene seriously.

“Hand Hygiene for All” is the theme of this year’s Global Handwashing Day, following a recent World Health Organization initiative calling for improved hand hygiene. Formerly called “Public Private Partnership for Handwashing” (PPPHW), Global Handwashing Day was established in 2008 as an annual observance on October 15 as a way to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times during the day to prevent disease.

Among the ways USAID is marking annual observance this year during the COVID-19 pandemic is a podcast from Global Waters Radio featuring USAID water, sanitation, and hygiene experts: USAID/Indonesia’s Trigeany Linggoatmodjo and USAID/South Sudan’s Amuda Joseph. They discuss ways USAID has been elevating the role of handwashing in response to COVID-19 in recent months as well as challenges USAID has faced working to create sustainable handwashing behavior change during the pandemic.

USAID is a member of the steering committee for Global Handwashing Day along with the Water and Sanitation Programme at the World Bank, UNICEF, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, FHI 360, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, University at Buffalo, and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.

Benchmarking Household Water Insecurity Around the World

While the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6 underscores the need to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,” policymakers lack robust, globally comparable data on water insecurity to work together to achieve that goal.

For this reason, Northwestern University and UNESCO joined forces with Gallup to expand Household Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE) surveys to 31 countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. With nationally representative surveys in all of these countries (including India, China and Brazil) researchers will now be able to benchmark water insecurity among roughly half the world’s adult population.

Among the issues the HWISE surveys will help policymakers understand and compare between countries include the relationship between access to water and wellbeing, how gender and other socioeconomic factors affect water security, and how water insecurity relates to food insecurity. The data will enable policymakers to develop interventions where they are needed most; tailor them to specific countries, regions, cities, and villages; and track progress toward achieving water security. The HWISE survey is scheduled to be repeated in 2021 and thereafter.

For more information, please see the Gallup website.

Using GIS and Remote Data Collection on Housing to Combat COVID-19

How existing remote technology for monitoring housing in developing countries can be repurposed in the fight against COVID-19 is the subject of an interesting World Bank blog post.

Housing stock plays a role in the spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, because a lack of running water prevents frequent handwashing and one bedroom for an entire family prevents social distancing.

The blog post focuses on the World Bank’s Global Program for Resilient Housing’s use of drones and car-mounted cameras to capture images of homes, which machine learning algorithms then process remotely applying the local context to extract characteristics about each house. When combined with existing geographic information system data, information on overcrowding, land tenure security, poor access to health services, and lack of utilities – which increase COVID-19 vulnerabilities – can be derived at a household and neighborhood level.

The post recommends decision-makers make use of such geospatial data and remote data collection methods to identify neighborhoods in need of sanitary housing interventions during the months ahead. Additional background on the World Bank’s Global Program for Resilient Housing is also available on the World Bank website.

Accelerating Ocean-Based Solutions Can Help with COVID-19 Recovery

The world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic this year as 2020 kicks off the UN Global Compact’s reaffirmation of our global commitment towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The UN Global Compact firmly believes accelerating ocean-based solutions can play a key role in recovering better and delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It recently released the Ocean Stewardship 2030 report providing a roadmap for how ocean-related industries and policymakers can jointly secure a healthy and productive ocean by 2030.

The report builds upon the 5 Tipping Points for a Healthy and Productive Ocean. For each tipping point, the ongoing governance and frameworks are outlined, recommendations are put forward, and two critical ambitions are suggested. It also builds upon the Sustainable Ocean Principles, providing a framework for responsible business practices across sectors and geographies, as well as build upon and supplement the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

ME&A, a participant in the UN Global Compact since August 2018, is proud to commit to high standards and even higher goals in principles on human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption.

World Oceans Day Focuses on Mobilizing Movement to Protect Our Home

World Oceans Day 2020 is being celebrated around the world with the theme “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean” Friday, June 8, 2020. Per the World Oceans Day website:

“For 2020 World Oceans Day is growing the global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30 percent of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30×30. By safeguarding at least 30 percent of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!”

The purpose of the Day, observed by all United Nations member countries, is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.

Visit the World Oceans Day website for more information on the annual celebration and ways to find or plan an event in your area.

ME&A-Led ASPIRED Helps Residents of Armenia’s Ararat Valley Cope with COVID-19

Long-neglected water and sanitation issues in countries around the world are gaining new attention amid the global COVID-19 crisis. Access to clean, potable drinking water 24 hours a day prevents people from having to spend their money or time gathering or buying water in large crowds in violation of social distancing guidelines and also enables them to wash their hands frequently and practice proper sanitation during the pandemic.

ME&A is proud that our work creating innovative approaches to address water and natural resource needs is now enabling the people we serve to better cope with COVID-19. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Armenia’s Ararat Valley where the work of the USAID-funded Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) is helping citizens face COVID-19 more prepared.

“Effective chlorination enabled after installation of modern chlorinators in Aratashen and Yeghegnut improves the safety of water and rules out the danger of water-born diseases that would make people more susceptible to COVID-19,” said ASPIRED Chief of Party Magda Avetisyan. “Previously people used to crowd around water-trucks to buy potable water, thus creating a favorable environment for spreading of the infection. Now the drinking-quality water is available from their taps.”

ASPIRED recently supported the community of Aratashen to install a new pumping station, replace 10 km of corroded piping, and introduce a new consumption-based metering system. ASPIRED also helped build a new water pumping station in the village of Yeghegnut last year along with installing 15 km of pipes, 490 water meters, and  a new billing and collection software for water service.

Avetisyan further pointed to the anti-COVID-19 benefits of the ASPIRED project’s re-use water from fish farms for irrigation in the villages of Sayat-Nova and Hayanist rather than dumping it into the wastewater network. The villages would otherwise face shortages for both drinking and irrigation water, hurting farmers and negatively impacting the socio-economic situation locally and nationally during the pandemic. The Ararat Valley is Armenia’s breadbasket accounting for almost half of the country’s agricultural production.

“Improved irrigation systems provide availability of irrigation water for farmers to cultivate agricultural lands. As part of the project, trainings were provided to local farmers on applying the best agricultural practice in cultivation of crops,” she said. “The latter helps to tackle social consequences of the pandemic and ensure availability of agricultural products, both on a local and national level.”

Other ASPIRED benefits include:

  • Availability of irrigation water in Hayanist, Sayat Nova, Hovtashat, and Pokr Vedi, following the respective ASPIRED projects, increased self-employment opportunities for the rural population, which is critical in this period of self-isolation and possible economic strains.
  • The dramatic reduction (if not elimination) of breakages in the water-supply and irrigation networks, due to the use of reliable technologies and sustainable materials, reduces the manpower input for operation and maintenance, thus cutting-down the opportunities for spreading of the infection.
  • Increased use of online/advanced tools will support operational awareness during the pandemic. The Government of Armenia may make better use of the online system of groundwater use monitoring and the Decision Support System. In addition, the government can make the enhanced State Water Cadaster Information System online and accessible by relevant government agencies for data exchange.

The ME&A-led ASPIRED assists the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of the nation’s vital groundwater resources. ASPIRED focuses on closing data gaps, improving technical capacities and tools for informed decision-making, increasing access to innovative water conservation and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. ME&A was awarded the ASPIRED project as a task order under the USAID Water and Development (WADI) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract.

USAID Website Features Story on ASPIRED Bringing Armenian Village Potable Water

USAID recently published a story on its website about the Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) project bringing nearly all 3,200 residents of the village of Aratashen in Armenia access to clean, potable water 24 hours a day.

The story on the Armenia section of the USAID website at https://www.usaid.gov/armenia/news-information/news/improving-water-supply-ararat-valley explains how the community worked with ASPIRED to identify the primary barriers to water access – poor infrastructure and insufficient regulation – and sought solutions to address them. ASPIRED then supported the community to install a new pumping station, replace 10 km of corroded piping and introduce a new consumption-based metering system.

The ME&A-led ASPIRED assists the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of the nation’s vital groundwater resources. ASPIRED focuses on closing data gaps, improving technical capacities and tools for informed decision-making, increasing access to innovative water conservation and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. ME&A was awarded the ASPIRED project as a task order under the USAID Water and Development (WADI) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract.