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Project Encourages Developing Countries to Share Strategies for Improving Water Quality, Sanitation


Almost half of all Africans do not have access to clean drinking water or adequate sanitation. Thousands die every year because of illnesses carried in polluted water or because they do not have clean water for personal hygiene. Development experts say the problem contributes to poor economic growth and the failure of students to stay in school. In this first of a five part series, Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Joana Mantey says the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a non-profit organization, is working on a project aimed at improving water and sanitation in poor communities around the world by sharing information on projects that work.

For example, government agencies that are trying to improve their water and sanitation sometimes rely on IIED data when creating or monitoring projects. Martin Mulenga, an official of IIED, says the organization documents selected projects designed by and for local communities. It also takes into account the needs, perceptions and coping strategies of people using these facilities.

IIED is currently working with groups based in Ghana, Angola, Argentina, Pakistan and India.

“The five organizations were chosen because they have been involved with the provision of water and sanitation and some of their involvement has been very creative.

The Orangi pilot project in Pakistan, for instance, has been able to work with local communities in coming up with low-cost sewer systems. They are low cost because the communities are involved in the building of these sewer systems so it does not cost the government a lot of money to implement.”

He said other projects include building community toilets in India with funds generated by the community and local authorities. Local people are trained to manage these facilities.

Lessons from the project will be made available for possible use in other communities. Mulenga said, “We are hoping that through this project we are able to document whatever innovations we come across through the use of videos, books and other publications.”

Poor urban communities do not need to replicate these innovations exactly. He says, “We feel that the information that they will get will be able to inspire them in coming up with solutions that will suit their own circumstances.”