When Drinking Water Takes More than a Trip to the Fridge

Jan 10, 2022|1No Poverty

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The global pandemic's impact goes beyond the known risks to human's health. It has also affected economies, directly and indirectly, changing people's everyday lives harming sustainable growth and progress. Additionally, the pandemic has dramatically affected people's access to basic services in some places. 

But what are basic services? And why do they matter?  

The United Nations defines basic services as public service systems that meet basic human needs, including drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, energy, mobility, waste collection, health care, education and information technologies. The government's job is to provide access to basic services to all its citizens. The UN has formulated nine key indicators to facilitate and ensure that all men and women, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources and access to basic services. These indicators are: 

1) Access to Basic Drinking Water Services

This means access to clean, fresh drinking water from an improved source that is available with a collection time of not more than 30 minutes for a round trip. Improved sources include: piped water, boreholes or tube wells, protected dug wells, protected springs, and packaged or delivered water. 

2) Access to Basic Sanitation Services: 

Such as the use of improved facilities that are not shared with other homes. Improved facilities include: flush/pour flush to piped sewer systems, septic tanks or pit latrines; ventilated improved pit latrines, composting toilets or pit latrines with slabs. It also includes access to sanitation services and hand washing facilities with soap and water. 

3) Access to Basic Hygiene Facilities: 

Like having access to a hand washing facility on-premises with soap and water. Hand washing facilities may be fixed or mobile and include a sink with tap water, buckets with taps, tippy-taps, and jugs or basins designated for hand washing. Soap can be in bar soap, liquid soap, powder detergent, and soapy water but must not include ash, soil, sand or other hand washing agents. 

For many low and middle-income countries, achieving universal access to basic drinking water, sanitation and hygiene remain a high priority. 

4) Access to Clean Fuels and Technology: 

Refers to the carbon emission rates and the targets set for each country. It also includes the use of fuel at homes, such as coal, gas, electricity or wood. 

5) Access to Basic Mobility: 

Is about having access to transport both in rural areas and having convenient and affordable access to public transport in the city.

6) Access to Basic Waste Collection Services: 

Focuses on having regular and effective waste collection services within rural and urban communities. A collection service may be 'door to door' or depositing into a community container. 

7) Access to Basic Health Care Services

Such as access to doctors, hospitals, clinics, labs, radiology services, and preventive health services.

8) Access to Basic Education 

Provides populations of both genders and any economic background with the basic tools to become economically productive, develop sustainable livelihoods, contribute to peaceful and democratic societies and enhance individual well-being. 

9) Access to Basic Information Services 

Refers to having access to the internet. We talked a lot about this topic in our previous blog post, "The Internet is Building Bridges for Tomorrow." check it out to find out more about the importance of the internet for communities to grow. 


Panama and the Ngöbe-Buglé Region Case Study: 

According to the UN in Panama, 91% of the indigenous population in the Ngöbe-Buglé Region live in extreme poverty. Their location in remote and inaccessible areas raise the cost of traditional sanitation solutions, limiting investment and private participation. With this in mind, a joint program was designed to empower the Ngöbe-Buglé women to manage their water and sanitation systems. 

Before the program, communities had no access to water nearby. As a result, women were in charge of finding and collecting the water, often spending excessive amounts of time and energy. 

Traveling daily for water can also bring physical problems and increase the risks for injury. In addition, it often left women unable to participate in other activities such as education, income generation, politics, or rest and recreation. Lastly, the lack of accessible services leads to much tension within the household, thus increasing the vulnerability of women to domestic violence.

As a result of the program, Rural Water Management Committees were formed, and Water Safety Plans and plans for managing three water basins were created. In addition, the Cerro Ñeque Hydrological Reserve was restricted and is now a protected area. 

5,834 people now have continuous access to safe drinking water, thanks to the program. Learn more about it by watching this video 



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Thinking Cap On

Access to drinking water, bathrooms and hospitals is often taken for granted when we live in developed countries. However, some people might not have easy access to basic services, even within these countries. 

Learn about your community: do some research about the basic needs available in your community. For example, do you know where water comes from? How much does it cost to have running water at home? Do you use water consciously? Discuss with your parents and find out what you can do at home to prevent wasting water. 

Expand your research and learn how many local hospitals are near you and how easy it is to access health care. Then compare with other countries.