Lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities is a big problem in the developing world. A total of 780 million people lack access to clean water, which is over two and half times the population of the U.S., or about one in nine people.
According to UN statistics, diarrhea is the leading cause of illness and death globally, and 88 percent of deaths caused by diarrhea are from the lack of access to both sanitation facilities and clean drinking water. Every year 3.4 million people die from water related diseases, and 99 percent of the deaths occur in the developing world. About a quarter, 1.5 million, of those deaths are children. Every 20 seconds, according to the non-profit organization, Water.org, a child dies from poor sanitation.
Sri Lanka is a developing country where many of its 20 million citizens suffer from lack of access to clean water. The country endured 26 years of civil war, which ended in 2009, and the Asian tsunami in 2004. Enter World Vision and its microfinance arm, VisionFund International, which developed a clean water and sanitation project in Sri Lanka in 2010. Called the Rural Integrated Water Sanitation and Hygiene (RIWASH) Project, World Vision partnered with the Canadian Institute for Development Assistance (CIDA), the Australian Government (AusAID), and the Sri Lankan government to develop the badly needed project. The goal of the project was to support the local government by improving the water supply and sanitation facilities.
One of the major achievements of the RIWASH Project is providing clean water and sanitation facilities to over 23,000 people, including 7,500 school children in the Nuwara Eliya District, one of the country’s poorest districts. Located in the hills, Nuwara Eliya is the country’s city with the highest elevation. Surrounded by tea plantations, it is home to the famous Ceylon tea.
Once the project was running, VisionFund was brought in to provide loans to selected RIWASH beneficiaries to provide businesses that support the hygiene and sanitation efforts. The microloans help the beneficiaries increase their income by starting businesses that support the RIWASH Project. Over 400 families received loans to start their own businesses. VisionFund works with global humanitarian partners to support water projects. It operates in over 36 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) challenges the world to reduce by half the amount of people lacking access to basic sanitation by 2015. The RIWASH Project, according to an article by VisionFund, helps contribute to the MDG in several ways. One of the ways is through reducing poverty by improving incomes of those who received microfinance loans. Other ways include empowering women by alleviating the responsibility of finding water, and reducing child mortality.
Image credit: Flickr user, gromgull