Viewpoint: Is This the Big Solution to Failing WASH Projects We’ve Been Waiting for?
Friday, May 8, 2015
Water and sanitation projects often go something like this: NGOs show up with equipment, money, and people on hand, drill a well or install sanitation systems and then leave. A handful of locals are typically trained on upkeep and minor infrastructure repairs, but this isn’t always the case. If the wells need to be repointed or major leaks or breaks occur in the pipes, the communities are out of luck. As a result of the dig-and-dash approach, well-meaning projects end up abandoned and communities go back to contaminated water, which can lead to enteric illness and death, as well as economic setbacks.
The setbacks hit women and girls particularly hard, since they are the ones spending hours fetching water. Instead of spending their time on empowering pursuits like education and earning income, women and girls spend their days on the hunt for water.
The failure of WASH projects in developing countries isn’t a small issue. According to the Water Collective (which goes around the world attempting to fix these failed systems), an estimated 40 percent of water points are broken in developing countries at any given time and over half of water projects around the world fail due to lack of community involvement.
So has the international development world simply been ignoring the problem? No, but they have been a bit slow on the uptake.
The good news is that things are looking up on this front, as signs point to increased interest in solving the failing WASH infrastructure problems through social enterprise. Money, after all, motivates.