Water in crisis
The pressure on freshwater resources is growing all over the world, and the demand is on the rise. The world population grows annually by 80 million people, which is ten times the Swiss population.
availability of water is still limited.
Access to water, sanitary facilities and
hygiene is by no means a matter of
course for many people. Contaminated
water is also the cause for spreading
There is no life without water and that's why this valuable natural resource concerns us all. Even though Switzerland has enough water, it’s still committed to find solutions for the global water problems.
What does WA – S – H stand for?
WASH stands for water, sanitation and
hygiene. In other words, it's about
access to clean water, a toilet and soap
to wash your hands. The only way to
guarantee healthy living conditions is
to combine the various interventions in
the areas of water supply, construction
of sanitary facilities and hygiene
training. The environment plays a big
part in this.
Only if the water we return
to nature is safe, will our environment
be able survive and protect us from
disease. These points, which have
partially been realised due to
Switzerland’s tireless engagement, are
part of the 17 sustainable development
goals of the United Nations. With its
signature, Switzerland has committed
to contribute to achieve these goals by
The W in WASH stands for water supply, wastewater management and water protection. For many regions in the world this means identifying new approaches for technical water management.
The S in W A S H stands for sanitation. It is about faeces disposal and wastewater management to make sure the water is free of germs when it goes back to nature. It’s also about granting people safe access to sanitation within appropriate reach. This is particularly important for women, people with disabilities and the elderly. Adequate sanitary facilities are a basic human right. However, the wastewater of more than 2.4 billion people, which equates to one third of the global population, is not managed properly.
The H in WASH stands for hygiene. Hygiene means that you look after the cleanliness of your body; that the environment does not pose a threat to your health and that dangerous factors such as bacteria, viruses and parasites as well as other vectors are under control. Hygiene also means access to sanitation facilities that safeguard privacy and dignity and are accessible, affordable, safe, hygienic and culturally acceptable. If the already insufficient sanitary infrastructure collapses after a natural disaster or the outbreak of a conflict, the risk of catching disease rises drastically.
Tensions in Lebanon
Water pollution and access to clean water is one of the main causes of tensions in the Bekaa Valley - not only between refugees and locals - but also within the Lebanese population.
An additional focus of Switzerland's commitment is therefore conflict prevention. Both the Human Security Division and the SDC maintain close cooperation with the NGO International Alert.
International Alert providing training on dialogue and conflict resolution, training female community leaders to resolve local conflicts in their communities.
Access to clean water is not only a major potential for conflict in the Bekaa Das Engagement der DEZA im Libanon 4 Valley. Throughout the Middle East sufficient access to clean water has become a key target in the fight against poverty, as well as in bring peace and political stability. This is the credo of the Blue Peace Initiative, which was launched in 2010 and is supported by Switzerland.
Ukraine is the biggest country in
Europe whose borders are entirely on
the European continent. An armed
conflict has been ongoing in the East of
the country since 2014. Ten per cent of
the 44.8 million people of Ukraine live
in the Donbass region, which was once
Now, the people of Donbass are separated by the so- called contact line, which has the length of the German-French border and is a bit longer than the distance between Geneva and Scoul.
5.2 million people are affected by the
humanitarian crisis. 3.5 million people
depend on humanitarian aid.
More than a third of the affected people are over the age of 60. Most of the water supply systems in Ukraine originate from the former Soviet Union. One single system often supplies millions of people with water.
The “Voda Donbassa“ water supply
system serves around four million
people on both sides of the contact
line. The system has 18 water filter
stations along the contact line; nine on
each side. The amount of water
running through one of its nine pumps
in one hour equates to the average
daily water consumption of Bern. It is
the biggest such system in Europe.
With the main channel crossing the contact line twice and the big filter stations being in its vicinity, it is exposed to heavy shelling, especially during the night. This leads to regular disruptions of the supply chain cutting tens of thousands of people off their daily basic supplies. If the water supply were to be permanently disrupted, four million people would be forced to migrate – this constitutes half of the Swiss population.
When due to the conflict “Voda
Donbassa” became almost unable to
treat drinking water as chemicals were
no longer available, Switzerland
Three components are required to supply water in a conflict zone like in eastern Ukraine:
2. Qualified personnell 3. Sufficient energy and chemicals
The largest part of Chad is covered in desert. The Sahara region in the north makes up about half of the country. Civil population suffers from violence, inadequate infrastructure and disastrous humanitarian conditions. Forty per cent of the population live below the poverty line. Only half of the population has access to safe drinking water. In many poor countries in the world, necessary hygiene is a huge challenge, especially in terms of spreading disease. Chad has repeatedly been struck down by Cholera epidemics.
As a result of the Syrian crisis, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Lebanon. Today Lebanon has over 1 million Syrian and Palestinian refugees, an enormous strain on a country with a population of just over 4 million. Most of the Syrians have settled in make-shift camps and are living under harsh conditions.
In the Bekaa Valley, at the boarder to
Syria, every second inhabitant is a Syrian refugee.
local population has so far reacted with exceptional generosity to the large
number of migrants. Nevertheless, the refugees are a great burden for the
country which is rapidly reaching its limits in reception capacity.
is becoming increasingly difficult for the Lebanese authorities to meet the
basic needs of the refugees and of the local population. Therefore, SDC decided to support the
local authorities in building up a sustainable water management to ensure basic
supplies for the local population as well as the refugees.
The arrival of the refugees is not the only challenge local water authorities are facing. The water sector has been neglected for many years resulting in a poor infrastructure and insufficient management.
Together with the Local Water Authority the SDC team identified the 45 most important pumping stations in the Bekaa Valley and decided to restore them.
The information of sensors transmitted to a central monitoring station at the Local Water Authority headquarters. From here, the pumping stations can be operated remotely: pumps can be switched on and off and the flow rates and water quality appear on the screens.
The local water authority handles over a hundred chlorination units. But due to lack of knowhow and tools, they were not working. SDC provided training to the local staff as well as two specially-equipped vehicles to help improve the quality of the drinking water.
The unexpected influx of refugees has been difficult for the region, one of the country’s most vulnerable ones. So far, 920,000 Rohingya have arrived.
The problems involved are immense.
One of the biggest challenges is access
to drinking water, which is limited in
the region anyway. Some people even
collect their water from the rice fields.
Such circumstances negatively affect hygiene, which results in a high rate of
In an effort to improve hygiene among refugees, soap, washing detergent and kettles have been distributed. Men, women and children took part in handwashing workshops. Puppets were used to teach the small children how to properly wash their hands. Such rules are usually hard and difficult to follow. However, when explained by a puppet, they become more alive and easier to understand.
Women and girls received washable sanitary towels and underwear. They participated in workshops on menstruation during which hygiene specialist Mariangela D’adamo conveyed a loud and clear message: “Menstruation does not make a woman impure”.
Menstruation still has many taboos and is stigmatised. The Rohingya people do not allow women and girls to leave the house or have contact with men during their menstruation. Menstruating women are often seen as “impure”; they are isolated and limited in their freedom of movement. So far, they are still excluded from daily social activities and are not allowed to eat certain foods.
Refugee women hardly have enough
privacy to menstruate in dignity. In the
refugee camps, there are not enough
sanitary towels, extra underwear, water for washing and preventing
infection, pain killers and safe places
where women can wash. Only half of
the women state that their needs for
their monthly hygiene are covered.
Start-up programme Lebanon
CEWAS supports young, innovative start-up companies that contribute
to the sustainable use of water.
CEWAS, a Swiss NGO supported by the SDC, is also a member of the Blue Peace Network.
The Start up Programme is built on very comprehensive training where we tackle everything from how to actually come up with a minimum viable product to how to bring it out into the wild, into the actual market and what are the different factors entrepreneurs need to consider in order to make the survival chances as a start up as strong as possible.
Within this programme, a group of young chemical engineers founded the start-up company Clean20 and developed a new type of water filter.
The device is composed of 4 layers of different filters, which kill both
bacteria and viruses as well as remove dirt and chemical toxins.
The novelty of this device is not the filter itself but the combination of them.
And this device is portable, cheap and easy to use.
"We have showed some refugees the prototype, we've had a lot of feedback from the refugees where some of them were very interested in owning one and using it."
Ebola in DRC
In terms of size, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the second biggest country in Africa. It is 57 times larger than Switzerland. Its 94 million inhabitants can be divided into 200 different ethnic groups. Especially the east of the country has been riddled with conflict and civil war for decades.
Around 60 per cent of the population
suffer from extreme poverty and are
unable to meet their basic needs. Due
to the protracted crisis, more than 13
million people depend on humanitarian
aid in DRC.
In 2018, Switzerland committed CHF 14.6 million to provide food and protection in an effort to alleviate the suffering of the displaced people in the East and centre of the country.
The latest Ebola outbreak, which has
hit the already war-torn East of the
country, exacerbates the situation even
more. In the Ebola-affected region,
humanitarian needs have already been
enormous due to the violent conflict.
More than 1.5 million displaced people are waiting for much-needed assistance. This has created frustration and rejection among the population, which has even led to some people attacking facilities as well as helpers trying to get the disease under control. Switzerland support projects of MEDAIR in DRC.
Wastewater Management in Lebanon
Wastewater management is a huge issue in Lebanon. Only 8 percent of wastewater is treated. The rest goes to the rivers and to the sea. The few existing treatment plants are not running properly due to the lack of trained personnel, power cuts and missing quality controls.
This wastewater monitoring unit consists of 15 staff members, all of whom
undertook an 8 month intensive training programme.
In a first step, this unit is taking samples at the inflow and outflow of the wastewater plants.
SDC helped the water authority of the Bekaa Valley set up a laboratory where these samples are analyzed. The results are then compared to the ones provided by the contractor.
In a second phase, the project will focus on capacity building and operational improvements to raise treatment standards.
What happens when hundreds of thousands of people need a toilet
The Rohingya families in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar live in the most abysmal conditions and have very limited access to sanitary facilities. Safe drinking water is one of the most sensitive issues.
Almost 730,000 Rohingya, Myanmar’s severely discriminated Muslim minority, have been fleeing to the south of their neighbouring country Bangladesh since August 2017. After having walked for days, they are often exhausted, sick and famished when they finally arrive in Cox’s Bazar, the biggest refugee camp in the world.
The sparse and poor sanitary facilities are by far not sufficient. Unless they are immediately rehabilitated, the risk of epidemics runs high; Cholera and watery diarrhoea are endemic in Bangladesh. Due to the high population density, any epidemic can quickly affect thousands of people.
In order to prevent open defecation
and spreading epidemics that come
with it, emergency latrines have been
constructed. The demand for toilets is
high. Disposing of the faeces is very
labour intensive. The refugees
themselves take care of the disposal
and are compensated for their work.
In an effort to improve the situation, the SDC funds a project of the NGO Solidarités International (SI).
Protection of Nature
A large part of the population is not aware of environmental issues. That's why SDC supports the local NGO SPNL, the Society for the protection of nature in Lebanon.