25 November 2014

The cycle of failure to bring water to one Tanzania village


In part two of our reporting on water in Tanzania, Jacob takes us to Lupeta where a cycle of failed water access continued until NGO WaterAid stepped in to fix a recently broken water source. It also comes with a, if I do say so myself, pretty sweet interactive map from the Broad Street Maps team (capture seen above). Read an excerpt below and the full story here.
When residents learned in 2004 they were slated to receive a brand new system — a WSDP pilot project — they were wary. But they rejoiced when the project successfully brought a source of water directly to the village.

“People were so happy they were dancing,” says Msumu. The new system delivered water right to the center of the village — reducing dozens of hours each family spent fetching water every week.

“That (extra) time we used for people to farm, for children to attend school instead of fetching the water,” says Msumu. “Children go to school for many more hours now, many more days.”

The water flowed for six, fruitful years. But then it slowed. “The place where they were building a new intake, the water was not enough,” says Msumu. Seven years after the system was built, the water stopped altogether.

“We had no water for nine months,” says Msumu. For the third interval since Tanzania’s independence, the residents of Lupeta “were going to another village, 10 kilometers (away), with a bucket on their heads.”

Msumu tried to raise money to build a new water intake, which an assessment by water engineers estimated would cost $92,000. The small fee of 20 shillings (about 1.2 cents) that community leaders had been collecting for each bucket of water consumed was not nearly enough.

He was unsuccessful in getting the Tanzanian government to make up the difference. At last, the private water relief NGO WaterAid answered the call, furnishing a $92,000 gift to build a new intake and replacing some of the old pipes.

24 November 2014

A deep dive into Tanzania's failed $1 billion water project


Today marks the publication of the first of a four part investigation into Tanzania's World Bank-backed endeavor to increase access to clean water, by myself and Jacob Kushner. It is the culmination of now more than a year looking into why it took more than 5 years for the project to start showing meaningful results and why the gains are tenuous in the long term. The story begins with the scene depicted in the above image I took while reporting from Tanzania last fall. Mary Slosson, then of GOOD, and I were curious why the pump located at the nearby school was not working.

Here is a clip from part one. You can expect the second and third parts to publish this week and the finishing part next week.
To date the drive has attracted more than $1.42 billion in funding from various donors and the Tanzanian government, an incredible sum for a single project in a small country like Tanzania. The initial goal was ambitious: to bring improved access to water to 65 percent of rural Tanzanians and 90 percent of urbanites by 2010, and continue until each and every citizen had safe drinking water.

By all metrics, the project has failed categorically: When the project began, only 54 percent of Tanzanians had access to what is called an improved water source — a water point, like a well or water pump, that is protected from contamination. Seven years into the project, that figure has actually decreased — now at 53 percent, according to the latest World Bank Data. Coupled with Tanzania’s rising population, today 3.8 million more Tanzanians lack access to improved water than did before the project began.

The Tanzanian government and the World Bank admit that only 20 to 30 percent of rural water projects that were due to be completed by this summer were actually built. Although the pace of the program has picked up over the past year, with 28,246 rural water points either built or rehabilitated, there is no accountability mechanism to ensure that these sources will remain operational in the years ahead.

Already, some of the earliest water points created under the program’s pilot initiative are no longer being maintained and have stopped working. Others are at immediate risk of failing as communities find themselves unable to raise the money to fix and maintain them. Experts across Tanzania’s water industry say the program is failing to address the fundamental challenges that have plagued Tanzania’s water sector for decades.

“They are only trying to intervene for a short time — ‘let’s keep the system working for a couple years,’” says Herbert Kashillilah, chair of Water Witness Tanzania. “If I am from the World Bank, it is easier to count new projects than try to ensure people are running their own systems.”
The World Bank defends the program, arguing that despite its slow start and the likelihood that some water points will stop working, it is better than doing nothing.

“The problem of providing rural water around the world hasn’t been cracked,” said Philippe Dongier, World Bank country director for Tanzania. “You could say, ‘if that’s not going to be sustainable, why should we build it?’ But that could be said all over the world.”
Read part one here

Creating a culture of reading to ICTs and Libraries

This video shows how Bhutan is supporting the growth of literacy through libraries and ICT initiatives. While not descriptive in respect to the how, it is neat to see how newer technologies and long-standing practices are working together on the same issue.

21 November 2014

An uncoordinated Ebola response

A rather damning article from Donald McNeil for the NY Times on the problematic Ebola response in Liberia.
American military helicopters ferrying doctors to remote areas were forbidden to fly back not only patients but even blood samples; recently samples from a village had to be walked to a road four hours away. At Monday’s meeting, according to the minutes, Dr. De Cock called this “unacceptable,” adding, “This has to change this week.”

Dr. Hans Rosling, a Swedish epidemiologist and consultant to Liberia’s Health Ministry, said that the helicopter order came “from somewhere in America.” In an interview, he cited problems not listed in the minutes: one Asian and two European donor countries are insisting on building new Ebola field hospitals in Monrovia, where hospitals have empty beds, rather than in remote counties where beds are desperately needed; they insisted because they announced those plans two months ago, he said. The national case count was not reported for two days recently because the government employee compiling it went unpaid and stopped working. The minutes of the Incident Management System were made available along with PowerPoint files and other documents by an expert who said the disorganization of the Ebola effort should be made public.
Read the full story here, it is well worth it. 

19 November 2014

The Jaden and Willow Smith interview: wisdom or nonsense?

An interview of Jaden and Willow Smith, the teenage children of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett- Smith, is garnering a lot of attention and mixed reactions. Here is an excerpt from their discussion with the New York Times Magazine:
What are some of the themes that recur in your work?

JADEN: The P.C.H. being one of them; the melancholiness of the ocean; the melancholiness of everything else.

WILLOW: And the feeling of being like, this is a fragment of a holographic reality that a higher consciousness made.

JADEN: [bursts into laughter] As soon as me and Willow started releasing music, that’s one thing that the whole world took away is, okay, they unlocked another step of honesty. If these guys can be honest about everything, then we can be more honest.
I have no opinion to offer here, other than just amazement at the conversation. I am curious what others think. 

Neat interactive tracking of actions by Ebola response donors from ONE

The ONE Campaign took their initial research on how donors are faring when it comes to funding the Ebola response to the next level. Today saw the release of the interactive Ebola Tracker. Here is how donor countries compare:


Sorry that it is really small. The UK comes out on top for pledged money as a percentage of GNI. Here is how the US is doing:


Go play around with it here.

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