Promoting IWSH projects and what slogan would you use to do it?

By Ankitha Doddanari Nalin Kumar

IAPMO formed its new foundation — the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) — to help provide safe access to clean water and sanitation systems.

What profession constitutes as the paramount defence for public health? Take a guess. It’s not doctors or nurses. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared plumbers the most important front-line health workers around the globe.

The IWSH has truly taken this fact to the core of its mission, improving plumbing facilities to elevate health standards in underserved communities all over the world. I would define the IWSH Foundation by the slogan, “Service, Sanitation, and Sustainability in support of global health”.

This slogan perfectly illustrates the multifaceted approach, tailored to an individual community’s needs, and is characteristic of IWSH projects.

Dedicated volunteers help improve sanitation by designing and implementing better water and wastewater facilities, thereby bettering the health of people in impoverished areas. Children especially benefit from such projects because they are much more susceptible to disease-causing pathogens than adults. Additionally, improvements to such systems in other areas, specifically urban city environments, can help reduce wastage and increase the sustainability of an entire population.

In order to promote IWSH projects, I would focus on outreach with community organisations and schools in order to connect with students and educate them about the importance of clean water systems while fundraising and raising awareness.

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to intern with the King County Wastewater Treatment Division. Through visits to all types of wastewater treatment facilities, from self-sustaining urban towers to industrial pump stations, I gained a greater understanding of the behind-the-scenes work that makes our society possible and how improvements to these systems can make us more sustainable.

IWSH could create lessons that integrate with concepts already taught in school, like the water cycle, and distribute these to teachers. Local plumbers and government wastewater treatment employees could come in and teach as guest speakers.

IWSH’s sustainability efforts are vital for people in related professions to learn more about. As the population of the world increases at an exponential rate with increased concentration in the cities, it is important for the citizens and government to consider how they will provide adequate water systems to their residents.

Water and wastewater systems are interconnected with many industries, ranging from architecture to agriculture, so it is important for them to collaborate when creating solutions to these complex problems. IWSH conferences like the Municipalika Smart and Sustainable Cities International Exhibition and Conference on Smart and Sustainable City Solutions, which includes people from the construction, architecture, planning, and engineering professions, could be televised and broadcast to people all over the world to raise awareness about the work that IWSH is doing internationally.

India is an especially important location for this work because the country is experiencing a rapid urbanisation; the urban population has grown from 286 million in 2001 to 377 million in 2011 and is expected to reach 590 million by 2030. The Indian government has recognised this problem and is working to create a better standard for city housing through the Swachh Bharat Mission. “Swachh Bharat” translates to “Clean India.” During my trip to India this winter, I noticed a definite improvement in many public washroom facilities compared to two years ago. Many posters and promotional videos proclaimed the Swachh Bharat campaign as the reason for these improvements.

The effort that non-profit organisations like IWSH are making to partner with governmental organisations truly makes a tangible difference in the lives of many people.

The increase in world population also affects the employment sector. IWSH is making admirable efforts to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ by recruiting people in developing countries to work in the underserved plumbing sector. The project summary of a partnership between IAMPO India and the government of Kerala, called the Additional Skill Acquisition Programme, states, “The plumbing industry faces a huge gap in the supply of skilled labour. This course will provide the learner with practical skills and knowledge to carry out plumbing applications in both the commercial and domestic sectors of the industry.”

Similarly, the Community Plumbing Challenge for World Youth Skills Day and its forerunner, the 67 Days of Design, offer great opportunities to promote IWSH’s mission to the younger generation while cultivating useful skills. In order to reach a wider audience, IWSH could induct young people as ‘ambassadors’. These ambassadors could be educated about these IWSH projects and then instructed to spread the word and increase awareness about these events and its purpose in their local communities and on social media.

IWSH’s commendable community service work in developing nations also deserves to be spotlighted. The 2015 Community Plumbing Challenge at Maha Nagar Palika School No. 125 was actually located in the city where I was born: Nashik, India. In fact, I remember my parents telling me the story of how the hospital in which I was born was crawling with cockroaches, so I understand first-hand the sanitation problems that abound in the city of Nashik and am doubly motivated to help bring change.

Volunteers for this project helped design and construct sanitary washroom facilities for more than 400 students in grades 7-12 while also educating the students about the spread of bacteria and how they can practice habits to keep themselves and their facilities clean. One 11-year-old girl from the school even commented, “When I grow up, I would like to be a plumber.” Such service projects and the efforts of volunteers could be documented and used for advocacy campaigns through social media platforms. These campaigns could encourage plumbers to give back in their own communities and solicit donations.

Student volunteering organisations, such as Key Club International and the National Honor Society in which I am involved at my high school, would be eager to partner with and fundraise for an organisation that solves problems with a tangible impact in impoverished areas.

The work that IWSH does to promote global health through “Service, Sanitation, and Sustainability” saves lives. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, “Water, sanitation, and hygiene have the potential to prevent at least 9.1% of the global disease burden and 6.3% of all deaths.” The first time I became aware of these facts was during seventh grade, when we did a project in science class about how limited access to clean water affects women and children, the economics of a country, and the sanitation situation. I was inspired to start the organisation Water by Kids 4 Kids to fundraise money for charities that bring water and sanitation infrastructure to disadvantaged communities. While that organisation no longer exists, I know how important this issue is and how learning more about it can spur people to action and create positive change.

It is imperative for people to know that they can contribute to the IWSH mission, whether they want to become a volunteer, spread awareness about the issue in their community through education efforts, or raise money to fund projects.

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