I am currently a third-year undergraduate student studying environmental science with a soil & water concentration at the University of Maine at Orono. This past summer, I was a research intern with the Initiative: Eau West Africa office in Fada N’gourma, Burkina Faso. This opportunity was more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. As an intern, I experienced first-hand the everyday difficulties that some face to have access to safe water, while also being exposed to drinking water service management in a developing city context.
Investments in WASH decrease the burden of water-borne illnesses, reducing general healthcare expenses and the improvement of individual productivity at work and at school. Why investing in this sector in Burkina Faso is still not as efficient as it could be?
With the need to concentrate and coordinate actors in the Burkinabè WASH sector to share knowledge and find solutions for problems like this, Initiative: Eau, the BARKA Foundation, and their partners organized and hosted the Water Fair (Foire de l’Eau), the official event for World Water Day in Burkina Faso.
Access to water is a fundamental human right. While the amount and quality of water we consume may vary greatly between countries, it is impossible for us to live without it. For the average Burkinabè who uses on average 20 liters of water per day, water is as indispensable as for the average American citizen who consumes approximately twenty times that amount.
In August, 1000 millennial leaders from around the globe convened in Denmark to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing our world. Global poverty, lack of safe water, unsustainable energy consumption, high rates of disease – all were in the spotlight at the inaugural UNLEASH Innovation Lab hosted by the United Nations (UN). Founder and CEO Donald Brooks was among the inaugural class of selected “SDG talents,” bringing to the event his experience with Initiative: Eau.
In the first week of September, 50 million people around the world were affected by disasters. This sobering fact opened the Aid and International Development Forum’s Global Disaster Relief & Development Summit in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. Kicked off as Houston grappled with Hurricane Harvey, and as Miami and Puerto Rico prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Irma, the AIDF conference exuded relevance—several panelists were absent, having been called to the front lines of the disaster response. This change in programming could have taken away from the summit, yet the opposite was true.
On October 13, 2016, Initiative: Eau became a member of the Global Water Partnership (GWP). The GWP is an international network created to foster an integrated approach to water resources management. It is a community of NGOs, governments, and international organizations dedicated to to advancing governance and management of water resources for sustainable and equitable development.
On September 14, 2016, Initiative: Eau became a member of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). The WSSCC is a United Nations membership organization that advocates for improved sanitation and hygiene for the most vulnerable and marginalized people around the world.
On November 29th 2015, Burkina Faso held, according to the National Democratic Institute, “the freest, fairest and most competitive presidential and legislative elections” in its history, culminating in the election of former Prime Minister Roc Marc Christian Kaboré as president.
Over the past several months, the Initiative: Eau team has been actively engaged as a participant in the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge. The competition, which "connects students with the passion and talent to improve the world with the experience and resources of the MIT community worldwide," provides up to $10,000 dollars in grant funding to teams focused on improving quality of life through innovation and entrepreneurship. It is through the IDEAS Global Challenge that Initiative: Eau's newest project, WASHMobile, has been developed.
On April 4th, Initiative: Eau competed in the CleanAcwa Water Ideathon held at Harvard Law School as part of the 2015 Harvard African Development Conference. The Ideathon brought teams from across the country to present innovations, both technical and nontechnical, geared towards addressing the global water and sanitation crises.
On April 3rd, the Tufts University Water: Systems, Science, and Society Graduate Program held its sixth annual water symposium, Fluid Boundaries: Integrated Solutions to Today's Water Challenges, at the Tufts Medical campus in Boston. Bringing together a wide range of water professionals from across the greater Boston area and the country, the event featured keynote speaker, Paul Niedzwiecki of the Cape Cod Commission, as well as two panels, one focusing on Water Conservation and Quality and the other on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), the latter featuring Initiative: Eau President, Donald Brooks.