It’s certainly been another difficult and unpredictable year for everyone. As we reflect on the unique challenges of 2020/21, namely COVID-19 and the climate crisis, we are so very grateful for the resilience, passion, and drive of the WaterAid Canada team. Despite the unprecedented circumstances of this past year, we remained steadfast in our mission to transform lives through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
The continued reality of the pandemic prompted us to maintain our efforts to scale-up clean water and hygiene projects as vulnerable communities struggled to protect themselves against the virus. In doing so, we continued to prioritize the health and safety of our colleagues, as new waves of COVID-19 and lockdown measures rolled out across the globe.
As COVID-19 limited travel, gatherings, and community engagement, we resorted to creative and innovative ways of reaching communities in rural areas as well as busy urban centers. Innovations like mobile handwashing stations, soap making workshops, educational posters, sophisticated social media campaigns, and travelling loudspeakers helped us promote the uptake of good hygiene behaviours and frequent handwashing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As WaterAid continues to respond to the global pandemic and adapt to the realities it has forced upon everyone, we have continued to ensure our programming is environmentally sustainable in the face of the climate crisis. While scientists raised the alarm decades ago, it seems that the global community is just now widely acknowledging the impact of the crisis. Around the world, severe droughts and extreme flooding linked to climate change are depleting local clean water supplies, forcing people to rely on unsafe water sources, or to travel long distances in search of clean water. In response to these environmental changes, WaterAid is doubling down its efforts to bring climate-resilient WASH infrastructure to the communities where we work, and advocate for increased financing of WASH and climate change. But we’ve only scratched the surface – like with COVID-19, a global, unified effort is what’s truly needed to address this crisis.
While we are confident at WaterAid that through our determination, expertise, and results, we have helped improve the lives of millions of people this year, we know that there is much more to be done before everyone, everywhere has access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; we are committed to pursuing our mission with your support.
We would like to thank the WaterAid Canada Board of Directors for their ongoing stewardship and support for our mission. We also extend our gratitude to our staff for all the hard work they do.
Most of all, we thank you, our donors and partners, for your gracious and unwavering support over this past year. We would never be able to do what we do without your generosity.
Where we work
Global map displays WaterAid country programs as of July 2021
WaterAid has offices in over 30 countries, changing millions of lives every year with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. In 2020/21 WaterAid Canada oversaw projects in Tanzania, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, and India.
Our 2020 Impact
Globally, between 1 April 2020 - 31 March 2021, WaterAid reached:
Household members with access to clean water
School students with clean water
People with access to clean water through healthcare facilities
Household members with decent toilets
School students with decent toilets
People with access to decent toilets through healthcare facilities
Household members with good hygiene
School students with good hygiene
People with good hygiene through healthcare facilities
Our Pandemic Response
Increasing the promotion of proper handwashing and hygiene around the world
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten our global community, the work to bring clean water, decent sanitation, and good hygiene to everyone, everywhere has never been more critical. Worldwide, 2.3 billion people live without reliable access to basic handwashing facilities with soap and water, putting them at greater risk of falling ill with the virus. In the past year, we’ve quickly responded to COVID-19, recognizing the dynamic nature of transmission and the diverse needs of the countries where we work.
Over the past year, we have worked with our country teams to protect some of the most vulnerable populations in the areas where we work. This includes installing handwashing facilities and ensuring access to essentials like soap, water, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant in healthcare facilities, hard-to-reach rural communities, and heavy-traffic public areas. And, our mass public hygiene behaviour change campaigns disseminated through digital, social, and mass media channels, have served to promote the proper use of these facilities.
To ensure the long-term sustainability of our projects, WaterAid has always worked closely with local and national governments. Throughout the pandemic, we added to our advocacy efforts by assisting local and national governments with coordinating their WASH-related responses to the pandemic, while identifying the groups most at-risk in their country. Additionally, we worked with WASH service providers at all levels to limit service distributions of these key resources in fighting COVID-19. Simultaneously we campaigned for governments and donors to prioritize and fund full WASH service coverage for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.
As the pandemic continues to severely impact many parts of the world, our focus will remain on sustainable WASH services in countries with already fragile health systems. We will continue to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable populations by providing them with the necessary resources to defend against, and build resilience to, COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
When it comes the pandemic, none of us are safe until all of us are safe. That’s why we will keep working to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to clean water and good hygiene services to continue to curb the spread of COVID-19. Keep reading to see just a few examples of WaterAid’s early interventions.
More of our impact achieved in 2020
Ensuring Menstrual Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
HerWASH is a four-year project being implemented in Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Pakistan in partnership with the Government of Canada to provide quality, gender-responsive, and age-appropriate menstrual health and hygiene education in vulnerable communities. The project aims to: a) create the necessary conditions for girls to stay in school throughout menstruation and promote their bodily integrity; b) support women and girls to participate in their daily life while menstruating without discrimination; c) help to advance gender equality and female empowerment by improving access to sanitation infrastructure that meets the needs of girls and women during menstruation; and, d) debunking cultural taboos and misconceptions surrounding menstruation.
In the past year, we’ve reached thousands of women, girls, men, and boys with improved WASH infrastructure, training, and education in schools, workplaces, markets, and other community spaces. Training and education have a proven impact on increased levels of confidence in women and girls in talking openly about their menstrual needs; while providing men and boys with a better understanding of menstrual health and hygiene (MHH). Improved WASH infrastructure means that those who menstruate can attend to their needs, such as cleaning reusable menstrual clothes, disposing of pads and tampons, and washing their hands with soap and water in privacy.
At the Mobai Chiefdom Healthcare Facility in Sierra Leone we have already engaged staff in MHH training. One such recipient of the training is a nurse named Mary, 28, who has worked for the healthcare facility for almost a decade.
From a young age, Mary was taught that menstruation was something to be ashamed of and was discouraged from talking openly about it with her family or friends. As a result, she was never properly educated on MHH, and unintentionally became pregnant shortly after experiencing her first period due to this lack of knowledge.
When Mary became a nurse, she thought she would receive training on MHH – but to her dismay, the topic was as stigmatized at her nursing school as it had been in her childhood home. She knew this wasn’t right, and she wanted to learn more about the subject so she could educate adolescent girls in her community.
Through HerWASH, Mary attended a 3-day training session offered by WaterAid Sierra Leone to educate healthcare workers on the importance of MHH and sexual and reproductive health and rights. She was thrilled to finally have the information she so desperately wished she had known as a young girl.
“After the training, I promised to make use of the knowledge gained to reach out to other adolescents.”
Now, thanks to HerWASH, Mary is not afraid to speak openly about menstruation. On open clinic days and during outreach sessions, she enthusiastically shares her knowledge and empowers and informs others in her community to make decisions about their own health.
More of our impact achieved in 2020
Our changing climate is making life harder for the world’s poorest people
Around the world we’re seeing clear evidence that our climate is changing. Floods, droughts, heatwaves, and forest fires have all become more frequent and extreme in recent years. This is making life harder for people who already struggle to get clean water.
One of the ways we can mitigate the effects of climate change is with a reliable source of water that keeps running through floods, droughts, and other natural disasters. We’re working side-by-side with some of the world’s poorest communities to establish environmentally sustainable water infrastructure to help them get a steady supply of clean water year-round.
In flood-prone regions, we provide flood-resistant waterpoints and pipe networks to ensure people always have access to clean and safe drinking water. In drought-prone regions, we help people learn how to accurately monitor and manage water supplies to ensure a community’s basic needs can be met during the dry season. We also work with governments to make sure access to clean water is at the heart of their climate adaptation and development plans.
Given its low elevation and poor infrastructure, Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. Extreme weather events like floods and cyclones have become increasingly common in recent years due to changing climate patterns, leading to the destruction of essential infrastructure and the contamination of clean water sources. This is putting millions of people at risk of displacement and illness, like Parul, pictured above, who lives along the Kapotakkho River in Khulna, Bandgladesh.
Parul and her family used to have a clean water source close to her home, but a series of cyclones and flooding contaminated it, making it unsafe to drink. As a result, she and her family were forced to travel long distances – close to 3 km every day – just to find clean water. Parul and her husband, Saraf, were both left with less time to earn an income, and the couple’s daughter, Khushi, often had to miss school to help collect water.
To ensure Parul and her family regained access to clean water close to their home, WaterAid and partners helped install a rainwater harvesting system on the family’s property. The system collects and stores safe, clean rainwater that can be used for drinking, farming, hand washing, bathing, and cooking. Most importantly, the rainwater harvesting system is designed to be resistant to cyclones and flooding, meaning access to clean water will not be compromised by changing climate patterns.
The family no longer needs to travel long distances to find clean water. Parul and Saraf have more time to practice poultry and shrimp farming, Khushi can go to school full-time, and the whole family has their basic clean water needs met.
WaterAid Canada is sincerely grateful for every supporter and recognizes the following donors who made transformational gifts in 2020/21:
Franklin Cockshutt and Upama Rai
Louise de Grandpré
Christopher Koski and Eva Janssens
Bob and Doddi Reid
Carol and Richard Wilson
Celtic Cross Foundation
Chyzowski Charitable Foundation
Donner Canadian Foundation
ETFO Humanity Fund
Fitzhenry Family Foundation
Pathy Family Foundation
The Canadian Medical Foundation
The Canadian Tilling Foundation
The Laura L. Tiberti Charitable Foundation
William Pearson Family Fund
Diva International Inc.
Fill It Forward
Merit Travel Group
Suez Water Technologies & Solutions
Tree World Plant Care Products Inc.
Whitehorse Liquidity Partners