WHY WASH MATTERS
The effects of climate change are being felt most acutely by the urban poor.
Many informal neighbourhoods are built in low-lying areas, disproportionately affected by flooding from more frequent and violent storms. Without proper drainage or regular latrine-emptying, storms can lead to human waste pouring into streets and homes. During heatwaves, people’s need for water increases just as it becomes more scarce and unaffordable.
Climate change is also forcing many people to migrate into cities. Most end up living in informal, makeshift neighbourhoods, increasing the demand on already fragile infrastructure.
At WSUP, a focus on climate resilience is built into all our services. From installing stronger pipes which are less likely to be damaged to building raised toilet blocks which will remain accessible even during flooding, we are creating systems that meet today’s needs but will also withstand tomorrow’s climate challenges.
We also heavily focus on preserving water supplies by reducing lost water through the network, which can be up to 40% in many of the countries where we work. In Madagascar, for example, our work with the national utility is currently saving an estimated 3 million cubic litres of water a year. As a result, the utility has been able to extend its network to 750,000 poor residents who were previously unserved.
Henriqueta Luís, Beira, Mozambique
“Sometimes the water that we drink is unclean. This results in diarrhoea, vomiting and cholera.”
A year after Mozambique was hit by two deadly cyclones, including the devastating Idai (2019), communities in Beira lacked access to clean water where they lived. The shortage of clean, safe water in the worst affected areas had a massive impact on daily life of residents such as Henriqueta Luís, a mother of three.
“Sometimes the water that we drink is unclean. This results in diarrhoea, vomiting and cholera,” she says. Henriqueta and others had no choice but to walk up to an hour to find clean water for her family, making much harder for her to manage her commute to work and domestic tasks such as looking after both her children and the family’s home.
As climate change increases the severity of natural disasters around the world, cities must adapt so that vulnerable residents like Henriqueta have reliable access to clean water. After those deadly cyclones, WSUP worked with local authorities and funders such as Borealis to improve and expand the provision of clean water in low-communities in Beira. The aim has been to ensure that the city’s water systems are climate-resilient, so future – and likely – powerful weather events do not impact local communities as much as the most recent ones.