Water is life: innovating to achieve UN SDG6
Growing up in a region with abundant water resources like my home state of Maine in the U.S., I had never considered the possibility of not having adequate safe water. It wasn’t until a presentation by a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) NGO during secondary school that I became aware of the hardships experienced by millions around the globe with regards to access to clean water. During the presentation, they explained to us that in the small, West African nation of Burkina Faso, woman and children often must walk over 5 kilometers each day to get the water they need for their daily activities. In a time when cars will soon drive themselves and nanoparticles will deliver customized medications, it’s unfathomable that someone should be without something so essential to life as water. Yet, over 663 million individuals are without access to it globally. The presentation demonstrated to me, as well, how NGOs traditionally address the situation, by focusing heavily on the quantity of accessible water, but often overlooking the quality of available water.
In light of these realities and my interests in global health and governance, I felt compelled to act, to use my skills and the opportunities I had been given to work to address this situation. As such, I co-founded Initiative: Eau, an international NGO committed to providing sustainable support to regions experiencing lack of access to safe water and a need for improved sanitation by promoting community-led initiatives and by engaging in innovative research. Initiative: Eau currently conducts programming in Burkina Faso and Nigeria, and is headquartered in Boston, U.S.A. We are in consultative status with the United Nations and are a member of several NGO networks including Sanitation and Water for All and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
I have stewarded the organization such that our approach is human centered yet data driven meaning our programs are designed to be technologically and culturally appropriate, while producing demonstrable results. We have a particular focus in urban WASH, water quality, and water-borne diseases. Our flagship program WASHMobile generates and utilizes big water data to direct strategic drinking water infrastructure investment and repair, and public health program targeting. It is a system to collect and disseminate water quality information to make developing cities smarter and more resilient while maximizing available public and development funding. Through it, we work to reduce water-borne disease rates.
With this background and experience, I am excited to take part in the inaugural UNLEASH Innovation Lab for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The concentration of so many young, bright individuals from every corner of the globe holds the promise to change the way the world does development. This represents a unique opportunity to think, work, and innovate as a diverse collective unified by our dedication and passion for human rights and global equity. I am looking forward to this as an opportunity to grow and improve my work in the water sector, and more importantly as an opportunity to grow in my global perspective with my fellow talents.