Egyptian NGO Wins UN Prize for Water and Sanitation Projects

The United Nation’s World Habitat Award honors community-based model for clean drinking water and sanitation.

Better City Better Life World Habitat DayAn Egyptian NGO that uses a community-based model to improve access to clean water and sanitation won a World Habitat Award Monday during the United Nations-sponsored World Habitat Day.

Through its local housing movement program, the Better Life Association for Comprehensive Development (BLACD) has provided new in-house connections to running water and latrines for 5,900 families in Minia Governorate, one of Egypt’s poorest regions.

BLACD trains people in the Nile Valley district to build houses and water systems using accessible materials suited for the natural environment. The houses incorporate ventilation systems and sanitation disposal to prevent pollution of water supplies and agricultural land. One village BLACD works with is using solar power to heat water.

In-house water and sanitation has had the greatest effect on women who no longer have to make daily trips to distant water sources or have to fear for their safety while they use the toilet.

To finance the projects, BLACD uses a revolving fund from which loans are made and repaid. Loan recipients pay eight percent annual interest, and the fund has a 98 percent repayment rate. BLACD gets money from several international foundations and uses its reputation to secure loans from banks unwilling to lend to the poor.

The program began in 1998, in a few villages, but has since expanded to 18 communities and into a partnership with 16 grassroots organizations. The BLACD model is being replicated in two other Egyptian regions and the organization is advising community start-ups in Tanzania, South Africa and the Philippines.

The organization also provides legal assistance on questions of land tenure.

“Better City, Better Life” was the theme for World Habitat Day. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement calling for improvements to the living conditions of the urban poor.

With the demographic transition to urban life, the infrastructure needs of cities are seeing greater emphasis as more people now live in cities than rural areas.

Read more about sanitation issues in developing countries on Circle of Blue.

Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton

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