Is Clean Water Technology a Solution for Africa?

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Sarah Joanne Jakubowski, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:25 p.m. DST, 30 June 2014

Chief Executive Officer of N&M Technologies, Head Office, South Africa

GHANA, Accra -- Earlier this month, Medwyn Jacobs, CEO of New and Master Technologies (N&M) once again presented at Annual Ghana National Health Environment and Safety (NAHES) Conference where he reintroduced N&M’s water harvesting machine that can take water out of the atmosphere and filter it into usable drinking water.

N&M Technologies is a proud South African registered and based company that was established in 1989 by the current CEO, Mr. Medwyn Jacobs. N&M's focus has always been to meet the challenges facing South Africa and Africa through new and innovative means, and addressing Africa's clean water problems is one of them.

Mr. Jacob's had hoped to convince NAHES participates in 2013 to adopt the clean water generating solution that his company offered; however, the lack of enthusiasm has Jacobs worried because a year later nothing has changed. Yet, the stakes are higher than ever since groundwater sources across Africa have been depleted and people on the Continent are running out of places to look for water.

"Your country has so much humidity," Jacobs said to conference attendees. "You will never be short of water." Even better, he promises to open factories in Ghana that produce the machine, creating jobs and keeping resources local. However, reception of the machine during this conference remained half-hearted.

The audience questioned the machines safety. Had it been tested in a variety of humidities? Perhaps it would act differently in different settings? They questioned its efficiency. Can you reuse the filter? What if somebody didn't follow directions, reused the filter and gets sick?

Those at the conference did choose to sample the water produced by the machine, raising their glasses in a toast to N&M and Ghana before ceremoniously drinking the pristine water; but at the end of the day, Jacobs was no closer to deploying his company's solution than in 2013.

Potable water is a grave problem in many countries with emerging economies. It is especially dire in Asia, Africa, and South America. According to the World Health Organization there are “780 million people don't have access to clean water, and 3.4 million die each year due to water-borne diseases.”

N&M’s machine could be one remedy to this problem, and the fact that Africans seem reticent to deploy this on a larger scale is problematic. The technology of water reclamation from the air is not new. There is an Israeli company called Water-Gen that has developed an Atmospheric Water-Generation Units using its "GENius" heat exchanger to chill air and condense water vapor.

Their solution has been deployed on a large scale and according to an April 2014 article by CNNco-CEO Arye Kohavi explained that "The clean air enters our GENius heat exchanger system where it is dehumidified; the water is removed from the air and collected in a collection tank inside the unit.

From there the water is passed through an extensive water filtration system which cleans it from possible chemical and microbiological contamination," he explains. "The clean purified water is stored in an internal water tank which is kept continuously preserved to keep it at high quality over time."

The system produces 250-800 liters (65-210 gallons) of potable water a day depending on temperature and humidity conditions and Kohavi says it uses two cents' worth of electricity to produce a liter of water.” (Source: CNN)

N&M often researches foreign ideas and technology to develop innovative solutions, and perhaps if the idea of large-scale water reclamation from the air is not readily adopted, Ghanians and other Africans may be open to another aspect of water generating systems like portable water purification systems.

These machines may be of great assistance to communities where the people are subject to the daily backbreaking tasks of carrying water for cooking, washing, and bathing over many miles in hostile conditions, often in contaminated, non-biodegradable containers, such as plastics that previously contained toxic liquids/materials.

“Water-Gen has developed a portable water purification system. It's a battery-operated water filtration unit called Spring. Spring is able to filter 180 liters (48 gallons) of water, and fits into a backpack -- enabling water filtration on the go. You can go to any lake, any place, any river, anything in the field, usually contaminated with industrial waste, or anything like that and actually filters it into the best drinking water that exists," says Kohavi.” (Source: CNN)

This is not to say that individuals in Africa can afford a single device, but perhaps in the near future, the South African company N&M could partner with a company like Water-Gen to increase market share in Africa. Through the economies of scale, such a partnership could potentially introduce life-saving alternatives to porting and drinking contaminated water. The most important aspect of this opportunity is that the solution to address this critical issue is available and now it is just a matter of scaling and adoption, and with this, perhaps N&M will receive a warmer reception at the 2015 NAHES conference.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @SJJakubowski

Capitalism vs. Water Rights in Detroit City

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:45 p.m. DST, 26 June 2014

Hotel Granwood, Detroit, Michigan, Photo by  无忌 王伟

DETROIT, Michigan -- Despite numerous plans initiated by Detroit to encourage its residents to remain in the city, the once great Midwestern city of Detroit has done an about face.

In an otherwise tragic situation, some might say that rapacious forces now endeavor to further disenfranchise the hardscrabble, poorest of the poor who have toughed out the deteriorating living conditions in what was once known as Motor City.

In recent months the City of Detroit has gradually cut off public water access to its most impoverished and vulnerable residents. Since the water was shut off, "sick people have been left without running water and working toilets, and people recovering from surgery cannot wash and change bandages, nor can parents prepare food for their children to eat."

Water rights groups are calling the move calculated and designed to enable the city to shed its books of impoverished consumers who are unable and likely for the foreseeable future, remain unable to pay their water bills.

Technically, the Detroit Water Department is within its legal right to disconnect service for non-payment, but many of the people who have been impacted were not given notice of their impending water disconnection. The net effect was that thousands of people have lost access to public water.

In May and June when the disconnections began and water dried up around the city, a collective of human rights and water rights activists began to protest for Detroit to open up water pipelines, calling the move an attack on basic human rights. Multiple organizations in the community appealed to the United Nations to condemn these practices and bring international attention to the plight of these citizens.

Their efforts bore fruit, when news reports announced today that the U.N. has condemned the city of obstructing water rights which is a human rights violation. This is a clear cut case of blocking fair access to water rights by the poor, and puts America on par with other countries that have chosen to 'commoditize' water thus making it cost prohibitive and unaffordable for its poorest citizen.

Examples include, Bolivia, India, and Tanzania among others as detailed in an article by Anup Shahin, titled Water and Development. The statistics on this global problem of inadequate access to water and corporate greed is one that will only worsen.

Clearly, water termination disrupts basic health and wellness at a fundamental level. That an American city is subjecting its citizenry to these horrendous conditions is at odds with the perception that is promoted about the United States, both internationally and domestically. One which promulgates an image of equality for rich and poor, and that this country is free from many of the ills which plague developing nations.

This paradoxical move to cut water when the city is engaged in a campaign to encourage inbound migration, gentrification, and renovation of the iconic city only highlights the fact that its interests lies not with the populace but with the privileged. The infusion of millions of dollars into the city coffers from corporate developers as the city seeks to move out of bankruptcy, makes Detroit's squabbling over a few unpaid months of water bills all the more ludicrous.

Although, around 5,000 Detroiter's water has been cut off already, the city has plans to cut water access to 30,000 more households this year. Like so many cases in American politics and economics, the people at the top are quick to look down on the people at the bottom and assign blame and inflict upon them an untenable burden.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Life-Changing Water Found Below Kenya's Surface

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified:12:28 p.m. DST, 23 September 2013

African Child Drinking Clean Water, Photo by The OptimizersKENYA, Africa - The Lake Turkana region of Kenya is known for the skeleton found in the region that dates back to 1.5 million years ago, making it one of the suspected origin locations for humans.

Over the eons of cradling human civilizations, the Turkana region has gradually become more and more arid over time to become the drought-stricken area it is today.

However, there has been a recent discovery by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that revealed that below the region's surface, there is 200 billion cubic meters of freshwater reserves in an underground aquifer. Furthermore, this vast supply can supply the entire country's population of 42 million people for 70 years!

This statistic is an unbelievable figure, as this water source has the potential to completely change the livelihoods of Kenya's 17 million citizens who lack access to safe water.

Despite this highly welcomed news, it is imperative that the Kenyan government assures that the water is managed and distributed in an equitable, appropriate manner. The supply has grand economic potential, but the country's leaders should instead look to the human rights potential and ensure that the masses have access to it. Fulfilling people's right to clean water could completely change the lives of millions and improve the standard of living.

This is a crucial opportunity for Kenya and the following decisions about the aquifer could play a huge rule in the country's trajectory.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

United Nations Accused of Cholera Outbreak Coverup

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 23:41 p.m. EDT, 4 March 2013

Zimbabwe, Children Carrying Water, Photo Courtesy of IRIN NewsOn March 1, 2013, Aljazeera reported that the United Nations (UN) was accused of covering up the 2008 cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. The UN dispute tribunal in Nairobi, Kenya, found that the UN did not inform the Robert Mugabe government of the potential for a cholera outbreak.

Aljazeera further reported that George Tadonki, the then head of the UN humanitarian office in Zimbabwe, warned his superiors of the potential outbreak, but no actions were taken.

Tadonki claims that he was fired in January 2009 in part because he “sounded the alarm about the cholera crisis.” Supposedly, the UN did not want to upset the government of Robert Mugabe, therefore did not warn the government of the upcoming outbreak. Tadonki pursued the issue, and the UN dispute tribunal in Nairobi ruled that he was unjustifiably removed from his job.

The UN dispute tribunal concluded that there should be disciplinary action taken against four senior UN officials, including the former humanitarian chief of the UN, John Holmes. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told Aljazeera that they intend to appeal the judgment.

Upon reading reports of this incident, I embarked on an effort to verify the Aljazeera news report. I was unable to located independent verification of Tadonki's assertions on any news sources. This seemed inconsistent and smacked of a coverup given the magnitude of this story both in terms of the adverse health impact, as well as the political ramifications of an organization as high-profile as the UN failure to live up to one of its core tenets.

I finally found the original report, Tadonki v. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Case number NDT/NBI/2009/36, on the United Nations Dispute Tribunal website. Published on February 26, 2013, the report suggested that the failure of the UNCHA to renew Tadonki’s contract was “unlawful,” and that the UNCHA ignored humanitarian values in their dealings with Tadonki. Further, the UN report said on page 304 of their report, the Applicant being Tadonki:

308. Even ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] Bragg had testified that there were problems with the RC/HC and Mr. Mukhtar and that the UNCT was weak so that by January 2009 deaths from cholera had reached the thousands. In spite of this, the Tribunal finds that whenever something went wrong in Zimbabwe at the material time, the blame was laid at the door of the Applicant. It appeared that while he achieved some positive results no credit was given to him. In fact, ASG Bragg told the Tribunal that the achievements made by the Applicant in Zimbabwe were nothing extraordinary because it was his job. Management listened to rumours from all quarters instead of objectively assessing the situation and the performance of the Applicant.

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Published: 4 March 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

309. The matter of the Applicant’s said interpersonal relationships with some of those in the humanitarian community in Zimbabwe at the material time and the criticisms of him by these people or groups constituted the singular issue that informed his removal by OCHA. The critical question is: what was the Applicant doing wrong? Principal among his wrongdoing is that by the time he had spent one month in the country, he had published an early warning ˗ suggesting that the UNCT, which had been operating before he came on the scene was ill prepared for an impending humanitarian crisis. In spite of the fact that no one could successfully counter his prediction, he appeared to have stepped on some big toes by stating the obvious. Thus the Applicant, a new-comer, had attempted to upset the applecart in a situation where, clearly, humanitarian considerations only played second fiddle to political issues.

There are several inconsistencies in the initial two paragraphs alone. First of all, this is unlike any UN report I’ve ever read. As a previous member of Model UN, we read several UN reports, none of which were this informal.

Second, the tribunal in Nairobi claims, “whenever something went wrong in Zimbabwe at the material time, the blame was laid at the door of the Applicant.” Ignoring informalities, the suggestion that “whenever something went wrong” is extremely ambiguous, and the tribunal could hence claim that the UN blamed Tandonki for anything including actions he had no control over.

Third, the report leaves me unclear to why the UN didn’t want to upset the corrupt government of Mugabe. Mugabe is responsible for a multitude of human rights violations during the time that Mr. Tandoki was stationed there. If the UN was attempting to cover up the outbreak, then we have an example of a serious violation of human rights.

This an ultimate lack of transparency for the UN, which was established in part to encourage transparency. Further, this suggests that the UN is in collusion with Mugabe. One can speculate that the UN nations did not want to upset Mugabe because they wanted to remain in Zimbabwe to continue humanitarian operations. Hence, attempting to move Tadonki to the OCHA Regional Office in Johannesburg to take the position of Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer in order to cover up the cholera outbreak. Further, if the UN was ill prepared as this report suggested, then what exactly is our money doing?

This leaves me at another set of problems. Was the government of Kenya involved in the tribunal’s decision to find the UN guilty of covering up a cholera outbreak? Kenya and Zimbabwe have a long history of conflict, and further considering the strangely informal wording of the report, I am left suspicious. Further, I was unable to find any concrete information about the Nairobi dispute tribunal itself.

Perhaps this is just the tale of the disgruntled employee. Angry that the OCHA was not going to renew his contract, Tadonki made up the tale that the UN was covering up the cholera outbreak. When the tribunal in Kenya caught wind of this story, Kenya was eager to find a reason to prosecute their long-term enemy, and thus produced this report.

Ultimately, I am unable to ascertain what really happened in Zimbabwe in 2008. Is the UN caught up in a conspiracy of colluding with a corrupt government to cover up a cholera outbreak warning? Is Tadonki just upset that he got fired, and Kenya wanted to find a chance to stick it to their enemy? These are all questions that should have been asked in advance of publicizing this story, but regardless of the internal machinations of this organization, the internecine intrigue between Kenya and Zimbabwe, the ultimate victims are the Zimbabwean people who continue to suffer from lack of access to basic necessities such as clean water.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki
 
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Sources: Aljazeera; Tadonki v. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Case number NDT/NBI/2009/36

Indomitable Spencer West Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

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“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” ~ Napoleon Hill

The incredible story of a thirty-one year old Canadian, Spencer Westexemplifies the essence of this quote.

In June 2012, West rose to international prominence after successfully climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro using only his hands because he has no lower body.

A challenging and favored adventure site for seasoned climbers, the 19,341 feet (5,895 metres) mountain is situated in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and is the highest mountain in Africa.

An undertaking of this magnitude seems unfathomable for someone who only trained for a year and desired to raise nearly $750,000 for charity based upon his ability to complete the ascent, but this is exactly what West did.

In 2008, he volunteered for a trip to Kenya with Free the Children to build a school. During this trip he began to formulate an idea on how he could contribute more to the charity. This idea coalesced into a fund raising climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for Clean Water projects in Africa.

Many people have successfully climbed Kilimanjaro, but none were born with a rare genetic disorder which required the amputation of both legs at the hip at five years of age. At that time West’s parents were told that he would never be able to sit up nor walk, but they chose wisely to redefine the possible and disregard these dire prognostications.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gzSyM6T5hCk] Instead they instilled in West an indomitable spirit so infectious that nothing seemed impossible. West grew up focusing on the possibilities that didn’t include accepting the limitations of his physique. He subsequently pursued a very active social life, completed high school, and university while simultaneously developing a strong sense of altruism.

So when West decided to embark on a campaign to raise funds for the charity most who knew him believed that he would succeed. He trained for nearly a year to condition his arms and upper body to handle the rigors of walking on his hands 80% of the time over the course of a seven day ascent to the summit.

View more photos of his courageous journeyhere, then head over to the Free the Children website to learn more about the project, to donate money, or read more about Spencer West.

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