COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — UN-Habitat and the Coca-Cola Foundation have successfully completed a 15-month project in August 2014 that installed 125 rainwater harvesting systems in the Killinochchi District in the northern province of Sri Lanka. The new rooftop rainwater harvesting systems will help bring clean water to 120 families and five community buildings during the Sri Lankan dry season.
Sri Lanka is one of 12 countries that benefits from the UN-Habitat-Coca-Cola water partnership, which seeks to bring clean water and adequate sanitation systems to communities that have previously had little or no access to them.
The partnership began in 2007 with projects in India and Nepal to increase access to clean water and sanitation for the urban poor, urban slums and rural areas, with a special focus on improving access in schools. At the time, UN-Habitat hoped that the new partnership would encourage other public-private-community partnerships which are a critical part of reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date in 2015.
MDG 7, Target 7.C seeks to decrease by half the proportion of people in the world without access to clean water and basic sanitation by 2015. According to the UN, this target was actually met 5 years ahead of schedule in 2010; however, 748 million people still lack access to clean drinking water and 2.5 billion still lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.
In order to continue providing clean water to communities in need, the UN-Habitat-Coca-Cola partnership expanded its initiative in May 2014 to include 12 countries with the addition of South Sudan to its program. The other 11 countries participating in the program include: India, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Bhutan.
The partnership has also recently launched a Support My School Campaign in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. The campaign seeks to not only improve access to water, sanitation and rainwater and groundwater harvesting techniques but to also improve the overall quality of schools in order to foster an environment conducive to learning, one in which students enjoy attending school. Access to basic sanitation and clean water are essential to reducing absenteeism in schools, according to Coca-Cola campaign.
Other regionally-focused programs include the Replenish Africa Initiative, or RAIN, which seeks to improve hygiene standards in African countries by providing access to clean water not only for drinking but for personal hygiene purposes. Access to safe drinking water reduces the spread of preventable waterborne illnesses, which are one of the leading causes of death in Africa. In order reduce the spread of waterborne illnesses and improve hygiene standards, Coca-Cola committed $30 million so that RAIN can bring clean water to 2 million people in Africa by 2015.
A document by the UN Human Rights Council recognizes access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities as a fundamental human right. Through this program, UN-Habitat hopes to achieve universal recognition of this right and improve sustainable development efforts in the most vulnerable regions of the world.
– Erin Sullivan