Sanitation is not an event or a building, but a mind-set and a life-style aspiration
The Nicaraguan urban poor have a long-standing history of lacking access to basic services, such as water and sanitation. In the capital city, Managua, the Greater Managua Water and Sanitation Project (PRASMA) was devised to create new water and sanitation infrastructure throughout the city.
This includes a system of low-cost sewage networks designed to target the poor regions of Managua. Although the PRASMA was a solid start, city officials realised that more was needed if they hoped to achieve their goal of reaching universal piped water connectivity.
The Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (MHCP) reached out to the World Bank for funding to create the Nicaraguan Water and Sewerage Enterprise (ENACAL) in order to expand 15,798 water and 19,716 sewer connections to some of the poorest households.
Before ENACAL was launched, only 26.5 per cent of households had access to piped water. Only 1.2 per cent had in-house toilets. The majority of the population, more than 72 per cent, used latrines. The remaining portion of the population concerned city officials the most, with more than 26 per cent lacking access to any sanitation services.
Among the poorest neighborhoods, it was not uncommon to see raw sewage running down the streets. In other impoverished neighborhoods, even for those connected to piped-in water, service was less than reliable. Some households received water as infrequently as two hours per day.
Since collecting $20 million in credit and $20 million in grant money from the World Bank to get ENACAL operational, the project has improved service reliability for 161,896 Nicaraguans as well as increasing the overall financial sustainability of its operations.
The World Bank reported a little less than half of the money was used to expand and add additional infrastructure. The remainder of the funds was used to optimize technical efficiency and strengthen institutional activities.
Moving forward, ENACAL is developing the Master Plan for Operational Efficiency in Managua. This focuses on non-revenue water reduction and the optimization of energy efficiency.
With the assistance in the funding of $300 million from the World Bank and other international donors, continued improvements under the Program for Human Water and Sanitation will take place over the course of the next 15 years.
Thus far, ENACAL has benefited 62,295 residents and improved the percentage of households with access to water for 16 or more hours a day to 72 per cent.
More communities with access to water
With support from the World Bank through the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (PRASNICA) more than 180 communities have now small wells, improved pumps, water tanks, aqueducts, household connections and local sanitation.
The US$20 million project has been under implementation since June 2008 and in January 2013 an additional US$6 million in funds were approved for the project. This will allow an additional 42 rural and indigenous communities in Nicaragua to have access to water. And so, people will be able to do household chores without traveling great distances to find water.
“Our interest is to continue to support this project because it has visible results. Also, infrastructure goes hand in hand with social awareness programmes that emphasise the importance of hygiene, water conservation and sustainability,” said Camille Nuamah, World Bank Country Manager for Nicaragua.
The rural Pacific area, the Atlantic coast, and the communities of Alto Wangki and Bocay in Jinotega, will also get expanded coverage of water services, with the construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure and the installation of latrines or septic tanks.
“We face the challenge of measuring improvements in terms of access to water and sanitation, as well as having a sustainable impact in the communities,” adds Nuamah.
Although Nicaragua has made great progress in access to drinking water, there are still disparities between urban and rural areas. It is estimated that only 37 per cent of rural population has sanitation services - compared to 63 per cent in cities.
According to recent studies, the negative effects of lack of water and sanitation result in a loss of 0.9 per cent of the country’s GDP, affecting sectors such as health, education and productivity.
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