Friday, 4 April 2008

‘The Last Taboo’ – the book for IYS2008!

I’ve been reading The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis by Maggie Black and Ben Fawcett (Earthscan, 2008). Overall it’s a very good read indeed and strongly recommended for all involved in IYS2008 – politicians, civil servants, aid bureaucrats, as well as sanitation professionals. The latter won’t find so much that is new (it’s nevertheless an excellent read, even though you may not agree with absolutely everything in it), but many in the first lot will and they need to read it.

Maggie Black is well known in the sanitation sector as the author of two important and highly readable WaterAid publications: Mega Slums: the Coming Sanitary Crisis (1994) and Thirsty Cities: Water, Sanitation and the Urban Poor (1996). The Last Taboo is even better!

It’s a pity that The Last Taboo is quite expensive (GBP 16.99 in the UK). I’ve no idea how much it costs in Africa, but I bet it’s too expensive for most of the people who need to read it − at the very least it should be in every British Council library. Years ago there was the English Language Book Society, a scheme funded by the UK government’s aid programme which enabled special paperback editions of British books, mostly textbooks, to be sold at very low prices in developing countries. For some reason, fathomable only by presumably a few long-since retired civil servants, this brilliant scheme was discontinued. Why on earth don’t DFID and the British Council reinstate it? The cost would be minimal but the benefits huge – remember, there’s no substitute for knowledge!