Thursday, 4 December 2008

WatSan advocacy

I was kindly sent a free copy of the new World Bank book Environmental Health and Child Survival: Epidemiology, Economics, Experiences − an excellent read, and here’s what Sandy Cairncross, Professor of Environmental Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says about it on the back cover:

This rigorous study is a godsend to anyone involved in advocacy for water and sanitation in developing countries. Until now, proving that environmental health measures make good sense economically has been a tricky business. Now this rigorous and detailed study shows that inadequate environmental health has huge costs to the economy (about 9 percent of the GDP of typical developing countries) in addition to the pain and suffering they cause. For politicians who are unmoved by arguments that failure to invest in water and sanitation will make their people poor, this study offers a clincher: it shows how lack of investment will also negatively affect their children’s educational and cognitive performance, because of the effects of malnutrition, exacerbated by frequent episodes of illness.

The economic evidence that WatSan works is building up and in IYS2008 we need to get it all across to politicians in developing countries, so that they stop permitting their citizens (to use the words of the late Barbara Ward) to “defecate themselves to death” − actually “permitting” is not strong enough; lack of action means that they are, in effect, encouraging this appalling waste of life to continue.