Sunday 21 December 2008

What has IYS2008 achieved?

As we end the International Year of Sanitation 2008 it’s timely to ask what’s been achieved. Well, no great reduction (if any at all) in the numbers of people needing good sanitation (and ‘good’ = ‘adequate’, not ‘improved’). But this wasn’t really the point of IYS2008. Rather, it was to raise awareness about the truly awful (shocking, shameful, disgraceful − take your pick of adjective) state of sanitation in the developing world today, and this it has done very successfully. At least political leaders can’t now claim to be ignorant about the awful/shocking/shameful/disgraceful state of sanitation in their countries: there’ve been regional sanitation conferences in all parts of the developing world, each with its own Declaration. But the poor need sanitation now, not just politicians talking about it − so we’ll just have to wait and see if there are Actions on the scale required, in addition to all those fine Words.

Isn’t it very extraordinary that politicians in many developing countries still continue to allow their people, in huge numbers, to live without adequate water supplies and adequate sanitation − actually to die in huge numbers because they lack an adequate water supply and adequate sanitation? I wonder if they’ll ever really wake up and face facts. Time is not on the side of the Poor.

This blog will continue into 2009 and beyond...

Wednesday 17 December 2008

More good reads!

Three more good reads for IYS2008: (1) Sanitation Challenges and Solutions (IWA Reference Paper, 2008); (2) Progress and Prospects on Water: For a Clean and Healthy World, with Special Focus on Sanitation − Synthesis of the 2008 Stockholm World Water Week (SIWI, 2008), especially pages 7−12; and (3) Water and Sanitation For Developing Clean and Healthy Cities − Seminar Report from the World Urban Forum 4, Nanjing, China (SIWI, 2008).

The last publication includes the presentation Water & Sanitation for Developing Clean and Healthy Cities by Dr Graham Alabaster of UN-Habitat, in which he presented the Lake Victoria sampling data for water supply in Kenya as an example to show that statistics on access to water coverage change significantly when quantity, cost and burden of collection are considered. (Monitoring that only looks at the type of water source can mislead policy makers who rely on these statistics.) The extreme case here is the town of Kisii where 71 percent of the population had access to an “improved” water supply in 2006, but only 2 percent had access to an “adequate” water supply (defined as >20 litres of water per person per day, <10 percent of household income spent on water, and <1 hour per household per day spent collecting water) (see blog of 14 January).

Free access in DCs to all IWA journals

The International Water Association has just announced that free online access to all IWA Publishing journals (including Water Research) will now be available in developing countries under the HINARI and OARE schemes − at last, and only five years after I said they should do this (see Free on-line access for poor countries to IWA journals?), but better late than never.

The list of countries qualifying for free access is given here.

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.