Thursday, April 29, 2010

Water Poverty: How to combat it (from the WHO)

DEVASTATION: This startling picture of the White House, by Saddington & Baynes for WaterAid and End Water Poverty, marks a meeting of 30 nations to discuss the problem of water poverty.

Four days after my last post discussing water and oil, the World Health Organisation released its annual sanitation and drinking water report.

"There is no doubt that if ministers and leaders had to endure these conditions in their own backyard they would take immediate action. Today they have the opportunity to do so and help bring an end to this scandalous crisis." - Barbara Frost (on Stuff)

The Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) (warning, 23.7 MB)

The report found that diarrhoeal disease in children has a greater impact than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. Improving sanitation and drinking water could reduce the death of 2.2 million children a year. Sanitation would save a lot of money for these developing countries. Money that could be spent on healthcare, food, protection and education. There is four reccomendations in it:

Recommendation 1 - Developing countries and external support agencies to demonstrate greater political commitment to sanitation and drinking-water, given their central role in human and economic development.

Reccomendation 2 - External support agencies and developing countries to consider how to better target resources to accelerate progress towards meeting the sanitation and drinking-water MDG(Millenium Development Goal) target

Reccomendation 3 - Developing countries and external support agencies to strengthen national and subnational systems to plan, implement and monitor the delivery of sanitation and drinking-water services, especially to unserved populations.

Reccomendation 4 - All stakeholders to work in partnership to support the development and implementation of national plans for sanitation and drinkingwater, using their particular skills and resources and aligning with national systems.

So what do these reccomendations mean? What are supporting agencies, stakeholders, subnational plans and the MDG target? Do these words really mean anything? Let's have a look. Specifically at page 70, where they expand on these reccomendations. However instead of writing in UN english, I'll be writing in plain english or at least trying to.

Recommendation 1 - There needs to be a bigger commitment to clean and drinkable water. Specifically from developing countries and any supporting agencies like the Red Cross or United Nations Development program. This is because water's essential for health and their businesses. Here's how you do it:
  • Increase money and effort into sanitation and getting more drinkable water. This is done through developing countries and external support agencies, like the ones mentioned. (R1a)
  • Find how much resources(eg. money, volunteers, vehicles) you need for drinking water and sanitation compared to other social services. This way you can use them more efficiently. For instance, if your village has two cars available, use one to pick clean water up early in the morning from the well. Then use it to do whatever the village needs done the rest of the day. Have the other one reserved as an ambulance. (R1b)
  • Convince the people affected by water poverty, mostly the government and citizens, that having more drinking water and sanitation will boost the economy. That it's worth working towards. (R1c)

Reccomendation 2 - Think of how to use resources more effectively. This is so a country can reduce by half people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation(Millenium Development Goal). This means:
  • Have your highest authorities discuss resources available for basic sanitation and drinking water for people without access to them. (R2a)
  • Measure your progress on reducing the people without clean water and basic sanitation by half. Have set goals per year. It's a bit like going on a diet. You're a 160 kg overweight man trying to get down to 80 kg. For your first year you aim to lose 10 kg, a year after that 15 kg etc until you're down to 80. (R2b)

Reccomendation 3 - Strengthen national and regional systems to plan, implement and monitor the delivery of clean drinking water and sanitation. Make sure this is done especially for people without access to clean water and sanitation.
  • In country development plans, make sure there are clear roles in institutes responsible for delivering sanitation and drinking water. The leading institutions and roles are accountable for delivery. This gives a clear frame work to work in and wont cause confusion. (R3a)
  • Make sure that accurate and reliable data is available for regions. This means nobody's slacking off or making up figures. (R3b)
  • Prepare and implement plans to use people available who will get sanitation and clean drinking water. This means who will be cleaners, water deliverers and who'll be responsible for maintaining certain facilities. (R3c)

Reccomendation 4 - A partnership of people with the needed skills and resources to implementing national clean drinking water plans.
  • Have external support agencies find ways to deliver clean water and sanitation. Let them partner with investors wanting economical benefits or organisations that have money to support them. Don't reveal who they are. Their role is to give money and follow their legal contract to give it. (R4a)
  • Have the countries and citizens work with external support agencies to lower by half people without clean water or sanitation. (R4b)

Of course these are only reccomendations. Some developing countries might try something completely different. But I hope these developing countries will get access to clean and safe drinking water. It will be a cornerstone for peace. For more information on Water Poverty, you can check out the WHO's booklet: The Right to Water

“Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” - Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General.

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