The March/April issue of USAID’s “FrontLines” focuses on access to safe water and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). In his “Insights” column, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes, “While we have seen tremendous progress — halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water since 1990 — we still…
Water and Sanitation
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and community-led total sanitation (CLTS) programs are coming under increased academic scrutiny, Darren Saywell, the WASH/CLTS technical director at Plan International USA and vice-chair to the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) initiative, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “I personally see this trend as positive. It’s long overdue; and in its absence the WASH sector has lost ground to competing interests which have understood that the way to a donor or politician’s heart and head is through compelling evidence, simply told.” He outlines several steps international non-governmental organizations can take to improve data and cooperation to reach their output goals (11/19).
“Across the world, one in three women risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet,” Ann Jenkin, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Member of Parliament Annette Brooke, and Glenys Kinnock, Baronness Kinnock of Holyhead, write in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Lifestyle” blog. “Facing each day without access to this basic necessity is not just an inconvenience; it impacts on all aspects of life, and it is women and girls who suffer the most,” they continue.
Sometimes “[w]hen the international aid community descends on a vulnerable place … good intentions make a bad situation even worse,” a Boston Globe editorial states, adding that is “what happened two years ago, when United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake, bringing the deadly disease cholera with them.” According to a panel of U.N. experts, poor sanitation in the peacekeepers’ camp likely caused the outbreak, which has killed 7,000 people and sickened 500,000, the editorial notes. “So far, the United Nations has declined to apologize for its role, or even admit it — perhaps because it is facing a deluge of expensive legal claims brought by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti on behalf of the victim’s families,” the editorial states, noting that after a year, the “U.N. says it is still studying the claims.”
“Cuba’s health ministry on Saturday reported 158 cases of cholera, nearly three times as many as previously disclosed, but said there were no new deaths and the outbreak appears to have been contained and on the wane,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (7/14). In a statement, the health ministry “denied there had been a ‘spread’ of cholera on the Communist-ruled island, blaming the incidents outside the affected town of Manzanillo on ‘isolated cases,’ that would be ‘treated and studied promptly,'” Agence France-Presse writes. “Health officials have said they believe heavy rains and hot temperatures contributed to the outbreak,” the news agency notes (7/15).
“In an age of ethnic conflict, fatal disease and chronic malnutrition, it seems strange to stumble across figures such as this: 388,000 people die every year from drowning, according to the World Health Organization,” a Washington Post editorial writes. “To put this number in perspective, drowning accounts for nearly 1 in 10 deaths worldwide,” the editorial continues, adding, “It is the third-leading cause of unintentional death” and “the greatest cause of injury and unintentional death among children younger than five in both the United States and Asia.” The editorial states, “What makes this public health crisis particularly problematic is that, unlike fatal disease and chronic malnutrition, drowning is not an issue at the forefront of humanitarian aid efforts.”
The Guardian reports that “60 finance and development ministers [will] gather in Washington on Friday at a high-level meeting on sanitation and water.” According to the newspaper, “The Sanitation and Water for All meeting, convened by Anthony Lake, executive director of the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF, follows an announcement in March by UNICEF and the World Health Organization that the world had met the millennium development goal (MDG) overall target for access to safe drinking water in 2010, but that 783 million people were still missing out.”
“The toilet is a magnificent thing. … Unfortunately it is an impractical luxury for about two-thirds of the world’s seven billion people because it relies on connections to water and sewerage systems that must be built and maintained at great expense,” a Bloomberg editorial writes. “About 40 percent of all people, an estimated 2.6 billion of them, have no access to even a minimally sanitary facility, according to the World Health Organization,” and “[t]he result is illness and early death. Diarrheal diseases, including those linked to improper sanitation, are the second largest killer in the developing world, taking two million lives annually,” the editorial continues.
U.K. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell on Friday “announced a doubling of the U.K.’s effort to provide clean water and sanitation to the world’s poorest countries,” the Guardian reports (Elliot, 4/20). At a High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation in Washington, D.C., Mitchell “announced that the U.K., through [the Department for International Development (DfID)], would double the number of people it reached with aid in water, sanitation and hygiene education in the next two years, going from 30 to 60 million people globally by 2015,” according to a UNICEF press release (4/20).
In a monthly bulletin (.pdf) on the humanitarian response in Haiti, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that an increase of new cholera cases has been recorded in the western and northern parts of the country and “that Haitian health officials recorded 77 new cases a day for the whole country in early March, when the rains began,” the Associated Press/USA Today reports. “The new cholera cases come after a steady decline since June of last year when aid workers saw peaks of more than 1,000 cases on certain days,” the news agency writes.