Rose George, author of the Big Necessity, writes about her visit to a village in Liberia in the Gates Foundation Blog. There she met a local pastor whose 9-month-old daughter Marie, had died in November 2010 from diarrhoea. Despite increasing attention for sanitation from organisations like the Gates Foundation and UNICEF, it is still not enough, she says.
Ask a Liberian how many children they have and they will answer carefully. “Six, living.”
In this village, the creek was everything. It carried away dead bodies in times of war. It brought animal carcasses. Its flow channeled the upstream villages’ excrement, human and animal.
The creek was drinking water, and washing water, and water that brought death. It was the water in which hopeful mothers, who had trekked four hours to the clinic for the free ORS salts, mixed the medicine.
They knew the creek water was dirty, and they still drank it. They had countless visitors tell them about hygiene and disease, and didn’t lack skills to build pits when they built their own houses. Still they used the bush for defecation. Still they tramped fecal particles back into their cooking and living areas, to be ingested and turned into diarrhea.
Sanitation, you see, is not easy.
Despite increasing attention for sanitation, it is still not enough, says George.
Sanitation is an inordinately powerful health prevention tool. Good sanitation can save money (India alone loses $58 billion a year in healthcare cost and lost labour), place girls back in school, increase income, and save lives. It is the most cost-effective health prevention tool in existence. It baffles me why politicians are still failing to exploit it.
Rose Georges welcomes the efforts by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up its efforts to fund sanitation. In 2010 she visited a UNICEF CLTS project in Mozambique with the Foundation and made the video report below.
Source: Rose George, Gates Foundation Blog, 13 Jul 2011