Mapping vulnerable communities essential to global health and poverty
Simply installing toilets where needed throughout the world and ensuring safe water supplies would do more to end crippling poverty and improve world health than any other possible measure, according to an analysis released [on 19 Oct 2008] by the United Nations University – International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH).
The analysis says better water and sanitation reduces poverty in three ways.
- New service business opportunities are created for local entrepreneurs;
- Significant savings are achieved in the public health sector; and
- Individual productivity is greater in contributing to local and national economies.
UNU-INWEH also calls on the world’s research community to help fill major knowledge gaps that impede progress in addressing the twin global scourges of unsafe water and poor sanitation.
Information gaps include such seemingly obvious measures as common definitions and worldwide maps to identify communities most vulnerable to health-related problems as a result of poor access to sanitation and safe water. UNU-INWEH also calls for creation of a “tool-box” to help policy-makers choose between available options in local circumstances.
In the analysis, prepared for global policy makers and released Oct. 20 at the start of a two-day UNU-INWEH-hosted international meeting [Sanitation: Innovations for Policy and Finance] in Hamilton, Canada, experts offer a prescription for policy reform.
The UNU-INWEH analysis identifies population growth, poverty, climate change, globalization and inappropriate policies on investment, urbanization, and intensification of agriculture as the five global trends most likely to exacerbate water supply and sanitation problems in years to come.
“As the International Year of Sanitation winds down, UNU invites and welcomes the help of all scientists who agree we can and must do more,” says Prof. Susan Elliott, a Senior Research Fellow at UNU-INWEH and a professor at McMaster University.
The “toolbox” idea would involve “a virtual library and database of educational materials, technologies, governance, models, etc. would facilitate information exchange of both established and innovative tools.”
As well, “validated models need to be developed that will predict the impact of climate change on water and wastewater infrastructure, water availability, water quality and waterborne / water-associated diseases.”
UNU-INWEH was created in 1996 to strengthen water management capacity, particularly of developing countries, and to provide on-the-ground project support. With core funding provided by the Government of Canada, it is hosted by McMaster University, Canada.
Source: UNU / EurekAlert, 19 Oct 2008 – see also Fiona Harvey, Financial Times, 20 Oct 2008 and Reuters, 19 Oct 2008