Thursday, 27 February 2014

Save lives: Stepping Up Water, Sanitation and Hygiene is Vital and Urgent!

Written by Mabi Azefor Fominyen

 Millions of people continue to live without toilets. Thousands defecate in the open. Girls continue to stay away from school during menstruation due to lack of toilets in schools .As a result, their education is affected. Even more disturbing is the fact that issues related to menstruation are still considered as taboos,  in some households and  communities. Thus, hardly are any appropriate measures taken to address the hygiene and sanitation needs of girls and women under such conditions.  Women continue to trek many kilometers to fetch water for their household, at times from doubtful sources. In many communities, animals and humans continue to consume water from the same source. Thousands of children and adults each day suffer from water related illness such as diarrhea, dysentery and other diseases. Needless to say, this is and added burden to those who live in extreme poverty.

Despite commitments and promises made by some governments to increase access to water  and improve on the sanitation of  people in their respective countries, efforts this far have been falling short of the required investments. Consequently,  people are affected in many ways.

“ On a given day , more than 800 million women between the ages of 15 and  49 are menstruating. Adequate and appropriate sanitation facilities can provide a comfortable space for women to manage their menstrual cycles with privacy and dignity”.  This is according to a recent UN report on sanitation and hygiene for women and girls.

Over 40 Journalists meeting in Cotonou -Benin, on the request of the WSSCC, have been discussing efforts put in this far by Governments and  the  role  media  professionals ought to play, in order to enhance reporting  and heighten awareness on water, hygiene and sanitation issues.

 The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), is an international  coordinating body that works to enhance collaboration in the water supply , sanitation and hygiene sectors, in order to attain universal coverage for poor people around the  world so as to save lives and improve livelihoods.

 Less than a year to the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals, the challenges in the water, hygiene and sanitation sectors, are many.  At a time when people the world over are talking about the post 2015, Amanda Marlin of WSSCC , pointed out that water and sanitation issues can no longer be ignored.  She also elaborated on the post 2015 WASH targets and indicators.

In the forgoing, WSSCC believes “ in developing  countries, media practitioners and civil society actors have a key role to play in the current debate. It is important for such actors to mobilize in order to convince states and governments to include sanitation and hygiene as matters of priority on their agenda”.

Hence the raison d’etre  of the Cotonou-Benin  Workshop.

It was a forum to deepen participants’ understanding  of water, sanitation and hygiene –WASH commitments,  X-ray some challenges and reporting  taboos in the sector,  share experiences , examine ways to access  such information,  strengthen the capacity of journalists to boost media coverage and information dissemination  of  water, hygiene and sanitation related matters.

Amongst other things, these journalists were drilled and urged to create/ use blogs and  to also explore various social media tools and online facilities when reporting , in addition to radio stations, televisions, newspapers and other traditional channels of communication.

Session on using blogs and social media to talk WASH
In his speech during the opening of the Budapest Water Summit in October 2013, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon,  stated that “ sanitation is one of the three areas critical to sustainable development where more cooperation is needed”.

 More so, as 2013, drew to its close, studies showed that 2.5 billion people or over one third of the world’s population lived without access to adequate sanitation.

 What then can governments/you do to lessen this burden in your community and the world over?

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