Emergency Triggers Action in Sanitation (example: Zika Epidemic Offers Sanitation a Chance in Brazil)

  • F H Mughal
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Emergency Triggers Action in Sanitation (example: Zika Epidemic Offers Sanitation a Chance in Brazil)

Emergency Triggers Action in Sanitation

It is common in some developing countries to see the governments’ lack of interest towards pressing problems, especially sanitation. The prime reason being the low priority of the municipal governments towards sanitation, as a result, no action is taken. People suffer because of this, with degree of suffering being faced more by women.

In the informal settlements, typically located at the periphery of the city, the municipal governments do not provide sanitation facilities, and their ready-made reply is: the area is not a sanctioned area in the municipal government’s documents; or, the area is not within our jurisdiction.

With that being said, sometimes, emergency by default, triggers action. A recent post in IPS makes an interesting reading. According to the post ( www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/zika-epidemic-of...-a-chance-in-brazil/ ), “three decades of dengue fever epidemic did not manage to awaken a sense of urgency in Brazil regarding the need for improving and expanding basic sanitation. But the recent surge in cases of microcephaly in newborns, associated with the Zika virus, apparently has.”

“Brazil did not declare all-out war on the Aedes aegypti mosquito until studies showed that Zika can cause microcephaly and other neurological damage in the unborn infants of women infected with the virus in the early months of pregnancy.”

While the Zika episode in Brazil has turned into a major emergency - on 1 February 2016, the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency after Zika virus was linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil – the fact remains that in some developing countries, it is somewhat difficult to sensitize the municipal departments in taking action in the field of sanitation.

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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Re: Wider Beneficial of Safe Water and Improved Sanitation

Wider Benefits of Safe Water and Improved Sanitation

Water and sanitation engineers, generally, are of the view that safe drinking water, improved sanitation, and hygiene (both personal and community hygiene) have wider benefits. For example, they can help in prevention of diseases, and can prevent stunting among children. According to a recent WHO infograph (attached), 23 per cent of all global deaths are linked to the environment

Municipal officials of the local governments in developing countries, who, typically, are not technical persons, do not share these views. Their work is stereo-type – no innovation; no eagerness to seek more knowledge – like approval of the schemes by the provincial government; execution of the schemes; thriving on commissions from the contractors; and completion of the schemes. Most of the schemes, after completion, become non-functional in a short period of time.

As is known, Zika virus has become a major problem in Brazil. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller has now said that the improved water and sanitation services are answer to the Zika virus.

Leo Heller said: “As the world looks for hi-tech solutions to the Zika virus, we should not forget the appalling state of water and sanitation access of the poor, a key underlying determinant of the right to health.”

“We can engineer sterile mosquitos or use sophisticated Internet tools to map data globally, but we should not forget that today a hundred million people in Latin America still lack access to hygienic sanitation systems and seventy million people lack piped water in their places of residence.”

Leo Heller said: “There is a strong link between weak sanitation systems and the current outbreak of the mosquito borne Zika virus, as well as dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya, and the most effective way to tackle this problem is to improve the failing services.”

The views of Leo Heller are supported by the UN expert on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, who said:
“When people have inadequate living and housing conditions, where they do not have access to safely managed water services, they tend to store water in unsafe ways that attract mosquitos. In addition, poor sanitation systems where wastewater flows through open channels and is disposed of in unsafe pits leads to stagnant water and unfit housing – a perfect habitat for breeding mosquitos.”

Not only that, the views of Leo Heller are also supported by the Special Rapporteur on health, Dainius Pūras, and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston.

More details can be seen at:

www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Displa...ewsID=17212&LangID=E
and
www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53427#.VubHQlsrLIU

It is encouraging to note the importance of safe water and sanitation given by the UN officials. They need to talk to the municipal governments in developing countries, so that the developing countries also realize the wider benefits of safe water, improved sanitation and proper hygiene.


F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan

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