Water & health - Nov 11
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A drop-sized way to bring clean water to a thirsty world
Peter Bosshard, Christian Science Monitor
BERKELEY, CALIF. - Dripping taps in rich countries lose more clean water than is available to more than 1 billion people in the developing world. As you read this, close to half of all people living in poor countries are suffering from health problems that are related to dirty water and poor sanitation. Some 1.8 million children die each year because of diarrhea - a death toll six times higher than that of armed conflicts.
At the turn of the millennium, the World Commission on Water deplored the "gloomy arithmetic of water," and warned that half the world's population would live under conditions of severe water stress by 2025. A seemingly obvious response to shrinking or unpredictable rainfall is to store more water. To counter the global water crisis, the World Bank argues that governments need to build more large dams for reservoirs, in spite of the serious social and environmental impacts that these projects often have.
In a major report on water published Thursday, the UN Development Program (UNDP) takes a radically different approach. The Program's 2006 Human Development Report rejects the gloomy arithmetic. It argues that the poor's lack of water is caused by their lack of political power, rather than by the limits of nature. "The scarcity at the heart of the global water crisis," the UNDP maintains, "is rooted in power, poverty, and equality, not in physical availability."
More investment in water supply is urgently needed. Yet storing water in large, centralized reservoirs concentrates political power. The benefits of big, capital- intensive water investments tend to be captured by the rich and powerful members of society. "The danger is that the claims of the politically and commercially powerful will take precedence over the claims of the poor and marginalized," the Human Development Report warns.
The UNDP's new report joins a growing chorus of voices that argue for a "soft path" to water-sector development. Decentralized, small-scale solutions and efficiency improvements are more likely to reach the poor than centralized reservoirs and canals.
(10 Nov 2006)
A U.N. agency report calls for action to save lives and energize economies by boosting supplies and sanitation. (LA Times)
Toilets Underused to Fight Disease, U.N. Study Finds
Celia W. Dugger, NY Times
The toilet and the latrine, which helped revolutionize public health in New York, London and Paris more than a century ago, are among the most underused tools to combat poverty and disease in the developing world, says a United Nations report released yesterday.
“Issues dealing with human excrement tend not to figure prominently in the programs of political parties contesting elections or the agendas of governments,” said Kevin Watkins, the main author of the report. “They’re the unwanted guests at the table.”
The human cost of that taboo, however, is more unspeakable than the topic itself, he said. Every year, more than two million children die of diarrhea and other sicknesses caused by dirty water and a lack of “access to sanitation.”
That is the common euphemism for the reality that more than a third of the world’s people - 2.6 billion - have no decent place to go to the bathroom, while more than a billion get water for drinking, washing and cooking from sources polluted by human and animal feces.
At any time, almost half the people in developing countries have one or more of the main illnesses associated with inadequate water and sanitation and fill half the hospital beds, the report said. They are plagued by diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, trachoma and parasitic worms.
(10 Nov 2006)
An important, under-reported topic. Unfortunately, current First World sanitation systems have their own set of problems: a massive waste of water, power and nutrients. -BA
China weighs threat of 60 million obese citizens
BEIJING - Newly rich China, where the wealth gap is expanding year by year, has more than double as many obese people as it has people living in abject poverty, Xinhua news agency said on Monday.
Changes in traditional diet, including a new fondness for Western fast food, and a sharp rise in the use of cars have been blamed for bulging waistlines in China, where famine and chronic malnutrition caused the deaths of millions in the 1950s.
(6 Nov 2006)