The Many Facets of Health
The quality of life is influenced, among other things, by
factors such as health and access to water especially clean drinking water.
Nobody would deny this, and anyway, the facts speak for themselves.
In Third World countries many hundreds of millions of people
suffer from infectious epidemics. Every year, for instance, 100 million people
suffer from diarrhoea and respiratory diseases, 300 million are the victims of
worms, 200 million of bilharziosis and 600 million live in areas where
bilharziosis is endemic. 200 million people suffer from malaria.
In addition, some 400 million disabled people live in these
countries, including 140 million disabled children. And year in, year out,
another 5 million disabled children join them.
Medical care is extremely hard to obtain. Only 20 percent of the
population have access to effective health services. In the poorer developing
countries there is one doctor per 16,380 people, and in the more progressive
countries still only one doctor per 4,480. In Western industrialized countries,
by contrast, there is one doctor per 620 people.
A supply of drinking water is often one of the greatest hygiene
problems in countries of the Third World. In the poorer countries, only 29
percent of the population have access to clean drinking water. In the more
progressive Third World countries the percentage is double this.
And because water - clean water - and making correct use of it
is a key factor in improving the situation of people in the Third World, the
United Nations have designated the 1980s as the "International Drinking Water
Supply and Sanitation Decade" (IWSSD). In the meantime large water supply and
disposal projects have been started, national water committees have been founded
in developing countries, and national water-supply plans have been drawn up. Yet
there is still no sign that the water-supply programmes are catching on or
snowballing. Should we not perhaps ask whether the problem of dissemination does
not lie, to some extent, at our own doors? Are we, the experts, and our
approaches to the problem perhaps partly to blame?
Such basic projects - and all water projects are basic projects
- can only really work if the beneficiaries are shown the decisive role which
water and hygiene play. For only then will personal initiative be mirrored in
the construction of VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrines and the establishment
of compost heaps in the right places in the villages concerned, for example.
Only then will these villages install water-raising devices such as hand pumps
or bucket pumps.
Such a project, of course, places a great burden on the experts.
It assumes careful planning by an interdisciplinary group and implementation
only with the cooperation of the village population - a bold assumption in these
days of shrinking financial resources when many organisations are gauged by the
prestige of their turnovers and their ability to keep to deadlines.
This is the background to our current "Focus"