WHO home
All WHO This site only

Water Sanitation and Health (WSH)

  About us | Databases | Guidelines | Training | Tools | Networks | Policy
  WHO > Programmes and projects > Water Sanitation and Health (WSH)
printable version

Celebrating water for life: The International Decade for Action 2005-2015: Previous page | 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13

Develop the message


Document the problem

Facts based on solid research are crucial to any advocacy campaign. Although many global statistics exist, local data will be most persuasive to local politicians and media.

Box 1 provides some of the information that could be gathered to help communicate your message, as well as how the information could be used.

Box 1: Document the problem

  • collect information on water and sanitation in your region/country;
  • identify gaps (problems) in water/sanitation coverage, and or water resource problems as well as the steps you can take to raise awareness and stimulate action;
  • publicize and promote the work done by you or your organization to improve the situation;
  • highlight success stories

Package the message

Once you have collected and analysed data, transform it into something everyone can relate to. Sound bites (short, catchy facts) are the best for this purpose, but remember that the message may need to be changed to fit the target audience. Below are a few examples of short messages that could be used under different conditions.

Water, poverty and hunger

  • The security of household livelihoods rests on the health of its members; adults who are ill themselves or must care for sick children are less productive.
  • Illnesses caused by unsafe drinking-water and inadequate sanitation generate high health costs relative to income for the poor.
  • Healthy people are better able to absorb nutrients in food than those suffering from water-related diseases, particularly helminths, which rob their hosts of calories.
  • The time lost because of long-distance water collection and poor health contributes to poverty and reduced food security.

Water and sanitation

  • 2.6 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation, which represented 42% of the world's population.
  • Over half of those without improved sanitation — nearly 1.5 billion people — live in China and India.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa sanitation coverage is a mere 36%.
  • Only 31% of the rural inhabitants in developing countries have access to improved sanitation, as opposed 73% of urban dwellers.
  • In order to meet the sanitation MDG target, an additional 370 000 people per day up to 2015 should gain access to improved sanitation.

Water and gender equality

  • Reduced time for health and care-giving burdens from improved water services give women more time for productive endeavours, adult education and leisure.

Water and disasters

  • Almost 2 billion people — one-third of humanity — were affected by natural disasters in the last decade of the 20th century. Floods and droughts accounted for 86% of the disasters.
  • Floods are the second most frequent cause of natural disaster after windstorms, and they affect more regions and more people than any other phenomenon.
  • Drowning, which is closely linked to flooding, adds considerably to the burden of disease attributable to flooding disasters. People who have lost everything in a flood: their homes, food, livelihood are also more vulnerable to disease.
  • Flooding increases the ever-present health threat from inadequate drinking-water and sanitation systems; water supplies can become contaminated with industrial waste and by refuse dumps.
  • Droughts cause the most ill-health and death because they often trigger and exacerbate malnutrition and famine, and deny access to adequate water supplies.

Water and health

  • 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera); 90% are children under 5, mostly in developing countries.
  • 88% of diarrhoeal disease is attributed to unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene.
  • Improved water supply reduces diarrhoea morbidity by between 6% and 25%, if severe outcomes are included lmproved sanitation reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 32%.
  • Hygiene interventions including hygiene education and promotion of hand washing can lead to a reduction of diarrhoeal cases by up to 45%.
  • Improvements in drinking-water quality through household water treatment, such as chlorination at point-of-use, can lead to a reduction of diarrhoea episodes between 35% and 39%.
  • Improving access to safe water sources and better hygiene practices can reduce trachoma morbidity by 27%.
  • 1.3 million people die of malaria each year, 90% are children under 5; better management of water resources reduces transmission of malaria and other vector-borne diseases.
  • An estimated 160 million people are infected with schistosomiasis; basic sanitation reduces the disease by up to 77%. In Africa, irrigation development is basically synonymous with schistosomiasis transmission.
  • In Bangladesh, between 28 and 35 million people consume drinking-water with elevated levels of arsenic. Arsenic reduction is aided by identifying alternative low arsenic water sources or by using arsenic removal systems.
  • Unreliable drinking-water supply systems have encouraged the habit of domestic water storage, often creating conditions favourable for breeding of Aedes mosquitoes, the vectors of dengue fever. As a result, dengue outbreaks have rapidly expanded across the globe, and they have spread from the traditional urban environment to rural settlements.

Mobilize others

Approach local partners with an outline of activities and events for World Water Day and ask for their involvement and support. Explain how their participation shows enlightened self-interest: as well as supporting a good cause, it will increase their profile and visibility in the community.

Discussions, forums, seminars and courses are useful for exchanging information with the public, NGOs, policy-makers and decision-makers, and with associations for physicians, teachers, children and environmental health. You can discuss the implications if no action is taken, and state what can and should be done to improve the situation in a water emergency.

Boxes 2 to 5 provide checklists of actions you might choose to take, and examples of people/organizations you may want to involve.

Box 2: Policy-makers and decision-makers

  • identify the relevant water and sanitation policies and legislation, and the individuals in government responsible for them;
  • assess information on water and ensure priority issues get the necessary high-level attention;
  • ensure that government budgets for environment, health and other sectors are adequate to support programmes to improve water and sanitation;
  • promote linkages between water, sanitation and hygiene, and health and environment policies;
  • raise awareness among stakeholders of the dangers from water-related diseases, disasters, the impact on economy, health, human rights, etc.

Box 3: Local authorities, mayors, NGOs, communities, individuals

  • pressure authorities to provide better services;
  • build community awareness about water, sanitation, health, development, environment and similar issues;
  • influence local and national policies, and hold authorities accountable for their actions and for the services they provide.

Box 4: Health and social workers; environmental health officers

  • promote recognition of the main hazards related to water;
  • assist community groups to create healthier places;
  • evaluate the impact of the actions taken.

Box 5: Private sector

  • involve the private sector in preparedness and in vulnerability reduction by forming public–private partnerships;
  • create institutional and management arrangements that ensure that the private sector will be involved in an effective response when a disaster disrupts water-supply and sanitation infrastructure.

Organize events

Parades, competitions, street events and quizzes using the World Water Day 2005 theme all create media attention and get the message out to large numbers of people in an entertaining and stimulating way. This is a good way to reach people who might not be attracted to more traditional events, such as seminars or meetings.

It is also a good idea to involve celebrities as spokespersons, but remember it takes time and preparation to get celebrities involved. See box 6.

Box 6: Involve celebrities

  • choose individuals who are well known and respected within the country or community and who can bring positive attention to World Water Day;
  • invite personalities in music, film, sports and politics to talk about the issues;
  • engage a well-known person or politician who lives nearby or is from your area — they may provide “local support” for your event;
  • celebrities are often not aware of the causes and consequences of the subject matter, so make sure they are briefed in advance — specify clearly to celebrities or their agent/manager how you want them to contribute and the message you hope to put across.

Celebrating water for life: The International Decade for Action 2005-2015: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 | Next page


Advocacy guide in Arabic [pdf 258kb] | Advocacy guide in Russian [pdf 573kb] | Advocady guide in Chinese [pdf 2.60Mb]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]