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Water and health advocacy: A practical guide for World Water Day 2001: Previous page | 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

Develop key message


Transform water & health statistics into key messages

  • Use statistics to develop a list of key messages and stories that can be used depending on the target audience. The messages and stories should support the successes, identify gaps and set out the next steps in your programme and should call for action.
  • Use comparisons to illustrate your point e.g. to show if problem is getting better or worse, and how your country/region stands in comparison with others.

Types of messages and stories that are effective:

  • The problem: stating the extent and effects of the problem (see example A)
  • Success stories: showing what can be done about the problem (see example B)
  • Human interest stories: documenting the impact of water and health on the individual (see example C).

Example A: The Problem

Almost half the World's people have no acceptable means of sanitation, new WHO/UNICEF Report Charts “Shameful” State of World's Water Supply and Sanitation Services

Despite tremendous efforts in the last two decades to provide improved water and sanitation services for the poor in the developing world, today, 2.4 billion people world-wide still do not have any acceptable means of sanitation, while 1.1 billion people do not have an improved water supply.

These are just two of the major findings from The Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000, launched today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The Assessment is being launched as 500 public health, water and sanitation experts meeting in Brazil call on the world to roll-out a major effort—VISION 21—to correct the “shameful” water and sanitation situation that plagues millions of people in developing countries. (see sample press release WHO/73).

Example B: Success stories

Intestinal worms (helminths) are one of the most common infections on earth

In Zanzibar, Tanzania, a school-based de-worming programme has had a dramatic impact on children's health and development. Among the children involved, regular low-cost treatment has led to an increase in height and weight, a reduction in the prevalence of severe anaemia, and improved nutritional status.

In 1994, a new de-worming programme was launched by the National Helminth Control Programme for about 30 000 primary school children on the island of Pemba, the smaller of the two islands that make up Zanzibar. The children were treated at school three times a year with mebendazole (an anthelminthic drug) in the form of chewable orange-flavoured tablets.

Throughout the first year, the children had regular check-ups to monitor changes in the intensity of infection and to study the impact of treatment on their health status.

The results were impressive. Although roundworm infections responded best to the treatment, the intensity of all worm infections was reduced. By the end of the first year, the programme had prevented over 1200 cases of moderate to severe anaemia, and over 270 cases of severe anaemia.

By 1996, the prevalence of severe anaemia had been reduced by almost 40%, iron deficiency fell by 20%, and there was a marked improvement in the nutritional status of the children. (excerpts taken from WHO publication ‘Health a key to prosperity, success stories in developing countries’.

Example C: Human Interest story

Researchers warn of impending disaster from mass Arsenic poisoning

Allan H Smith, professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley, USA, et al report that a long-term epidemic of cancers and other fatal diseases is facing Bangladesh because of contamination of water supplies by naturally-occurring arsenic. The catastrophe is on a vast scale and needs to be declared a public health emergency, the article's authors warn.

Arsenic contamination of ground water has been found in many other countries, including Argentina, Chile, China, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States, and is a global problem. But Bangladesh's plight is unprecedented, the article says—between 35 and 77 million people of the country's total population of 125 million are at risk of exposure to arsenic in their drinking water. At least 100 000 cases of debilitating skin lesions are believed to have already occurred.

“Bangladesh is grappling with the largest mass poisoning of a population in history…the scale of this environmental disaster is greater than any seen before. It is beyond the accidents at Bhopal, India, in 1984, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986,” says Smith. (see sample press release WHO/55)

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