….Establishment of Regional Network Imminent
By: Augustine N. Myers, back from Bamako – Media Practitioners from the West African Sub-region comprising Anglophone and Francophone Countries, have completed an advanced training aimed at improving coverage and reportage on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, which is commonly known as the WASH Sector.
The workshop brought together over twenty participants from Liberia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Benin, Senegal, Togo and Niger, and was held in the Malian Capital, Bamako from November 29 to December 2, 2010.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Training Workshop focused on the role of the media in Social Change and Influence, the Importance of the Media in the WASH Sector aimed at conveying Information, Providing Education and Entertainment that will instigate appropriate actions to among other things, ensure transformation to include behavior change and ensure political will from decision makers, in the interest of the WASH Sector.
The media practitioners looked at other key issues like an Economic Case which ensures some benefits on Investment, a Political Case which ensures political stability, a Social Case to remove social blockages, all with more emphasis on the importance of the Water Sector, health, education, finance, climate change, gender, inclusion and poverty reduction.
The participants were further trained on the role of the media focusing on the WASH Sector to identify the policy problem and the change required through the aspect of raising the issue of WASH, formulation of policy by supporting citizens engagement, and implementing the policy on the basis of playing a watch-dog role, evaluating policy change-demanding accountability and ensuring campaign/social movements.
The participants were further urged to give WASH issues more publicity by building a critical mass of and ensuring support to deliver the message to the audience in the languages they understand, drew the attention of policy makers by complementing and strengthening Civil Society Organizations’ efforts which will instigate action and influence change.
The workshop was facilitated by WaterAid, Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), and a representative of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The participants were also advised of the importance to provide accurate information that is scientifically correct, based on statistics, and without exaggeration for the public inclusion decision makers to bring about the necessary change for the WASH Sector.
Meanwhile, participants at the WASH Media Workshop in Bamako, Mali have reached an overwhelming agreement to establish a Regional Media Network on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
The decision stands from the fact that the WASH Sector can achieve so much more, especially ahead of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
The media practitioners truly believe that as members of the 4th Estate, the poor and excluded people are relying on them, and by increasing coverage and reportage on the WASH Sector, especially in West Africa, there will be transformation in the WASH Sector.
The participants also resolved to convey a Congress by next March to finalize on the establishment of the Regional Network.
A 3-member steering committee was set-up from Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Senegal to begin consultations and prepare papers for the establishment of the Regional WASH Network.
The steering committee has at the sametime requested Liberia and other West African Countries that do not have a local Network to immediately begin to organize and establish a National WASH Network in their respective Countries.
Liberia was represented at the workshop by the Liberia Media Empowerment & Advocacy Foundation (LIMEAF) Inc. that has pledged its support to ensure the full establishment of a National WASH Network in Liberia comprising of reporters and editors.
The involvement of media practitioners in the WASH Sector through increased coverage and reportage is considered a step in the right direction to give media attention to basic WASH issues and other WASH-related activities.
There is a global Sanitation crisis, where 2.6 billion people do not have access to safe, basic sanitation, according to the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
The lack of access to safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene is said to be the 3rd most significant risk factor for poor health in developing Countries with high mortality rates.
Diarrhea alone is responsible for the deaths of 1.8 million people every year, 90% of whom are children under five years. The costs of treating diarrhea diseases drain both national budgets and family finances, but the good news according to WSSCC is that:
-Improve water quality reduces childhood diarrhea by 15-20%.
-Better hygiene through hand washing and safe food handling reduces it by 35%.
-Safe disposal of children’s faeces leads to a reduction of nearly 40%.
-Improved sanitation in developing Countries typically yields about USD 9 in economic returns for every USD 1 spent.