Water & Sanitation As A Human Right

waterMANY governments around the world pay only lip service to the problem of water and sanitation thereby denying an essential human right to their populations.  Though governments attest to the importance of water and sanitation as evidenced by MDG on water and sanitation, they make very little investment in the sector. The matter is rarely given prominence on national political agendas.

Water as a human right refers to the human right to safe water and adequate sanitation without which the enjoyment of other essential human rights can be jeopardized.  The availability of safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities can indeed play a key role in the fight against poverty, hunger, child deaths and gender inequality.

According to the UN, over 1,100 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and over 2,600 million have no access to adequate sanitation. To complicate matters, water sources throughout the world are drying up, chiefly due to climate change and the mismanagement of water resources.

Dirty water and lack of sanitation affects mainly the poor, disadvantaged and voiceless in society, that is, women, girls and children.

Approximately, 1,8 million children die every year to diarrhea because of lack of access to clean water, more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. More than 50 percent of the cases occur in Africa and Asia despite the existence of inexpensive and efficient means of water treatment.

 “In the developing world, 24,000 children under the age of five die every day from preventable causes like diarrhea contracted from unclean water,” said Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF at the launch of a report, titled “Diarrhea: Why Children Are Still Dying and What Can Be Done“.  Continue reading

Quote of the Day

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.

 Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988)

Lack of HIV Prevention Services for the Displaced

The power of education in fostering a better and effective response to HIV and AIDS is undeniable.

Education promotes knowledge and with knowledge about HIV and AIDS, individuals, families and communities have the ability to make informed choices about their behavior.

However, governments and international donor organizations often underplay this important intervention, particularly in the emergency phase of the cycle of displacement, says a report recently issued by UNHCR and UNESCO on the importance of education to populations that find themselves victims of displacement due to conflict, disaster or other emergencies.

Education can play a key role in helping refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) cope with the negative excesses of their circumstances, such as ignorance, exploitation, violence and the risk of HIV infection.

Many factors combine to put IDPs and refugees at the risk of HIV infection, including loss of livelihoods, lack of access to basic services, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, and violence. Continue reading

The Great Vasectomy Fear

For most men, the idea of vasectomy, a surgical procedure to cut and close off the tubes that deliver sperm from the testicles, is a complete no-can-do associated with being sexually dysfunctional in the male psyche.

According to the latest issue of Population Reports, titled “Vasectomy: Reaching Out to New Users,” published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, vasectomy is simpler and more cost effective than female sterilization and offers men a way to share responsibility for family planning.

“The most entrenched and powerful rumors concern manhood, masculinity, and sexual performance. Many men confuse vasectomy with castration and fear, incorrectly, that vasectomy will make them impotent,” says the report.  But in fact, “Castration involves removal of the testicles. In contrast, vasectomy leaves the testicles intact, and they continue to produce male hormones.”

The procedure which typically takes from 15-30 minutes and usually causes few complications and no change in sexual function is one of the most reliable forms of contraception. Though it does not offer protection against sexually transmitted infections or HIV, for couples it is a way for men to be directly involved in family planning. Family planning has been largely seen as the responsibility of women but vasectomies allow men to play a part.

The report states that the largest number of vasectomized men are in China, where almost 7% of women in relationships — or more than 17 million couples — rely on vasectomy for birth control. Continue reading

In Jamaica and Globally AIDS Stigma Barrier to Progress

In 2005, Jamaica – a country notorious for homophobia predominantly channeled through musical lyrics – received global attention for the killing of Lenford “Steve” Harvey, a gay man and an AIDS activist.

Harvey’s murder was blamed on stigma and discrimination against gays, and led to a huge outcry within the AIDS community.

The witch hunt against homosexuals in the country is regarded as a factor contributing to the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

According UNAIDS, the national HIV infection rate in Jamaica is 1.5 percent among an estimated 2,700,000 people, and AIDS is the leading cause of death among 15- to 44-year-olds. Predominant modes of HIV transmission include multiple sex partners, history of sexually transmitted infections, drug use, and unprotected sex among men who have sex with men.

It is estimated that 33 percent of gay men in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city, are HIV positive, but many of them opt to stay underground, away from public health services due to fear of stigma and discrimination. Continue reading

How to train yourself as a citizen journalist

At the outset, it is essential to recognize that citizen journalism comes in many forms, which makes it rather difficult to prescribe a training method for the practice. But, there is no shred of a doubt that with a little training, a citizen journalist can greatly improve the quality of whatever story they seek to tell, whether it’s through writing, video, audio, or photography.

 

First things first: a citizen journalist as the term suggests should strive to enhance civic engagement and participation. A citizen journalist needs to therefore train him or herself to have the right attitude that can contribute to the growth of the practice as well as expanding the rights of citizenship.

 

To train yourself as a citizen journalist, you have to understand what you are up for first, that is, to produce content that is trustworthy, fair and accurate. Citizen journalism is more than just stitching content together predicated by self-interest.

 

A citizen journalist needs to appreciate that whatever they produce must be credible, and is not intended to cause social harm. That way, a citizen journalist can effectively contribute to the greater conversation, thereby expanding human horizons.

 

As an aspiring citizen journalist, a key step in your training is to have a clear understanding of what is involved with the practice.

 

In a groundbreaking study of citizen media titled “Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News”, J-Lab: The Institute of Journalism describes citizen journalism as “a form of bridge media, linking traditional forms of journalism with classic civic participation.”

 

While a citizen journalist aspires to report on a community, more importantly, they must strive to write on issues that provide better and unbiased insight into issues.

 

You must therefore train yourself to have an awareness of issues that affect whatever community that you seek to present.

 

In that respect, an awareness of the principles and models of traditional journalism can greatly help a citizen journalist to write with an eye to accuracy, truth and fairness.

 

However, you must not shy away from sharing your thoughts, observations, ideas and experiences of what you encounter.

 

Having said that, a citizen journalist must strive to be interested in providing analysis to their observations to ensure that what is purveyed is not mere stereotype. You must make a serious effort to remain independent of political, gender, cultural, or tribal biases.

 

By remaining free of biases, a citizen journalist is better positioned to tell the whole story without compromising the truth or inhibiting the freedom of expression.

 

In addition, training oneself to have an eye of facts is highly critical to lend credibility to content. But a citizen journalist needs to be able to see that facts do not always tell the whole story, and can easily be fabricated.

 

Thus, a citizen journalist strives to look beyond the facts, and question the story behind them.

 

Another essential key to self-training is to always conduct in-depth research on issues. The web, the biggest library known to humanity, offers a citizen journalist a great tool to be able to conduct research on a chosen subject.

 

It is the duty of the citizen journalist to sift through the facts, and compile a story that is credible. Research helps to make the story better.

 

Overall, a citizen journalist must be consciously aware that he or she is responsible for the transmission of ideas and knowledge. Responsibility requires being able to check facts, write truthfully as well as standing by the story if any questions are raised.

Strategic Communication for Health in a New Age

To respond effectively to the growing epidemics of AIDS and TB around the world, a strategy for communicating messages that influence change of individual behavior, community attitudes and socio-political dynamics is absolutely critical.

In order to make communication effective, there is a need to fully and rigorously understand the audiences, including contextual factors (political, cultural, economic, gender etc.) that determine the health choices people make.

The underlying factor is that communication does not occur within a vacuum, and thus it is essential to be aware of elements that may deter effective communication in the design, distribution and measurement of AIDS or TB messages.

Communication that saves people’s lives, improves health and enhances well being is about ideas, creativity, research, knowledge and money. Given the fact that resources are finite, strategic communication needs to consciously build upon existent social capital to ensure sustainability of processes.

Strategic communication can help to shape context and build relationships that enhance the achievement of objectives to respond effectively to AIDS and TB.

To be effective, strategic communicators must understand attitudes and cultures, respect the importance of ideas, adopt advanced information technologies, and employ sophisticated communication skills and strategies. To be persuasive, they must be credible.

More importantly, strategic communication for better health appreciates what works scientifically combined with flexibility to adapt it to specific cultural contexts.

As already stated, it should go beyond simply addressing individual behaviour to structural and institutional realities that are largely responsible for driving diseases and epidemics. In many ways, public policies tend to be responsible for social and health inequalities and cannot be ignored in the communication process.

Therefore, an effective communication strategy puts people and structural realities at its heart in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of messages.

In essence, strategic communication for better health needs to be informed by a process that identifies behaviours and attitudes, identifies policy priorities, and embarks on a process to influence a broad section of society through appropriate themes and messages.

In that respect, communication is not an end goal, but rather a means to influence dialogue and engagement through relevant mediums.

Barnlund Communication Model

Labouring over which medium to choose when targeting a specific audience is a critical component in the communication for health process. In many ways, the medium defines the message in as much as does the target audience. A chosen medium has its limitations, and key messages and themes have to be aligned to the limitations of the medium to ensure effective message delivery. Obviously, the research-based needs of a target audience determine what delivery mechanisms to utilize.

It is important to know at the outset what goal seeks to be achieved with the particular choice of a medium so that the measurements of success or failure are specified.

Events, activities, messages, and materials must be designed with your objectives, audiences, partnerships and resources clearly in place. Building a communication strategy is about directing and focusing evidence-based messages and themes according to clearly defined pathways to achieve intended objectives.

The process of strategically positioning communication needs to ensure the participation of intended beneficiaries in the designing of messages, no matter what the level of focus.

Strategic communications shifts away from communicating to, and instead focuses on communicating with target groups in order to establish solutions., with emphasis being on how to build a relationship that allows for communication to take place so that appropriate action is taken. In that sense it is a significant shift from the magic bullet theory of communication which treats audiences as inactive recipients of messages.

Fact-based communication research is necessary for demonstrating and validating the need for resources required to increase the impact of communication. It is also essential that message platform for key initiatives are identified through the research process.

According to Wikipedia, “strategic communication provides a conceptual umbrella that enables organizations to integrate their disparate messaging efforts”. In other words, it enables organizations to “create and distribute communications that, while different in style and purpose, have an inner coherence”.

New media offers a significant opportunity to unify organizational health communications in order to achieve that inner coherence which is often times based on the vision, mission, goals and values of the organization.

New media offer an opportunity to encourage conversation and promote collaboration in creating appropriate messages. It is essential to integrate social media into the communication infrastructure and tap into its potential to create dialogue and reach a wide audience. New media make it easier and faster to communicate and collaborate, and essential element to public health communications.

The ability of new information tools to alter the way we communicate needs to be tapped into but as with any component of the health communication process the focus must be on people and not just the technology.

Overall, a strategic communication process needs to be planned, directed, coordinated, funded, measured and conducted in ways that promote the wellbeing of individual in a manner that aligns with organizational values and goals.