a few days ago I received an email from a friend based in South Africa. She thoroughly enjoyed the recent football World Cup, but now the games are over and after a few weeks of amazing experiences with visitors from around the world, her world is coming back to reality again. This also means that the problems of daily life are becoming visible again and there is no longer a reason to escape from them. Just kilometres away from the wonderful stadiums extreme poverty exists at a level that threatens daily life. This includes poor sanitary conditions, often with open toilets surrounded by tin shelters. South Africa is still struggling with inadequate sewerage infrastructure and critical voices ask if the money invested in stadiums would have been better spent on infrastructure.
Nevertheless next to our doors we can also find backlogs in infrastructure provision and instead of pointing to others, we need to get involved in taking care of our own neighbourhoods. To do this, we need to obtain information about existing situations and find a way to get involved. Countless initiatives work on public participation. One example of this is the involvement of schools in water and sanitation projects. School projects can help to mobilize communities and to raise interest for neglected topics. The eyes of children look differently at our world and they often ask the right, although sometimes painful, questions. Similarly, our point of view can change when we encounter different cultures. What might look normal to us can be very strange for someone from a different cultural background. If we keep our eyes and minds open, we may gain new insights. Covering up problems does not solve them. Recognizing problems and opening them up to discussion means that we cannot neglect them anymore and paths to solutions open up.
I hope that you enjoy this edition of the newsletter, which includes reports on projects from Romania and Burkina Faso which underline the importance of public participation and a report on the Atlas of Water and Health, a newly developed tool to visualize water sanitation and health data.
Water Safety Plans for small-scale water supply systems in Romania
The Atlas of Water and Health
“Elephants and Butterflies on Moon” – My Internship in a NGO in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso