I hope the New Year started well for all of you. With this issue of our newsletter, we continue the overview of the WHO Collaborating Centres in the European Region working in the field of water and health. Additionally, we want to share with you information about challenges and priorities implementing water and sanitation safety planning.
In our work to reduce risks and improve access to water, one of the key challenges we still face is the access to and the spread of information about water and sanitation systems, their sources of pollution and potential hazards. Also quality control standards and regulations, and overall management are key elements that need to be addressed in capacity building activities.
I regularly wonder why we still have this huge demand for more information. Nowadays, many of us have internet access and there is plenty of information material available. But having the infrastructure in place does not necessarily come with access to it. And the same applies to information. You need to know how to search for information, where to search to find the type of information you require and then also be able to select from the overwhelming options. Depending on the topic, the terminology becomes specialized and, even if you know what you are looking for, you might not know the specific words that an engineer uses, because you are a biologist. Language barriers are hindering and making our communication sometimes demanding. We also have to consider that communication is a highly social process. Maybe not while you are doing an internet search, but if you have an exchange with other colleagues from a different background, it happens sometimes that we have devastating misunderstandings just because we perceive the communication from the other side in a different way that it was intended. When I talk straight with my European colleagues, this works. If I am using the same style with
colleagues with a different cultural background, then I might be perceived to be very rude. To exchange the same piece of information, I need to use a different communication style. My style will have to adapt when I exchange with laypersons; it will be different for children than for adults and official representatives; chiefs and elders demand again for different ways of communication. I try to talk in the right way and I learn from listening to others.
We write this newsletter trying to bring different cultures, places and expertise together in a language that we hope is understood by all our readers. We are happy if you have feedback for us and we would like to encourage our readers to share what they are doing in the field of water and risks. I hope this newsletter is well received and we will continue to share knowledge with everyone in order to reduce risks and make water safer.