Focusing our attention on water and sanitation issues has been and will continue to be a crucial part of PAHO’s work in the Region, especially as infectious diseases like cholera reemerge and climate change limits already scarce water resources. Water and sanitation issues most adversely affect the poorest and most vulnerable populations, including women and minorities, and PAHO’s commitment to equitable health is underlined in our fight for clean water and improved sanitation for all.
PAHO has worked with AIDIS, the Inter-American Association for Environmental and Sanitary Engineering, for over 60 years, and we were pleased to participate once again in their annual conference, held this year in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, from November 5th- 10th, 2010 where PAHO participated in both pre-conference symposiums on Water (“Toward a New Culture of Water) and Healthy Housing (Healthy Housing and Disasters), as well as in the conference itself.
At this time we stressed the renewed PAHO’s commitment to its technical cooperation with Member States on issues related to water for human consumption and sanitation in order to accomplish the “unfinished agenda” in our Region.
In order to face “water and sanitation” challenges, PAHO advocates for a stronger UN system to promote peace and human dignity – in which drinking water and sanitation play a key part. PAHO has renewed its goals and strategies to support this mission, and has begun to create “policy briefs” in accordance with the United Nations’ recent declaration defining access to water and sanitation as a human right.
Considering that no public health intervention has the potential to make a greater impact on the development of a nation and on individual and collective health, especially among children, pregnant women, and the elderly, than water, sanitation and hygiene combined.
I would like to take this opportunity to call upon sanitation companies and agencies, both public and private, as well as governments and populations to join forces and carry out effective and necessary actions so that access to water and sanitation is universal and helps to safeguard the health of the people, promote gender equality, and protect natural resources. Water and Sanitation are fundamental human rights that affect not only health, but also the dignity of human beings and the future of life in our Planet.
* Mirta Roses Periago Director, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO)