IWA Publishing is pleased to announce a new initiative spotlighting the work of our latest cohort of Open Access Ambassadors

Our OA Ambassadors raise awareness in their local communities about global OA movements as well as related opportunities through IWA Publishing. They are representatives of both the International Water Association and IWA Publishing and our joint goals to empower the next generation of water leaders and to shape the future of the water sector. These blog posts highlight their specialty and research focus, as well as expressing the importance of Open Access publishing. 

Our next blog post comes from Kator Jethro Ifyalem, an MSc student from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Kator is a civil engineer committed to environmental sustainability. Connect with Kator on LinkedIn.

A big thank you again to Kator for contributing! 

The global water and sanitation crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity today. According to the World Health Organization, around 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, while 4.2 billion people lack access to safe sanitation. This has a devastating impact on health, education, and economic development, particularly in developing countries. Lack of access to safe water and sanitation is responsible for the deaths of more than 800,000 people each year, mostly children under the age of five. Meanwhile, poor sanitation leads to the spread of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis. The situation is particularly dire in low-income countries, where more than half of the population lacks access to basic sanitation facilities.

The water and sanitation crisis is rooted in a complex web of factors, including poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and climate change. Poor and marginalized communities are often the most affected, as they lack the resources and political power to demand basic services from their governments. Inadequate infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, pipes, and sewage systems, also plays a significant role in the crisis. Climate change exacerbates the problem by affecting water availability and quality.

Accelerating Change: Strategies and Solutions

Addressing the water and sanitation crisis requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and the international community. Multi-stakeholder partnerships can help leverage resources and expertise to develop and implement sustainable solutions.

Innovative technologies can help address the water and sanitation crisis, such as water filtration systems, low-cost toilets, and rainwater harvesting. These solutions can improve access to safe water and sanitation, particularly in rural areas, and reduce the cost of infrastructure development.

Effective policies and governance are critical to accelerating change and addressing the water and sanitation crisis. Governments must prioritize and allocate resources to develop and maintain infrastructure, regulate the private sector, and ensure accountability and transparency in the provision of services. Individuals can engage with policymakers, participate in community initiatives, and support organizations that promote sustainable water and sanitation solutions to drive change and influence policy decisions.

Adequate funding and investment are essential to support the development and implementation of sustainable solutions to the water and sanitation crisis. Investment in water and sanitation infrastructure can help to improve access and reliability, while investments in education and awareness-raising can help to promote behaviour change.

Cultural and social factors can be significant barriers to progress in addressing the water and sanitation crisis. Practices, such as open defecation and gender-based discrimination, can hinder efforts to promote sanitation and hygiene practices. Addressing these barriers requires a culturally sensitive and participatory approach that considers local beliefs, practices, and customs.

Individuals can play a crucial role in accelerating change towards addressing the water and sanitation crisis. By reducing water usage, promoting good hygiene practices, and advocating for change, individuals can contribute to a sustainable and equitable future.

The role of research and open access resources

Researchers around the world are working tirelessly to identify new solutions and strategies to address the water crisis, conducting studies on a wide range of topics related to water and sanitation, including water treatment technologies, sanitation infrastructure, and public health interventions. Despite the wealth of research being conducted, there are significant challenges to accessing and sharing this information. Many research findings are published in expensive, subscription-based journals, making them inaccessible to researchers, policymakers, and practitioners who lack the financial capacity. Language barriers, limited access to technology, and cultural barriers can further limit access to research findings.

Open-access publishing has the potential to address these challenges by making research findings freely and readily available. By removing financial and other barriers to access, open-access publishing can facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration, accelerating the pace of research and innovation in water and sanitation. Initiatives like the International Water Association, provide access to evidence-based research and resources related to water, sanitation and hygiene including published literature, technical reports and books. These can support evidence-based decision-making and facilitate knowledge sharing among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. These initiatives have contributed significantly to advancing research, accelerating the pace of innovation and facilitating collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

Conclusion

We must work together to address the root causes of the crisis, promote sustainable solutions, and ensure that everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. A message of hope that change is possible and that together, we can make a difference, despite the challenges and roadblocks. There are promising solutions and success stories that show that change is possible. There are also opportunities for innovation and collaboration that can help to overcome these challenges. By working together, stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector can promote greater equity and inclusivity in research and create a more sustainable and resilient future for all.

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