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    A Water and Sanitation Atlas for Brazil

    By Keith R | December 24, 2008

    Topics: Sanitation, Water Issues | No Comments »

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    Last month a branch of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (“Fiocruz“), the Institute of Communication and Scientific and Technological Information in Health (Instituto de Comunicação e Informação Científica e Tecnológica em SaúdeIcict), in partnership with the Health Ministry’s (MS) General Coordination for Environmental Health Surveillance (Coordenação Geral de Vigilância em Saúde Ambiental – CGVAM), launched an online digital “atlas” on the environmental health aspects of water and sanitation in Brazil.

    The website allows everyone to access, download and visualize (through bar graphs and thematic maps) to a range of indicators, such as

    The selection of indicators and their form of presentation of maps and tables were set by a working group coordinated by the Health Information Laboratory (Laboratório de Informações em Saúde – LIS), with participation of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBa), Fiocruz’s Ageu Magalhães Research Center (CPQAM), the Secretary of Health Surveillance (SVS), the Cities Ministry (MC), the National Water Agency (ANA), and the state and municipal health secretariats of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.  The data required to calculate the indicators were obtained via the population census of 2000, the National Sanitation Survey of the same year, certain information systems (such as Sisagua – the Information System for Monitoring the Quality of Water for Consumption Human), and ANA.

    There are shortcomings to some of the data, of course.  Some states, such as Rio Grande do Sul, do extensive testing of their water quality and report it faithfully.  Many others — notably the Municipality of São Paulo — do test, but don’t report all the results to the national information systems.  Some don’t test often or for enough quality indicators.  In fact, part of the reason for putting this information online and accessible to all is to try to prompt states and municipalities to be more forthcoming with their data and regular in their testing.

    Beyond helping local diagnoses of water quality issues, an avowed purpose of creating the online database is to spark public discussion about the state of water and sanitation services in the country, to get citizens involved in water policymaking and in demanding better water quality and more accountability for it.

    I applaud such transparency steps, which I am know even many OECD nations have not yet undertaken (but should).  I hope that other Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) nations will be inspired by the example and follow suit.

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