Humans shield themselves from the environment in various types of shelters. These afford protection from wind, rain, and extremes of temperature. They also provide a modicum of privacy as well as safer storage space for personal possessions. What is often not realized is that humans can guard themselves from environmental health risks with a properly constructed shelter. Poorly constructed quarters on the other hand may present favourable conditions for disease vectors and, in fact, increase the risk of acquiring disease.
In Paraguay, scientists from two institutions (the Appropriate Technology Centre at the Universidad Catolica Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion and the Health Sciences Research Institute at the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion) developed a multidisciplinary project to combat the incidence of Chagas disease. The team analysed construction techniques and building materials. It also carefully considered popular knowledge both of the disease and of shelter fabrication. The project demonstrated that the transmission of Chagas' disease could be interrupted by simple interventions preventing the infestation of homes by the triatomid vector. The project resulted in more pleasant homes, the interventions were sustainable and the community was motivated to participate. Thus empowered by new knowledge, communities can take control of their own health. A similar project took place in Brazil. Taken together, the Brazil and Paraguay studies show that community-based approaches and simple technologies can empower rural communities to control a serious environmental health risk. Following both studies, the Ministries of Housing and Health of both Brazil and Paraguay have indicated their interest in incorporating these results into their respective primary health care strategies.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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