- Safe water supplies, hygienic sanitation and good water management are fundamental to global health.
- Almost one tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by:
- increasing access to safe drinking water;
- improving sanitation and hygiene; and
- improving water management to reduce risks of water-borne infectious diseases, and accidental drowning during recreation.
- Annually, safer water could prevent:
- 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhoea;
- 500 000 deaths from malaria;
- 860 000 child deaths from malnutrition; and
- 280 000 deaths from drowning.
- In addition, 5 million people can be protected from being seriously incapacitated from lymphatic filariasis and another 5 million from trachoma.
- Efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene interact with each other to boost overall health.
- Access to sanitation, such as simple latrines in communities, prevents drinking water contamination from human waste and reduces infections.
- High-tech public health measures are not necessarily the best.
- Frequent hand-washing with soap and safe storage of drinking water are high-impact practices.
- Environmental management effectively lowers the rates of malaria and other diseases spread by insects and prevents death.
- These measures include eliminating mosquito-breeding habitats – such as standing water – and screening doors and windows for protection from mosquitoes.
- Investment to improve drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and water resource management systems makes strong economic sense.
- Every dollar invested leads to up to eight dollars in benefits.
- US$ 84 billion a year could be regained from the yearly investment of US$ 11.3 billion needed to meet the water and sanitation targets under the Millennium Development Goals.
- In addition to the value of saved human lives, other benefits include higher economic productivity, more education, and health-care savings.
Water-related diseases during emergencies
- The three top priorities concerning drinking water and sanitation during an emergency situation are:
- ensuring the provision of enough safe water for drinking and for personal hygiene to the people affected by the crisis;
- ensuring that all people affected by the crisis have access to hygienic sanitation facilities;
- promoting good hygiene behaviour.
- Following damage to existing sanitation systems or increased pressure due to large numbers of displaced or homeless people, effective and well-coordinated action by all those involved in the emergency response is critical.
- The first priority is to provide a sufficient quantity of water, even if its safety cannot be guaranteed, and to protect water sources from contamination.
- A minimum of 15 litres per person per day should be provided as soon as possible.
- During emergencies, people may use untreated water for laundry or bathing.
- Water-quality improvements should be made over succeeding days or weeks as a matter of urgency.
- Inadequate disposal of human excreta is a major health risk in emergency situations.
- It is essential to organize sanitation facilities immediately, such as designated defecation fields or collective trench latrines.
- Emergency facilities need to be progressively improved or replaced with simple pit latrines, ventilated improved pit latrines, or poor-flush latrines as the situation develops.
- All types of latrines need to be properly cleaned, disinfected and maintained.
- The provision of drinking water and sanitation services in health facilities is a top priority.
- Safe drinking water, basic sanitation facilities and safe disposal of infectious wastes will prevent the spread of disease and improve health conditions.
- In all cases, good hygiene practices are key to preventing disease transmission.
- Water should be provided in sufficient quantities to enable proper hygiene.
- Hands should be washed immediately after defecation, after handling babies' faeces, before preparing food and before eating.