Every human being has the right to access clean & safe
water and lead a healthy life. Unfortunately in many parts of the world, clean water
and hygiene are very far from reach. Emerging and developing economies in Asia,
Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America are facing water and sanitation
problems. WHO/UNICEF report says 38% do not even have access to rudimentary
level of water. Also, 19% lack sanitation and 35% do not use water and soap for
hand washing. This is the data derived from 54 countries that are low and
The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) says that 748 million
people, around 10% of the world population, do not use an improved drinking
water source. This is attributed to the fact that clean water is either unaffordable
or not available in the near vicinity for them. The social and health impacts
of this scenario are:
- Loss of time in searching of clean
- Large healthcare costs
- Less effectiveness of vaccines
- Loss of working hours due to
Sanitation, the facilities concerned with discarding of human
waste, is a huge problem than clean water. The United Nations data shows that
people who do not still use an advanced sanitation is around 2.5 billion and a
little over one billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia practice
open defecation. This scenario is attributed mainly due to the ignorance of
people, as they think it is unnecessary to build a toilet. Consuming unclean
water and defecating in public is the main source of diseases like diarrhea, cholera,
pneumonia, polio and other dangerous and infectious diseases. Human feces may
contain millions of bacteria, virus, and hundreds of parasitic cysts and eggs. People
who live in slums or rural areas are most affected as they are forced to
defecate in public because of lack of toilets or the less number of toilets
compared to the people living there. When a systematic waste disposal and
drainage systems are not in place, they mix up with drinking water and contaminate
it. This again causes repeated occurrence of diseases and leads to weakening of
immunity system and high mortality rate in child.
Experts have identified the following as major social impacts
of improper sanitation:
- As sense of dignity and privacy are
at stake, girls and women wait till it gets dark to defecate in public areas.
- Girls stop their education because
separate toilets are not provided in school.
How to address the
Proper awareness about clean water and sanitation should be
created among people by the following measures:
- Imparting the knowledge about ill
effects of defecating in open areas.
- The importance of hand washing with
soap should be stressed upon as most of the diseases can be avoided if the
hands are clean.
- People should be encouraged to build
toilets in their houses with good drainage system by providing subsidies.
- Cost effective methods of water
purification methods should be introduced to people.
- Knowledge of rain water harvesting
and other advanced methods for conservation of water should be imparted.
Effects of clean water
- Health of the public will improve.
- Absenteeism in school will reduce
thus education will improve.
- Poverty and hunger is reduced.
- Productivity is improved.
WHO, UNICEF, MDG, WASH United, and many other organizations
out there globally are striving to work towards the right to access clean and
proper sanitation for a healthy world. As we celebrate March 22nd as
world water day every year, it is the responsibility of every human being to
acquire knowledge about consuming clean water and also educate and help people
in the ways possible who are deprived of it.