Water and Sanitation

Imhealthist | Sunday 15th of May 2016 12:29:42 AM


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 middle-income group.


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 water
  • Large healthcare costs
  • Less effectiveness of vaccines
  • Loss of working hours due to recurring diseases.

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 issue:

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 and sanitation:

  • 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.