Friday, 27 June 2008

Safer Water, Better Health

The World Health Organization has just published Safer Water, Better Health: Costs, Benefits and Sustainability of Interventions to Protect and Promote Health by Annette Prüss-Üstün, Robert Bos, Fiona Gore and Jamie Bartram. It’s a good read – but also disturbing as “Almost one tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation, hygiene and management of water resources”.

Table 1 on page 12 (pdf page 16) in Safer Water, Better Health gives a summary of the situation in 2002 (country-by-country information is given in Annex I). In developing countries there were 2.4 million deaths in that year due to inadequate domestic water supplies, sanitation and hygiene (5.5% of total deaths). This is in huge contrast to the number in industrialized countries where there were only 24,000 deaths due to inadequate domestic WSH (0.2% of total deaths).

Globally children under 15 suffer most, with just over 2.2 million deaths in 2002 due to inadequate domestic WSH (nearly 19% of all U15 deaths). This really means that governments that don’t invest in WSH for all their citizens are effectively killing nearly one in five of their children under the age of 15 – every year. I think bald statements like this are becoming necessary to kick-start some governments into action − you always have to talk louder to those who are deaf or choose not to hear.