Lack of clean water and poor sanitation kill thousands of people especially children. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 28 per cent of under five deaths are attributable to poor sanitation and unsafe water.
Negligence of these environmental determinants of child health is having a profound effect which is now acute in our urban areas especially in Dhaka.
A paper titled “Fatal Neglect: How health systems are failing to comprehensively address child mortality” by WaterAid identifies that unsafe water and poor sanitation may be linked to as many as a quarter of all child deaths through acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea, and yet the aid system is not responding to the causes of child mortality in a targeted or proportionate manner.
Both diarrhoea and ARIs are intrinsically linked to poor sanitation in particular and environmental health in general. Last year, WHO reported that globally, improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) could prevent 25 per cent of the overall under-five disease burden (morbidity and mortality) and 28 per cent of under-five deaths (mortality only).
Diarrhoea, malaria and HIV/AIDS are three of the biggest child killers. However, child total allocations to combat each disease are not the same. It has been seen that allocations for HIV/AIDS and malaria are much more than diarrhoeal diseases whereas if aid was allocated on a more rational basis; these allocations would be more balanced and would better reflect the mortality burden.
Apart from aid allocation another major concern is equity and inclusion. Baby girl are often heavily burdened by WaSH tasks such as collecting water. As a result they miss out on education, which in turn limits their opportunities for economic and social development.
Many adolescent girls fail to attend school regularly when their menstrual hygiene needs are not met. WaSH issues also have a particularly significant effect on women because of their biological reproductive roles. For example, lack of privacy and safe menstrual hygiene facilities can expose women and girls to infection, loss of dignity, and prevent their access to education. Women may also be exposed to violence or sexual exploitation if they have to travel long distances for water or if they do not have private sanitation facilities.
There is an urgent need to give proper emphasis on investment in water sector for sustaining a healthy world. The aid system needs to respond
better to the disease burden by targeting resources at where the burden is greatest including diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water. Due focus needs to be given to the wider determinants of poor health, particularly unsafe water — to be able to fight against water poverty in Bangladesh.
Source: The Daily Star, April 03, 2010