At CompleteHomeSpa.com, we know that access to clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right, as recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010. Since 2015, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council consider the right of clean, safe, drinking water close to basic human rights.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Right defines the key elements of human rights to water and sanitation in its General Comment No. 15 and in the work of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water:
- Quality and safety:
Each person’s water supply must be adequate and constant to cover personal and domestic needs, such as drinking, washing, cooking, and cleaning your home. Each home, as well as any health or educational institutions, businesses, and other public locations, must have enough sanitary facilities to meet fundamental needs.
Yet, to so many people around the world, a pure and accessible public system is a privilege that they cannot afford. This situation is especially concerning in current times when we have witnessed how access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene can help prevent the spreading of viruses and diseases.
WASH! Stands for Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
Wash is a programme that aims to provide universal, affordable, and sustainable access to clean water, adequate sanitation, and education on the impact of hygiene.
To understand the importance of WASH, here are nine facts about the importance of clean water and sanitation.
Billions Have No Access To Clean Water
In the 2000-2020 Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene report, UNICEF and WHO found that:
- 2 billion people lacked safe access to drinking water (that’s 20% of the population).
- 3.6 billion people did not have safely managed sanitation services.
A year later, the updated 2021 JMP report revealed that:
- 771 million people did not have clean water close to home
- 1.7 billion people did not have a decent toilet of their own.
The World Is Off-Track For SDG Wash Targets
In the abovementioned 2000-2020 JMP report, UNICEF and WHO warned that to ensure universal coverage by 2030, the current rates of progress in safely managed WASH services would have to quadruple.
Even though the sustainable development goals (SDGs) were established back in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world in its current state is still far from achieving the 6.1 and 6.2 WASH targets.
Global Health Directly Impacts Economies
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important health is and how it can impact entire economies and disrupt life, even in big and technologically advanced cities. People who do not have access to safe water at home and their local health facilities are more vulnerable to viruses and other diseases.
Sick and malnourished adults struggle or become incapable to work, which directly affects their professional development and performance.
Sick children are missing school, which impedes their path to a better career in the future. In fact, the “Progress on drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene in schools: Special focus on COVID-19 report by UNICEF and WHO found that
- In 2019 over 584 million children did not have access to basic drinking water services at their school.
- In the same year, only 63% of schools globally had a basic sanitation service.
Infants, Children & Women Are Affected The Most
Lack of access to safely managed WASH services can be fatal for mothers and babies.
- Around 2.6 million babies die every year in their first month of life due to infections such as sepsis, which is mainly a result of poor hygiene at birth.
Children have weaker immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases transmitted through dirty water.
Poor sanitation conditions make it harder for girls and women to manage menstrual hygiene in private, impacting their confidence and mental health.
Moreover, due to the lack of basic sanitation facilities, many girls and women wait for the dark to privately urinate or defecate, making them more vulnerable to injuries, diseases, or sexual assault.
Access To Wash Impacts Gender Equality
In many regions, women and girls are more likely to be responsible for managing the household water supply, with some of them having to make at least a 30-minute trip to bring water to their families.
- Women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours hauling water every day.
They have less time each day to study or earn a salary, which further widens the gender pay gap.
Girls Are More Likely To Miss School Than Boys
By having to labor to satisfy their family’s basic needs, concepts such as self-care and skincare (even cheap DIY skincare) are luxuries to women and girls of regions without undisturbed access to clean water.
UNICEF and WHO’s 2020 JMP report found that in 2018 and 2019, adolescent girls often reported missing school due to their period because school toilets lacked the necessary facilities to enable them to wash and change when needed.
As a result, girls miss school more often than boys and get fewer educational and career opportunities.
Diarrhoea Takes A Life Every Two Minutes
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death among children below the age of five.
- It takes the lives of around 2,195 children a day, which is more than deaths caused by AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.
Diarrhoea, mainly transmitted through dirty water, contaminated hands, and unhygienic toilets, is deadly for young children as it leads to severe dehydration that makes them too weak to battle infections. Lives lost to diarrhoea can be prevented by having access to clean water and sanitation services, as well as good hygiene practises.
- WASH can prevent the deaths of 297 000 children aged under five years annually.
Poor Water Sanitation & Transmission of Diseases
It is also the number one culprit in transmitting many potentially deadly diseases, including cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, exacerbates stunting, intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.
- Inadequate sanitation causes around 432 000 diarrhoeal deaths annually.
It eventually leads to dehydration and malnutrition, as people cannot ingest the necessary vitamins and minerals their body needs.
As previously mentioned, many people, notably women, develop anxiety, fear sexual assaults, and lose educational opportunities. Furthermore, it is also important to note that poor sanitation also impacts mental health.
Prevention with W.A.S.H.
- Water, sanitation, and hygiene can reduce 9% of the global disease burden and
- Water, sanitation, and hygiene can reduce 6% of global fatal cases.
Investments in WASH are cost-effective, as families will spend less money on healthcare and can repurpose their income for educational or professional development. In the case of children, they can get better nourishment and pay more attention at school, as proper sanitation and clean water can help their cognitive abilities.
Moreover, children will not have to walk long distances to get water, and girls will not have to skip school due to menstrual hygiene problems. If everyone’s basic needs are met, they can work towards fulfilling their full potential.
Facts on Clean Water:
- By 2025, two-thirds of the people in the world may face water shortages.
- In 2017, 45 % (3.4 billion people) had access to clean water.
- 31% of people in the world (>2.5 billion people) have access to a civilized public sewer-integrated home.
- 14% of people in the world (1.0 billion people) use WC, disposed of on the spot.
- 74% of the people in the world (5.5 billion people) have accessed a basic sanitation service.
- There are still 2 billion individuals who do not have access to basic sanitation.
- 673 million continue to defecate in public, such as in street gutters, behind bushes, or in open bodies of water.
- It is estimated that at least 10% of the people in the world consume food irrigated by wastewater.
- Areas used for the production of adapted crops for harvesting in peri-urban regions, largely irrigated by untreated urban wastewater, are projected to be 36 million hectares
- Poor sanitation contributes to the spread of illnesses such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio, as well as exacerbating stunting.
- Poor sanitation decreases human well-being, social and economic growth by causing anxiety, increasing the chance of sexual assault, and reducing educational prospects.
- Polluted water causes 432 000 diarrheal deaths every year and is a key contributor to a number of neglected tropical illnesses such as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.
- Half of child malnutrition is attributed to the lack of clean water.
Author: Dmitri Kara
Started as a jack of all trades back in early 2012, Dmitri Kara is a recognized expert in a wide range of domestic and commercial trades. Dmitri Kara has appeared for reputable outlets such as Today.com, Metro.News, Telegraph.co.uk, ReadersDigest.com, Quote.com, Reviews.com, Plus.net, IkeaHackers.net, and many more. You can get in touch at https://twitter.com/@dmitrikara.