World Health Organization report warns lack of water and toilets spreads diseases including Ebola


19 Nov 2014

The world’s poorest people, mostly in rural areas, are facing the most hardship from failures to fund and plan for water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, a new World Health Organization report has found.

The 2014 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS), covering 94 countries and based on data from 23 aid agencies, acknowledges that 2.3 billion people gained access to an improved source of drinking water between 1990 and 2012.

However, efforts on sanitation are seriously behind a UN goal to cut in half the proportion of people without access to basic toilets by 2015.

The neglect of water and sanitation in schools and hospitals in particular is fuelling the spread of diseases including the Ebola epidemic now raging in West Africa.

Some 748 million people are without an improved source of drinking water and an estimated 1.8 billion are still using a source of water that is contaminated. Another 2.5 billion people are without basic access to a clean, safe, private toilet, among whom one billion are still defecating in the open – at roadsides, on railway tracks and in fields.

Nadya Kassam, Global Head of Campaigns, WaterAid said:

The struggle to contain the Ebola epidemic has illustrated clearly the central role that running water, basic toilets and good hygiene has in building health systems capable of containing disease outbreaks. The GLAAS report points out that the UN millennium development goal on sanitation is among the most behind, with dire consequences.

Today, one child will die every minute from diarrhoea, for the lack of clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene. WaterAid research has found that this crisis has killed more than ten million children under age five since 2000, from diarrhoeal illness directly linked to growing up without clean water, basic toilets and handwashing.

This tragic situation can be solved - it is possible to reach everyone, everywhere with water, sanitation and hygiene education, but it will require strong political will and financing. Today, on World Toilet Day, WaterAid urges the UN to secure a strong, dedicated goal on water and sanitation in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.

WaterAid has led an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling for a dedicated goal on water and sanitation in the new Sustainable Development Goals, joined by 36 signatories from medical associations and organisations around the world. Nearly 1,400 children die each day from diarrhoeal illness which could have been prevented with these services.

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