WaterAid welcomes calls for improved water and sanitation access in Brazil

19 Feb 2016

Gilberto Kassab, Minister of Cities, has told press that sewage and water delivery systems leave ‘much to be desired’ in the country, following media publicity around efforts to control the mosquito-borne Zika virus and to clean up Brazil’s waterways ahead of the Olympics.

Despite Brazil’s status as an upper middle income country, nearly 2% of Brazilians, or about 3.8 million people, do not have access to clean water and more than 17%, or 35 million people, do not have access to good sanitation.

Brazilian authorities have been working to eliminate mosquito breeding sites in the wake of the mosquito-borne Zika virus outbreak in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted by day-biting Aedes mosquitoes that also transmit the dengue and chikungunya viruses. These mosquitoes often breed in pools of water or in uncovered water containers.

Brazilian officials have referred to lack of sanitation as a barrier in their efforts to stop the spread of Zika.

Though the Zika virus, like chikungunya and dengue may be transmitted even in areas where water and sanitation coverage is universal, unreliable water supplies can lead to increased reliance on household water storage that provides more mosquito breeding sites. A lack of sanitation and unhygienic conditions including uncontrolled solid waste disposal in slums may also contribute to mosquito populations, as well as general ill health and the spread of other diseases.

Margaret Batty, director of global policy and campaigns at WaterAid, said:

“Those who are poorest and most marginalised in their communities are often those who find it most difficult to realise their rights to clean water and good sanitation, and those who are most seriously impacted by illness.

“Reliable access to clean water and good sanitation may help reduce the number of mosquito breeding sites by reducing families’ need to collect and store water.

“Water and sanitation are also important components of quality healthcare, which will be required to help those suffering from the longer-term impacts of this virus and other infections.”

Last year world leaders pledged to eradicate extreme poverty and create a fairer, more sustainable world in the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development; Goal 6 has promised to deliver access to everyone everywhere by 2030. Achieving this is essential to eradicating poverty as well as to effective healthcare.


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Notes to editors

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • Around 315,000 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s nearly 900 children each day, or one child every two minutes.
  • Over 650 million people (around one in ten) are without safe water.
  • Over 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation.
  • For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.
  • Just £15 can help provide one person with access to safe water.