Water and Health

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Did you know? Facts and Figures about Water and Health

(Source: UNESCO Water-Portal newletter Nr. 183)

  • At the start of the 21st century unclean water is the world’s second biggest cause of death for children.
  • Every year some 1.8 million children die as a result of diarrhoea and other diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. This corresponds to 4,900 deaths each day or an under-five population equivalent in size to that of London and New York combined.
  • The diseases and conditions of ill-health directly associated with water, sanitation and hygiene include infectious diarrhoea (which, in turn, includes cholera, salmonellosis, shigellosis, amoebiasis and a number of other protozoal and viral infections), typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, acute hepatitis A, E and F, fluorosis, arsenicosis, legionellosis, methaemoglobinaemia, schistosomiasis, trachoma, intestinal helminth infections (including ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection), dracunculiasis, scabies, dengue, the filariases (including lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis), malaria, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile virus infection, yellow fever and impetigo.
  • The ill health associated with deficits in water and sanitation undermines productivity and economic growth, reinforcing the deep inequalities that characterize current patterns of globalization and trapping vulnerable households in cycles of poverty.
  • Some 1.1 billion people in the developing world do not have access to a minimal amount of clean water. Coverage rates are lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa, but most of the people without clean water live in Asia.
  • Deprivation in sanitation is even more widespread. Some 2.6 billion people—half the developing world’s population, do not have access to basic sanitation. Many more lack access to good quality sanitation. Coverage rates are shockingly low in many of the world’s poorest countries: only about 1 person in 3 in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has access to sanitation—in Ethiopia the figure falls to about 1 in 7.
  • Deaths from diarrhoea in 2004 were about 6 times greater than the average annual deaths in armed conflict for the 1990s.
  • Water-related illness produces the loss of 443 million school days each year.
  • Close to half of all people in developing countries suffer at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.
  • Malaria causes illness in about 400 million people every year. With its share of the global burden of disease increasing, it is one of the most urgent global health problems.
  • Africa accounts for more than half of the world's burden of onchocerciasis (97%), malaria (88%), schistosomiasis (78%) and trachoma (52%). The World Health Organization (WHO) Region of South-East Asia accounts for more than half of the world's burden of dengue (62%) and lymphatic filariasis (56%).


See also

Background Paper on Water and Health for the COP workshop Bucharest, 2008

International water law and the long path towards the human rights dimension: the UNECE Water and Health protocol

Managing Water and Health issues in Mali

Protocol on Water and Health

Water Quality for Ecosystem and Human Health

External resources

(Source: UNESCO Water-Portal newletter Nr. 183)

Protecting Groundwater for Health
By Oliver Schmoll, Guy Howard, John Chilton and Ingrid Chorus (editors); © 2006 World Health Organization (WHO)

This publication fits within the framework of the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality and offers a comprehensive analysis of the hazards posed to groundwater resources, attempting to uncover areas of high concern. Based on these studies, priorities can be set and new management strategies can be implemented to mitigate the adverse effects of any unsafe groundwater on public health.

'Protecting Groundwater for Health' looks specifically at a number of issues of growing global concern, including management of pollution sources for the effective protection of groundwater resources.

Access the full publication: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/protecting_groundwater/en/index.html
Preventing disease through healthy environments: Towards an estimate of the environmental burden of disease
By Annette Prüss-Üstün, © 2006 World Health Organization (WHO)

This report summarizes the results globally, in 14 regions worldwide, with separate estimates for children. The evidence shows that environmental risk factors play a role in more than 80% of the diseases regularly reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). Globally, nearly one quarter of all deaths and of the total disease burden can be attributed to the environment. In children, however, environmental risk factors can account for slightly more than one-third of the disease burden. These findings have important policy implications, because the environmental risk factors that were studied largely can be modified by established, cost-effective interventions. The interventions promote equity by benefiting everyone in the society, while addressing the needs of those most at risk.

Access the full report http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/preventingdisease/en/index.html
Water, Sanitation and Health section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website
This website contains information on drinking water quality, bathing water, water resource quality, water supply and sanitation monitoring, sanitation and hygiene development, water-related disease, wastewater use, healthcare waste, health in water resources development, emerging issues in water and infectious disease and household water treatment and safe storage.

The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP)
This World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) website hosts information related to water supply and sanitation, and provides a picture of the state of water supply and sanitation at different scales (global, regional and country), which enables you to 'zoom' in and out. Information is presented in the form of short texts linked to tables, graphs and maps.

Pan American Center for Sanitary Engineering and Environmental Sciences (CEPIS)
CEPIS is the specialized centre for environmental technology of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). This website contains different water and health related portals: disasters, drinking water and sanitation, environmental impact assessment, health education and social participation, healthy environment, wastewater, water quality, water resources-management, water treatment and worker's health.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM)
To provide a coordinated global approach to fighting malaria, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership was launched in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. This website has multimedia resources, information about news, links, events, publications and working groups.

Epidemio – Earth Observation in Epidemiology
The scope of this European Space Agency’s (ESA) founded project is to demonstrate and use the potential of Earth Observation for a new service which supplies new types of environmental information for epidemiology.

This website contains information on the project, different types of maps (urban, water bodies, vegetation and land cover maps, etc), documents, news and events.

For a UNESCO-list of water links around the world visit http://www.unesco.org/water/water_links/


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