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One in three people lack access to safe drinking water - report

In Summary

•Report says 297,000 children under five years die every year due to diarrhea linked to inadequate WASH

•It shows that 8 in 10 people living in rural areas lack access to these services with coverage of basic services among the richest being at least twice as high as among the poorest

WHO director General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference outside Afya House in 2018.
WHO director General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference outside Afya House in 2018.
Image: FILE

Countries have been urged to step up efforts on sanitation, safe water and hygiene in rural areas to help combat common diseases.

This is contained in the latest Joint Monitoring Programme report by WHO and UNICEF, Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities.

The report shows one in three people globally do not have access to safe drinking water, and more than half of the world population does not have access to safe sanitation services.

According to the report, 297,000 children under five years die every year due to diarrhea linked to inadequate WASH.

Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.

The United Nations classifies Kenya as a chronically water-scarce country on the basis of having one of the lowest natural water replenishment rates.

Estimates of water supply in the country indicate that only about 56 per cent of the population has access to safe water.

Approximately 80 per cent of hospital attendance is due to preventable diseases and about 50 per cent of these illnesses are water, sanitation and hygiene-related as 16 million (50 per cent) Kenyans do not have adequate sanitation.

“If the water isn’t clean, isn’t safe to drink or is far away, and if toilet access is unsafe or limited, then we’re not delivering for the world’s children” 
Kelly Ann Naylor

According to Unicef, more than 90 per cent of the water and sanitation related disease outbreaks occur in the rural areas while 50 per cent of rural households have no toilet facilities at all, and where they exist they are generally unhygienic.

It further estimates that up to 50 per cent of the urban populations reside in slum environments where sanitation conditions are appalling;

 

On average, schools have only one latrine per 100 pupils compared with the recommended maximum of 40 pupils per latrine while more than three-quarters of Kenya is still vulnerable to disasters, especially floods, droughts and cholera.

The report says while significant progress has been made towards achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene, there are huge gaps in the quality of services provided.

Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF says mere access is not enough.

“If the water isn’t clean, isn’t safe to drink or is far away, and if toilet access is unsafe or limited, then we’re not delivering for the world’s children,” Naylor said.

The report say even though 1.8 billion people globally have gained access to basic drinking water services since 2000, there are vast inequalities in the accessibility, availability and quality of these services.

It shows that 8 in 10 people living in rural areas lack access to these services with coverage of basic services among the richest being at least twice as high as among the poorest.

  “Children and their families in poor and rural communities are most at risk of being left behind. Governments must invest in their communities if we are going to bridge these economic and geographic divides and deliver this essential human right,” Naylor added.

DISEASE RISK

Of concern however is that in 39 countries, the number of people practicing open defecation actually increased

It now warns that should countries fail to step up efforts on sanitation, safe water and hygiene, we will continue to live with diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and neglected tropical diseases including trachoma, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis which should have long been forgotten.

The report reveals that 1.8 billion people have gained access to basic drinking water services since 2000, but there are vast inequalities in the accessibility, availability and quality of these services.

The report, however, notes that the proportion of people practicing open defecation has gone down by half since 2000 from 21 per cent to 9 per cent, and 23 countries have achieved near elimination, meaning less than 1 per cent of the population is practicing open defecation.

Of concern however is that in 39 countries, the number of people practicing open defecation actually increased, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa where many countries have experienced strong population growth over this period.

The report is now calling on governments to close gaps in accessibility, quality and availability of water, sanitation, and hygiene to be able to achieve the vision 2030.