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| Last Updated:: 19/12/2014

Sanitation and Environment

The Earth was home to 6 billion people in 2000: 1.1 billion of them lacked safe water and 2.4 billion lacked adequate sanitation. As a consequence, water- and sanitation-related diseases are widespread. Nearly 250 million cases are reported every year, with more than 3 million deaths annually—about 10,000 a day. Diarrheal diseases impact children most severely, killing more than 2 million young children a year in the developing world. Many more are left underweight, stunted mentally and physically, vulnerable to other deadly diseases, and too debilitated to go to school.

This situation in today’s world is humiliating, morally wrong, and oppressive. The global community has made advances in many fields but it has failed to ensure these most basic needs of deprived people. Worse still, if unprecedented global action is not taken, the lot of the poor is expected to worsen in the foreseeable future.

Water supply, sanitation and health are closely related. Poor hygiene, inadequate quantities and quality of drinking water, and lack of sanitation facilities cause millions of the world's poorest people to die from preventable diseases each year. Women and children are the main victims.


Water, sanitation and health are linked in many ways:


  • Contaminated water that is consumed may result in water-borne diseases including viral hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, dysentery and other diseases that cause diarrhea.
  • Without adequate quantities of water for personal hygiene, skin and eye infections (trachoma) spread easily.
  • Water-based diseases and water-related vector-borne diseases can result from water supply projects (including dams and irrigation structures) that inadvertently provide habitats for mosquitoes and snails that are intermediate hosts of parasites that cause malaria, schistomsomisis, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and Japanese encephalitis.
  • Drinking water supplies that contain high amounts of certain chemicals (like arsenic and nitrates) can cause serious disease.
  • Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene account for a large part of the burden of illness and death in developing countries.
  • Lack of clean water and sanitation is the second most important risk factor in terms of the global burden of disease, after malnutrition.
  • Approximately 4 billion cases of diarrhea per year cause 1.5 million deaths, mostly among children under five.
  • Intestinal worms infect about 10% of the population of the developing world, and can lead to malnutrition, anemia and retarded growth.
  • 6 million people are blind from trachoma and the population at risk is about 500 million.
  • 300 million people suffer from malaria.
  • 200 million people are infected with schistosomiasis, 20 million of whom suffer severe consequences.