Today is World Water Day. Held annually on March 22, World Water Day serves as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Water serves as a basic human need, yet a large percentage of our global population continues to combat sufficient access to clean water. As an essential resource, water defines the level of progress and the socio-economic profile of a community. For instance, the ability to cultivate agriculture depends on the amount of water, which then goes on to determine the type of jobs the society demands for the community to produce its own capital. Developing nations that lack access to water or that undergo seasons without clean water need to plan alternative ways in which communities can provide for each other. In rural areas that lack convenient access to water, women are in charge of seeking and transporting water in spite of the weight and distance. Along with the physical burden that this task represents, women and girls around the world also lose about 40 billion hours per year gathering water.
Furthermore, without access to water that is properly sanitized, communities are at a higher risk of diseases, such as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
Clean water is a major part of disease prevention. NTDs can be spread by drinking contaminated water and eating food that is not properly washed. Areas with stagnant water are breeding grounds for insects that carry NTDs, such as mosquitoes that transmit lymphatic filariasis. In many developing regions, key water resources harbor the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, better known as snail fever. Improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) together can help control and protect people from many water borne diseases, including NTDs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), WASH has the potential to reduce trachoma by nearly 27 percent, while improving sanitation can reduce schistosomiasis by as much as 77 percent.
Water and sanitation issues are often discussed in isolation. However, the discussion of access to water, sanitation and hygiene are significant to the progress reducing poverty, through achieving global health standards and improving food security. As we celebrate World Water Day today, it’s important to recognize the significance that water has in defining development around the world.
Also, if you missed it, a recent blog post on End the Neglect highlighted water issues and their relevance to NTD control in Recife, Brazil. The post was written as part of a special series on the fight against NTDs in Brazil.