At least 2.5 billion people around the world lack access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). This means 2.5 billion people are susceptible to diseases like cholera, pneumonia, malaria, diarrheal disease and a group of parasitic and bacterial infections referred to as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) — including blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis (a deadly parasitic disease carried by snails) and intestinal worms. These diseases cause malnutrition, disability, delayed cognitive development and even death. They also increase the likelihood of contracting other diseases such as HIV/ and tuberculosis.
The adverse impact of dirty water and poor hygiene and sanitation reaches far beyond health. The diseases that stem from a lack of WASH keep children out of school and prevent parents from working, thereby decreasing human capital, worker productivity and gross domestic product. However, by addressing these diseases together with WASH, we can work to alleviate poverty and promote development worldwide.
The consequences of dirty water and poor sanitation are massive, but by joining together on World Water Day, our collective voices can lend urgency to an issue affecting almost one third of the world’s population.
In order to achieve the biggest impact, we’re challenging policy makers and the global community to make connections between multiple global health issues and water and, to think more broadly when it comes to initiating WASH programs.
The U.S. Congress has begun to recognize the close connection between clean, safe water and the overall health of men, women and children across the developing world. But going a step further to examine how development policies around water and sanitation might broaden to include targeted health components (such as treatment for NTDs) is an important next step. Doing so makes good programmatic and financial sense—a valuable commodity in this budgetary climate.
As members of the global health community, we want to end the needless suffering of the world’s most vulnerable populations due to preventable illness and disease. World Water Day provides all of us with an opportunity to work together to achieve a common goal: A healthy and more prosperous world for everyone.
To view our World Water Day Infographic in full-size, click the image below: