Monday, July 7, 2008

No more excuses

How to prevent a tenth of the global disease burden...

Actually, unsafe water and inadequate sanitation cause in many cases up to 15% of the disease burden according to a new World Health Organization report Safer water, better health.

The connections between water, sanitation, hygiene and health are becoming more clear with each passing report, conference, and Lancet editorial. The latest is here:

How to prevent a tenth of the global disease burden

Take the time to read, and forward the editorial or this post to those doubting Thomases who need to better see the linkages between water and health. Some of its findings:

  • 9·1% of the global burden of disease could be prevented by improving water, sanitation, and hygiene
  • in 32 worst-affected countries, this figure is 15%
  • health-care agencies could save US$7 billion a year on health-care costs
  • 320 million productive working days could be gained, and
  • there could be an extra 272 million school attendance days a year.
In summary, there could be a total payback of $84 billion a year from the $11·3 billion annual investment needed to meet the drinking water and sanitation target of MDG 7.

The piece goes on to say the links between water and health "have been neglected by policy makers in strategies aimed at improving child survival and development" and "this issue remains largely neglected in international development efforts."

"So what?" I whinged halfway through this editorial - another report expressing in ever more graphic terms the disease burden attributable to bad water and no toilets, not to mention the suffering and economic privations associated with hauling water and thus not attending school. Thankfully, the Lancet asked the same question: "But is the international community paying any attention to this wealth of information and evidence?"

The answer is increasingly yes - this piece mentions specifically the recent African Union meeting in Egypt and a number of other reports/series on the issue due soon from The Lancet, WaterAid, etc. All will contribute to the record, and all should call out the global health community and child survival organizations in the strongest terms for not adequately dealing with one of major - if not the largest - contributors to childhood morbidity and mortality.