Hospitals and schools without running water and soap for washing hands have been singled out as a great risk to children.
A report published by the World Health Organisation says such institutions are hazards to children because of the risk of disease outbreaks.
It reveals that while that billions of people have gained access to basic drinking water and sanitation services since 2000, these services do not necessarily provide safe water and sanitation.
The Joint Monitoring Programme report by the WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shows that three in 10 people around the world lack access to clean and safe drinking water at homes and in schools. As a result, every year, 361,000 children under five die due to diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases including cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.
“Safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene are critical to the health of every child and every community and thus are essential to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
“As we improve these services in the most disadvantaged communities and for the most disadvantaged children today, we give them a fairer chance at a better tomorrow,” he added, in a report titled Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and Sustainable Development Goal baselines. The report revealed that six in 10 or 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation.
Of the 4.5 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services. This includes 600 million people who share a toilet or latrine with other households, and 892 million people – mostly in rural areas – who defecate in the open. Due to population growth, open defecation is increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya is among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that suffer water shortage in several counties and open defecation.
The report presented the first global assessment of safely managed drinking water and sanitation services.“Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centres,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General.
“These are some of the most basic requirements for human health, and all countries have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can access them,” he added. Recently, Nairobi County Assembly committee on water and sanitation held a special meeting to address the crisis of the commodity in the capital city.
This comes as city residents face acute water shortage following prolonged drought that hit the country. Counties such as Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru and Turkana, have been experiencing water shortage for weeks at a time.
In order to decrease global inequalities, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for ending open defecation and achieving universal access to basic services by 2030.
“Of the 2.1 billion people who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not have a basic drinking water service. This includes 263 million people who have to spend over 30 minutes per trip collecting water from sources outside the home, and 159 million who still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams or lakes,” reads the report.
In 90 countries, Kenya included, the progress towards basic sanitation is too slow, meaning they will not reach universal coverage by 2030.
“Good hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease. For the first time, the SDGs are monitoring the percentage of people who have facilities to wash their hands at home with soap and water,” said Dr Ghebreyesus
According to the report, access to water and soap for handwashing varies immensely in the 70 countries with available data, from 15 per cent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa to 76 per cent in western Asia and northern Africa.
Sanitation in numbers
- 4.5 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation.
- 844 million people do not have access to basic water services.
- 263 million people spend more than 30 minutes per trip collecting water
- 159 million people drink untreated water from streams
- 2.3 billion people do not have basic sanitation services.
- 892 million people defecate in the open.