Children, poverty and access to water and sanitation: WASH
WASH and health
Water and sanitation-related disease, despite being preventable, remains one of the most significant child health problems worldwide. Diarrhoea is the most serious of these diseases, alone killing over 3,000 children each day. 88% of diarrhoeal disease is attributed to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
Children in developing countries typically have four to five bouts of diarrhoea a year. Even when they don’t kill, these diarrhoea episodes can physically and mentally stunt children, affecting them for the rest of their lives. By weakening children, diarrhoea increases mortality rates.
WASH and education
A high percentage of children suffer from intestinal infections caused by parasites as a result of poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation. Parasites consume nutrients, aggravate malnutrition, retard children's physical development and result in poor school attendance and performance. Household chores, such as fetching water, keep many girls out of school. Also, the lack of separate and decent sanitation and washing facilities in schools discourages girls from attending school full time and forces some to drop out. The majority of the 121 million school-age children not in school are girls.
WASH and development
Poor water and sanitation exact a heavy economic cost in terms of health spending, loss of productivity and labour diversion.
If everyone in the world had access to basic water and sanitation services, the reduction in diarrhoeal disease alone would save the health sector $11.6 billion in treatment costs and people would gain over 5.6 billion productive days per year. When the potential economic gains of providing basic, low-cost water and sanitation facilities are added together, the developing world could save as much as $263 billion a year
WASH and HIV/AIDS
Promoting improved hygiene practices and increasing access to water and sanitation facilities helps to reduce opportunistic infections among people living with HIV/AIDS. Better access to facilities also reduces the burden on households caring for AIDS-affected family members.
Less time spent on fetching water allows caregivers – who are usually women and girls – more time and energy for coping with the disease or for working outside the home.
Appropriate sanitation also helps to ensure that AIDS sufferers, many of whom experience severe bouts of diarrhoea, have access to clean and private facilities.
Women and girls also pay the heaviest price for poor sanitation. There are many reasons, beyond the health repercussions of inadequate sanitation.
School enrolment and attendance
The lack of safe, separate and private sanitation and washing facilities in schools is one of the main factors preventing girls from attending school.
Reduce the burden of caring for the sick
The health and lives of more than half the world's children are constantly threatened by environmental hazards as they get sick through contact with excreta in their environment.
Caring for sick children adds to the already heavy workload of women and girls.
Key questions for research
Which specific challenges are faced by children?
Which specific challenges are faced by women and girls? How can these be overcome?