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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

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World Water Day

The benefits of having access to an improved drinking water source can only be fully realized when there is also access to improved sanitation and adherence to good hygiene practices. Beyond the immediate, obvious advantages of people being hydrated and healthier, access to water, sanitation and hygiene – known collectively as WASH – has profound wider socio-economic impacts, particularly for women and girls.

The fact that WASH is the subject of dedicated targets within the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) is testament to its fundamental role in public health and therefore in the future of sustainable development. Indeed, access to safe water and sanitation are human rights, as recognized in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. For universal fulfilment of these rights to become reality, we will need the right systems: well-resourced, capable institutions delivering services and changing behaviour in resilient and appropriate ways.

Current situation

Today, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services. Unsafe hygiene practices are widespread, compounding the effects on people’s health. The impact on child mortality rates is devastating with more than 297 000 children under five who die annually from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water.

Water

A person without access to improved drinking water – for example from a protected borehole well or municipal piped supply for instance – is forced to rely on sources such as surface water, unprotected and possibly contaminated wells, or vendors selling water of unverifiable provenance and quality.