GENEVA — Around one in four people or around 2 billion people lacked safely managed drinking water in their homes in 2020, said a joint report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Nearly half the world’s population lacked safely managed sanitation.
The urgent need to ensure everyone can access good hand hygiene was highlighted during the pandemic. At the onset of Covid-19, 3 in 10 people worldwide could not wash their hands with soap and water within their homes, states the report.
“Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO. “Yet millions of people across the world lack access to a reliable, safe supply of water.”
“Investment in water, sanitation, and hygiene must be a global priority if we are to end this pandemic and build more resilient health systems.”
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that millions of children and families were suffering without clean water, safe sanitation, and a place to wash their hands even before the pandemic.
“Despite our impressive progress to date to scale-up these lifesaving services, the alarming and growing needs continue to outstrip our ability to respond,” Fore said.
“The time has come to dramatically accelerate our efforts to provide every child and family with the most basic needs for their health and well-being, including fighting off infectious diseases like Covid-19.”
According to the report, between 2016 and 2020, the global population with safely managed drinking water at home rose from 70 percent to 74 percent. Safely managed sanitation services grew from 47 percent to 54 percent. Handwashing facilities with soap and water increased from 67 percent to 71 percent.
It is not enough despite the progress, said the report. Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing the slowest rate of progress in the world.
Highlighting an urgent need for investment, the report warned that billions of people worldwide would be unable to access safely managed household drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services in 2030 unless the rate of progress quadruples.
“Investment in water, sanitation, and hygiene must be a global priority if we are to end this pandemic and build more resilient health systems,” said Ghebreyesus.
As per reports by the United Nations, the drinking water source can only be improved when there is good hygiene and sanitation practice.
“Without improved sanitation — a facility that safely separates human waste from human contact — people have no choice but to use inadequate communal latrines or to practice open defecation,” states the report.
“For women and girls, finding a place to go to the washroom outside, often having to wait until the cover of darkness, can leave them vulnerable to abuse and sexual assault.”
“In the immediate environment, the exposed fecal matter will be transferred back into people’s food and water resources, helping to spread serious diseases such as cholera. Beyond the community, the lack of effective waste disposal or sewerage systems can contaminate ecosystems and contribute to disease pandemics.”
As per United Nations, there is little or no awareness of good hygiene in some parts of the world.
Contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 485,000 diarrheal deaths each year. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
(With inputs from ANI)
(Edited by Amrita Das and Saptak Datta)
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