NEW YORK – There are 2.1 billion people who lack access to safe drinking water at home and 4.4 billion people who lack safely managed sanitation worldwide, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
The report, titled “Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and Sustainable Development Goal Baselines,” presented the first global assessment of “safely managed” drinking water and sanitation services, particularly in rural areas.
“Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centers,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“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.
Billions of people’s access to basic drinking water and sanitation services since 2000 don’t provide safe water and sanitation. Numerous homes, healthcare facilities and schools still lack soap and water for handwashing, putting people, especially young children’s health at risk.
Around 361,000 children under five years old die due to diarrhea yearly. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are linked to transmission of various diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid.
In the Philippines, 91 percent of its estimated 100.7 million population have access to basic water services, however, access is highly inequitable across the country, with regional basic water services access ranging from 62 percent to 100 percent.
“Safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities are essential to health and wellness in the communities. Safe water and sanitation is especially linked to young children’s nutrition and ability to stay healthy and focused in school. Diseases caused by unsafe or unhygienic practices decrease children’s chances to successful school completion and healthy growth,” said United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander.
Around six million Filipinos still practice open defecation and 20 million lack access to basic sanitation facilities, while 75 million have basic sanitation service at a national level.
“In rural areas where poverty is high, inequalities are aggravated by this cycle of and link between the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and poor health and low productivity,” she added.
Significant inequalities persist to decrease global inequalities, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) launched in 2015 call for an end to open defecation, achieving universal access to basic services by 2030.
Open defecation is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania due to population growth.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease is good hygiene. For the first time, SDGs are monitoring the percentage of people who have facilities to wash their hands at home with water and soap.
The Department of Health (DOH) has prioritized ending open defecation across the Philippines by 2022 as articulated in the current administration’s '12 Legacies for Health’ agenda.
UNICEF continues to work with DOH to accelerate the government’s Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program.
“UNICEF actively works with national and local governments and NGO partners on the phased approach to rural sanitation (PHATS), focusing on demonstrating the effectiveness of using community-based approaches with local government units (LGUs) to advocate for ZOD and help them determine and plan their action plans,” Sylwander explained.