Water and sanitation
More than one billion people in the developing world have no safe drinking water, or water for washing their food, hands and utensils before eating. 2.4 billion also have no adequate sanitation. This leads to water-borne diseases (e.g. cholera, typhoid), water-related diseases (e.g. malaria, yellow fever, river blindness, sleeping sickness), water-based diseases (e.g. guinea worm and bilharzias), water-scarce diseases (trachoma and scabies) and diarrhoea, a leading killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa.
The crisis is worst in sub-Saharan Africa, where 2 in 5 people lack safe water. A baby here is almost 520 times more likely to die from diarrhoea than one born in Europe. Improving access to clean water and sanitation would dramatically reduce illness and death in poor countries: a clean water supply reduces diarrhoea-related death by up to 25%, while improved sanitation reduces it by 32%.
Trachoma, one of the most common causes of blindness in the developing world, is linked to extreme poverty and poor sanitation. It is triggered by bacteria that cause repeated conjunctivitis. It is easily spread, especially where there is little water for people to wash their hands and faces regularly. There are 6 million new cases of this preventable disease each year in Africa.
Adequate water and sanitation would help vulnerable groups – especially women and girls. It would also provide significant economic benefit. The annual value of time saved globally would amount to $63.5 billion in 2015, while the health-related costs avoided would reach $7.3 billion per year worldwide in 2015.
How AMREF is tackling waterborne diseases
Together with communities and district health councils, AMREF is improving water and sanitation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and South Africa.
In Kibera, Kenya, we and local residents have installed latrines, bathrooms and water tanks. Clean-up campaigns have cleared drains and reduced refuse problems. We have set up school-based ‘wash clubs’, teaching children about hygiene and encouraging them to take the message home. Results show improvement – cases of diarrhoea and intestinal worms have dropped by about 70% in target schools. In Tanzania, we have worked with communities to construct shallow wells and latrines. Songs, dramas and role-plays have successfully spread messages about hygiene and sanitation into the community.
Improving water accessibility has reduced the workload – for women and girls. This has increased school attendance for children and helped women engage in other income-generating activities.
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