“Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause more than 500,000 diarrhoeal deaths each year and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma,” on 13 April 2017 said Maria Neira, the Director of Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at the UN World Health Organization (WHO).*
The UN report, Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water 2017, notes that while countries have increased their budgets for water, sanitation and hygiene at an average annual rate of about 4.9 per cent over the last three years, 80 per cent of countries have reported that the increase is still insufficient to meet nationally-defined targets for those services.
Therefore, in order to meet the ambitious SDG targets, which aim for universal access to safely managed water and sanitation services by 2030, countries need to use financial resources more efficiently as well as increase efforts to identify new sources of funding.
The Global Assessment also highlights that these efforts are particularly important for developing countries where current national coverage targets are based on achieving access to basic infrastructure and which may not necessarily provide continuously safe and reliable services.
The report has been issued by WHO, on behalf of UN-Water – the inter-agency coordination mechanism for all freshwater-related issues, including sanitation.
Funding gap is vast but countries have the ability to mobilize resources
According to estimates by the World Bank, investments in infrastructure need to triple to $114 billion per year – a figure which does not include operating and maintenance costs.
While this funding gap is vast, there are recent examples of countries having demonstrated the ability to mobilize the needed resources to meet development targets.
For instance, 147 countries around the globe were able to successfully mobilize the resources required to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without an improved source of water, and 95 among them met the corresponding target for sanitation. 77 countries met both.
According to Guy Ryder, the Chair of UN-Water and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), nations have the ability to address the challenges of meeting the ambitious SDG targets.
“Increased investments in water and sanitation can yield substantial benefits for human health and development, generate employment and make sure that we leave no one behind,” he said. (*SOURCE: UN).
Polluted Environments Kill 1.7 Million Children Each Year
On 6 March 2017, the UN Health agency warned that unhealthy environments are responsible for one-quarter of young child deaths, according to two new reports from WHO, which reviewed the threats from pollutants such as second-hand smoke, UV radiation, unsafe water and e-waste.**
According to the latest information, polluted environments take the lives of 1.7 million children under the age of five.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO). “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
In one of the two reports, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment , WHO announced that many of the common causes of death among children aged between one month and five years of age are preventable with safe water and clear cooking fuels. These include diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.
The main pollutant is in the air, resulting in 570,000 deaths each year among children under five years old. Air pollution can stunt brain development and reduce lung function and trigger asthma. In the longer-term, exposure to air pollution can increase the child’s risk of contracting heart disease, a stroke or cancer.
To counter such exposure, WHO recommends reducing air pollution, improving safe water and sanitation, and protecting pregnant women and building safer environments, among other actions described in Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health .
“Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits,” said Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.
One of the emerging environmental threats to children is electronic and electrical waste, according to the second WHO report. Appliances such as old mobile phones that are improperly recycled “expose children to toxins which can lead to reduced intelligence, attention deficit, lung damage, and cancer,” the UN agency reported.
At the current rate, the amount of such waste is expected to increase by 19 per cent between 2014 and 2018, up to 50 million metric tonnes.
The reports also point out harmful chemicals that work themselves through the food chain – such as fluoride, lead and mercury, as well as the impact that climate change and UV rays have on children’s development.