The causes and effects of water pollution is one of the most important global health concerns today.
Over one billion people lack safe water sources within a reasonable distance from their homes.
In addition, latest findings show over 400 million children lack safe water for hygiene and consumption.
Even the water that is officially considered ‘safe’ has bacteriological agents and contains pathogens that cause many diseases.
Causes and effects of water pollution
About two-thirds of the people living on this planet do not have access to safe disposal of human wastes due to poor or non-existing sanitation systems. For people who are unable to dispose of human waste properly contaminants find ways into the water and food sources, which ultimately leads to amplification in the transmission of pathogens through the oral-fecal route.
Some of the waterborne diseases are deadly.
Unsanitary water causes other ailments, such as diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal parasites, trachoma, and other gastrointestinal problems.
Contaminated water is also linked to the spread of parasitic worms, like hookworm and ascaris.
The very young, the very old, and people with frail immune systems are more susceptible of getting these waterborne disease. And those who live in low and middle-income countries, (like those in Africa and Latin America), are at greater risk of getting these preventable diseases.
Even though the methods of sanitation are low-cost and effective, many people in low and middle-income countries have difficulty in proper waste disposal and hygiene.
Some people are constrained by their culture; whereas others lack in the knowledge of options available to them in proper sanitation. Additionally, cost is also a deterring factor for many of the poor.
People also lack the skills for constructing and installing toilets. Furthermore, some local laws prohibit low-cost sanitation, even if the area does not have a modern sewage system.
Promoting healthy habits
This short video, “The World Walks for Water and Sanitation” gives us a small glimpse of what many people around the world are doing to help those who need our assistance in deterring the effects of water pollution:
The public sector in some countries leads efforts in building low-cost sanitation systems; they also subsidize the cost of toilets for poor families.
Promoting the use of toilets, setting standards, and training people on how to install and maintain water systems, and encouraging the private sector to get involved could greatly reduce the number of diseases and deaths caused by pathogens in water sources.
Millions of people, especially children, elderly, and those with weak immune systems, could greatly benefit from the support, training, and investments from those who are willing and capable of helping to establish healthy habits and proper sanitation methods.
Promoting improved sanitation, led by non-governmental organizations (NGO), with the cooperation of the private and public sectors, has been successful in places like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
In Bangladesh, for as little as $1.50 per person, an NGO helped more than 100 villages become free of open-defecation. In Zimbabwe, an NGO helped in the construction of 3,400 latrines, at $13 per unit.
Moreover, studies in Brazil showed that children living in slum homes with toilet facilities only suffered one-third of the number of diarrhea cases compared to children without access to a toilet.
An effective approach
The most effective approach to reducing waterborne illnesses is to promote healthy habits, like hand washing, or investing in low-cost sanitation.
Investing our time, effort, and money in safe water campaigns has many additional benefits.
We can help save time and energy for women and children, since they are mostly held responsible in traveling great distances and exerting much energy in getting water for the family from distant sources.
Above all, we have it in our power to contribute some of our time, money, and energy in helping to reduce the number of preventable, parasitic diseases and deaths of millions of innocent children who can’t help where they were born or why their family is poor.
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Thanks for the message. I would like to add the following points; In most sub-Saharan regions hygiene has not been given much attention. We talk of hand washing with soap at critical times, water treatment, use of latrines and safe waste disposal and little seem to improve in these areas. What is the problem?
When we talk of hand washing, a lot of things come to our minds; water safety, availability of water, availability of soap and willingness to carry this out. Majority who have adequate water seem to neglect their sole responsibility of ensuring their hands and children’s hands are washed clean. What then will we tell those who have no water? The little they can afford to get is used for drinking. What will we tell those whose source of water has been chemically polluted by industrial discharges? What will we tell those whose who live in arid lands where water is found from a water source 10 km and above? What will we tell the nomads who move from point A to B and herding forms part of their day to day activities in lands without water? What will we say of people whose countries policies are weak and can’t address waste water and solid waste managements conclusively?
For us to succeed countries should be assisted to mainstream their policies to embrace WASH in totality for better results. As an individual we can do very little and yet all our effort combined together will result into a massive and a radical change in the arena of hygiene and sanitation.
Thank you, John!
You’re brought up some critical points and vital issues that need attention from all sectors, as well as implementation.
I appreciate your concern and insight!
Thanks for providing this information. As a Public Health Practitioner (in Environmental Health), I now look back at how I could have been one of the impediments to achieving reduction of open defecation in Zimbabwe as the ministry policy (Ministry of Health) only promoted BVIP latrine.
This latrine technology is not affordable by the low and even middle income groups. Being a member of the WASH Cluster, I recall how I then used to challenge the ministry employees to develop mindset change by considering low cost technology for the poor.
The information you have provided opens up opportunities for increasing access to basic sanitation facilities that will help reduce water and sanitation related diseases.
The private sector needs to recognize their future employee is the child who lacks appropriate sanitation facilities and continually suffers from water and sanitation related diseases. It is time the private sector increases investment in future manpower (productive) needs.
I hope you will share with us more lessons about public private partnership in water and sanitation improvement.
Once again thank you for the simple to understand and follow information.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication, Aaron! It’s hard to count how many lives you have saved in your efforts.
I appreciate you sharing your experience and thoughts on this pressing and preventable health concern. I look forward to you sharing more advice and thoughts in the future.
I will continue to post new material pertaining to environmental, public, and global health issues and concerns in future articles; especially related to preventable problems and difficulties that can be eradicated with healthy habits, support, and education..
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Great article! This is a sad situation that has been going on for a very long time. Water is a necessity. We need it in order to survive. It’s like you said, time, effort and money will help the women and children from diseases, clean water and restrooms.
At least something is being done to help them. I recommend everyone to watch the video and click on the link and read it.
This is why I love reading every one of your posts. You care about other people and their situation.
You provide information that some of us are not aware of. Also, you show us a way that we as humans can help make a difference.
Thanks for all that you do! I appreciate it!
You’re welcome, Tina.
Thank you, as well…