INTRODUCTION: WaSh is an acronym for water, sanitation and hygiene. Universal, affordable and sustainable access to WaSh has become a key public health issue all across the world. Not only is it a basic fundamental right, as recognized in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly, but is also an important sustainable development goal set by the World Health Organization. Today, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services. Unsafe hygiene practices are widespread and the impact on child mortality rates is devastating with more than 2,97,000 children under five who die annually from diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene or unsafe drinking water. Furthermore, 2 out of 5 people or 3 billion people around the world lack basic hand washing facilities at home.
SOME IMPORTANT FACTS
· 2.0 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines.
· Of these, 673 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water.
· At least 10% of the world’s population is thought to consume food irrigated by wastewater.
· Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio.
· Poor sanitation reduces human well-being, social and economic development due to impacts such as anxiety, risk of sexual assault, and lost educational opportunities.
Without improved sanitation people have no choice but to use inadequate communal latrines or to practice open defecation. For women and girls, finding a place to go to the toilet outside, often having to wait until the cover of darkness, can leave them vulnerable to abuse and sexual assault.
In the immediate environment, the lack of effective waste disposal or sewerage systems can contaminate ecosystems.
In MANY parts of the India, there is little or no awareness of good hygiene practices and their role in reducing the spread of disease. However, it is often the case that even when people do have knowledge of good hygiene behavior, they lack the soap, safe water and washing facilities they need to make positive changes to protect themselves and their community.
The impact of universal access to WASH on global health would be profound. There is the potential to save the lives of the 829,000 people who currently die every year from diseases directly caused by unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices, and we could also drastically reduce child malnourishment, and help alleviate physical and mental under-development. Today, 50% of child malnutrition is associated with unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Women and girls would have the facilities and knowledge to be able to manage their menstrual cycles in safety and dignity. Similarly, during pregnancy, childbirth, and post-natal care, medical staff, expectant mothers and their families will be better equipped to ensure newborn children are given the safest and healthiest possible start in life.
The main objective of water supply, sanitation and hygiene programmes is thus to reduce the transmission of faecal related diseases and exposure to diseases with epidemic potential, allowing people living with good health, dignity, comfort and security.
This concept is especially promoted in schools to improve health conditions in low-resource settings where people find it difficult to meet their daily needs. While governments across the world efficiently try to reduce mortality rates owing to such diseases, the most basic measures include access to safe excreta disposal, support for basic hygiene practices such as hand washing with soap, and provision of a safe and reliable water supply.
Today, WaSH interventions are essential for assuring child health and development, It is a concept that is a determinant of educational outcome in girls, since maternal education a strong predictor of child health outcomes, including stunting and nutrition. Access to improved sanitation facilities, which are single sex and usable, is also essential for menstrual hygiene management and enables school attendance for pubertal girls.
HOW DOES HEEALS WORK TOWARDS THIS?
Globally, around a third of schools have no safe water supply or adequate sanitation, leaving children dehydrated and less able to concentrate, and forcing pupils to use inadequate latrines or go to the toilet outside in the school grounds. At HEEALS, we understand the cause and its effect on our surroundings. We thus try to spread awareness through actively organizing workshops in schools. Through our little efforts, we aim to make education fun. It is in our hands to prepare our future generations for being able to tackle problems related to such diseases. Through informative posters, slogans and catchy tunes, we aim to make students learn the importance of hygienic surroundings, while making it fun and interactive. The disease and time burden associated with lack of access to WASH prevents many adults from earning a living or fulfilling their potential in the professional arena. Not only could access to WASH free up adults, particularly women, to do more productive activities, the establishment and maintenance of WASH services would create associated employment. We strive towards making students understand preventive measures while actively encouraging their families to do the same.
- By Tvisha bhanot