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Inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene claim over 1.2 million lives annually

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The countries with the highest prevalence of open defecation also bear the heaviest burden of child mortality

Inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene continues to claim the lives of a staggering 1,245,000 people annually in low- and middle-income countries, constituting a troubling 89% of all WASH-related deaths, World Health Organization(WHO) has said in its new report.

The startling statistics, based on the latest available data from 2019, reveal that poor sanitation is the primary culprit behind approximately 564,000 of these tragic fatalities. Moreover, it plays a significant role in the prevalence of several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, and trachoma, while also contributing to the widespread issue of malnutrition.

sanitationAs of 2022, 57% of the global population, equivalent to 4.6 billion individuals, have access to safely managed sanitation services. Among them, 33%, or 2.7 billion people, enjoy the privilege of private sanitation facilities linked to wastewater treatment systems. Another 21%, approximately 1.7 billion people, rely on toilets or latrines where excreta are safely disposed of in situ. Nearly, 88% of the world’s population, totaling 7.2 billion people, benefits from at least a basic sanitation service.


“Diarrhoea remains a major killer but is largely preventable,” the WHO report reveals. “Better water, sanitation, and hygiene could prevent the deaths among children aged under 5 years, 395 000 in the year 2019.”

Similarly, the countries with the highest prevalence of open defecation also bear the heaviest burden of child mortality. 

“Open defecation perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty,” the report says. “The countries where open defection is most widespread have the highest number of deaths of children aged under 5 years as well as the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty, and big disparities of wealth.” 

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