News

    WHO: Waterborne Disease is World's Leading Killer

    Jessica Berman

    The World Health Organization says that every year more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world. Most of the victims are young children, the vast majority of whom die of illnesses caused by organisms that thrive in water sources contaminated by raw sewage. VOA's Jessica Berman has more on the story.

    A report published recently in the medical journal The Lancet concluded that poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined.

    According to an assessment commissioned by the United Nations, 4,000 children die each day as a result of diseases caused by ingestion of filthy water. The report says four out of every 10 people in the world, particularly those in Africa and Asia, do not have clean water to drink.

    Resources analyst Erik Peterson, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, describes the water crisis this way:

    "At any given time, close to half the population of the developing world is suffering from waterborne diseases associated with inadequate provision of water and sanitation services," Mr. Peterson explained. "There are about four billion cases of diarrhea disease per year, resulting in about one or two million deaths, some ninety percent of which, tragically, are in children under the age of five."

    Cholera, typhoid fever and hepatitis A are caused by bacteria, and are among the most common diarrheal diseases. Other illnesses, such as dysentery, are caused by parasites that live in water contaminated by the feces of sick individuals. Lakes and streams which people use for drinking water, bathing and defecating are sources of disease, as is water left by natural disasters. Last year's tsunami left victims in ankle-deep water, amid destroyed sewage pipes.

    People can also contract a diarrheal disease by eating food that's prepared by sick individuals who have not washed their hands, or touching something handled by an infected person and then putting their own hands into their mouths.

    Marla Smith-Nelson helped form Water Partners International, after becoming alarmed by the health impact of unclean water in some of the world's poorest countries.

    "In Ethiopia, I believe one in five children are dying before they reach the age of five. So, we are working in countries that have significant water issues," she said. "But there are so many countries that have severe water issues, I don't want to paint a picture that we are working in the absolute worst places. I think it's probably a tie among a lot of different countries where there are issues."

    Experts say there are both short term and long term measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses. In the short term, they say people should wash their hands as much as possible, use a latrine, even if it's a hole in the ground, and boil water and store it.

    For the long term, communities must have sources of clean drinking water. Ms. Smith-Nelson says up to 50 percent of places with unsafe drinking water once had systems that functioned, but they fell apart due to lack of maintenance. Her group helps rebuild water systems and shows local people how to set up local governing bodies to run them.

    The organization has worked in communities in nations as diverse as Bangladesh and Honduras.

    "One of the biggest systems that we funded involved 50 miles of pipeline trench that was dug entirely by hand by the community itself," she explained, " which I think was a great example to me, and I think a great example to anybody who works with us, on the significance of these water systems, of how badly they're wanted by the community, the fact that local people would put in two years of hard labor to dig a trench to get water to their community."

    Analysts say eliminating disease and death due to unclean water and poor sanitation would reap billions of dollars in health and productivity gains. They estimate that for every dollar spent, there would be an economic return of between $3 and $34, depending upon the country.

    The United Nations has set a goal of cutting in half by the year 2015 the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Independent experts say that a concerted effort on the part of wealthier nations is necessary if that goal is to be reached.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora