Solving water, sanitation and hygiene problems  

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 16 Jul 2017, 20:23:46

Solving water, sanitation and hygiene problems  

Faster economic growth is inseparably linked to the health of a nation. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) figure prominently in the projection of growth rates as these are health-related. A recent research showed that for every one dollar investment in WASH, a return of 19 dollar is received. Another research has found that Bangladesh incurs Tk 295.00 billion losses every year due to poor WASH facilities which are closely linked with various health and development indicators, for example, child mortality. It is against this backdrop that Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 has given priority to WASH. 

A joint report of the WHO and the UNICEF, released on Friday, painted a grim picture of these issues in Bangladesh today. It disclosed that still 56 per cent of the country's population, totalling 71 million, are deprived of safe water. Sadly this happens in a country criss-crossed by countless rivers and rivulets. The report has made it clear hat Bangladesh has to do a lot in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, a deadline set to achieve the SDG. While noting sizeable gains of the country over the past 17 years in achieving water and sanitation goals, the WHO-UNICEF report, however, called for ensuring safely-managed water and sanitation. The WASH hazards now include arsenic and bacteriological contamination, which were not measured under the Millennium Development Goals, the report said. 

More than 50 per cent children in Bangladesh suffer from fever, diarrhoea and pneumonia which are all related to lack of WASH facilities. Stunting is another health concern also directly linked with WASH. About 36 per cent children are still suffering from stunting. So ensuring WASH facilities is a major development concern for the overall well-being of the people. It is time to ensure hand-washing facilities in 100 per cent households. It is of equal importance to have latrine as a research shows. Three out of five households do not have hand-washing facilities after defecation. This calls for an urgent requirement for ensuring a monitoring mechanism directed towards hand-washing behaviour in order to reduce risk to bacterial infection. A hygiene survey found that in 32 per cent schools, there are not any soap and hand-washing facility. So it is important to have such facilities there.

Although the Water Act 2013 promoted rain water as an important source of safe potable water, it is yet to be elaborated in different policies, strategies and action plans. Despite a strong political commitment by the government, rainwater harvesting and conservation have not been made mandatory for all government buildings including schools, cyclone shelters, and local government institutions etc. Rainwater harvesting, integral to sustainable water resources, is beneficial not only to the population in coastal regions, where there is an acute crisis of drinking water, but also beneficial for groundwater in urban areas.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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