Research Article: Hygiene, Sanitation, and Water: What Needs to Be Done?

Date Published: November 16, 2010

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Sandy Cairncross, Jamie Bartram, Oliver Cumming, Clarissa Brocklehurst

Abstract: In the final article in a four-part PLoS Medicine series on water and sanitation, Sandy Cairncross and colleagues outline what needs to be done to make significant progress in providing more and better hygiene, sanitation, and water for all.

Partial Text: This is one article in a four-part PLoS Medicine series on water and sanitation.

The previous papers in this series have set out the importance for health of sanitation and water and touched on the importance of hygiene [1],[2],[3]. Three clear messages have emerged:

Traditionally, sanitation and water, together with hygiene, have been treated as a single sector, but the examination of this sector’s component parts in this series has revealed not only that they have much in common but also that much sets them apart.

The challenge of meeting the MDG target for water and sanitation by 2015 and, beyond that, realising a vision of universal access, is immense. The funding requirement is not the least of the obstacles to meeting this challenge. Estimates of the global cost of meeting the MDG target range from US$6.7 billion to US$75 billion per year [12]. Yet, the global total in 2008 of aid disbursements for sanitation and water supply by OECD members and several multilateral agencies was only US$5.3 billion [12]. Furthermore, most of these estimates do not include the costs of support services or institutional capacity to plan, build, and manage the infrastructure.

The health system does not have the vocation or the resources to take over the construction of water and sanitation works, or other tasks in the sector, which are normally managed by engineers. But improved hygiene, adequate sanitation, and safe drinking water are cost-effective, life-saving interventions critical to securing progress on the health MDGs and reducing the global disease burden. They are central within the “health system” as defined by WHO [24]:

One of the greatest indictments of our age is that, despite knowing the cause, having the technology, and being able to mobilise the means to eliminate the problem, so many children in the world continue to die each year from easily preventable diseases that the developed world seems to have long forgotten.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.