Children's environmental health

Lack of water and inadequate sanitation

child playing in water

A child’s well-being is highly dependent on both the quality and the availability of water, and on how well this precious resource is managed. Around the world, both biological disease agents and chemical pollutants are compromising drinking-water quality. Contaminated water causes a range of diseases which are often life-threatening. Of the waterborne diseases affecting children, the most deadly are diarrhoeal infections. Childhood diarrhoea is closely associated with insufficient water supply, inadequate sanitation, water contaminated with communicable disease agents, and poor hygiene practices.

Diarrhoea is estimated to cause 1.5 million child deaths per year, mostly among children under five living in developing countries. It is estimated that there will be 2.7 billion people without access to basic sanitation in 2015. Research shows that every US$1 invested in improved sanitation translates into an average return of US$9. Those benefits are experienced specifically by poor children and in the disadvantaged communities that need them most.

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