Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Mortality and burden of disease from water and sanitation

Situation and trends


Burden of diarrhoeal diseases related to WSH

In the year 2004, water, sanitation and hygiene was responsible for 1.9 million annual deaths from diarrhoea, and 4.2% of the global burden of disease (in Disability-Adjusted Life Years or DALYs). This makes this risk factor the biggest environmental contributor to ill health. Most diarrhoeal deaths in the world (88%) is caused by unsafe water, sanitation or hygiene.


Burden of cholera

(this will link to the number of reported cases of cholera - already in the GHO database under 'World Health Statistics, Selected infectious diseases') http://webitpreview.who.int/entity/gho/epidemic_diseases/cholera/en/index.html


Extended burden of disease estimates related to WSH

All together, improvements related to drinking-water, sanitation, hygiene, and water resource management could result in the reduction of almost 10% of the total burden of disease worldwide.

In addition to diarrhoea, an important share of the following diseases could be prevented if adequate water quality and quantity, sanitation facilities, hygiene behaviour, as well as water resource management interventions were implemented:

  • Malnutrition
  • Intestinal nematode infections
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Trachoma
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Malaria
  • Drowning
  • Other infectious diseases
  • Deaths and DALYs estimates attributable to WSH, by country and by region, 2004
    xls, 466kb

    Theses disease burden estimates are based on a combination of comparative risk assessment methods, evidence synthesis and expert estimates. The scientific rigor of the estimates based on expert opinion is not of the same level as that of the estimates based on comparative risk assessment methods; these estimates are therefore not formal WHO estimates, but nevertheless are the best ones currently available.
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