Health and sustainable development

Waterborne disease related to unsafe water and sanitation

A waterway clogged with rubbish and sewage in New Town, Sierra Leone
A waterway clogged with rubbish and sewage in New Town, Sierra Leone
WHO/Fid Thompson

Waterborne diseases are linked to significant disease burden worldwide. Waterborne diarrhoeal diseases, for example, are responsible for 2 million deaths each year, with the majority occurring in children under 5.

Climate change-induced flooding and droughts can impact household water and sanitation infrastructure and related health risks. For instance, flooding can disperse faecal contaminants, increasing risks of outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera. In addition, water shortages due to drought can increase risks of diarrhoeal disease.

Proper household water and sanitation practices can increase resilience to waterborne disease risks. These measures include sanitary sewage disposal, safe water piping materials and storage, and education on hygienic behaviours. Energy-efficient water infrastructure and water conservation measures can also decrease the burden of waterborne diseases.