Water Sanitation Health

Facts and figures on water quality and health

The global health challenge: preventing water quality-related disease

  • No safe drinking-water: almost 1 billion people lack access to an improved supply
  • Diarrhoeal disease: 2 million annual deaths attributable to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Cholera: more than 50 countries still report cholera to WHO
  • Cancer and tooth/skeletal damage: millions exposed to unsafe levels of naturally-occurring arsenic and fluoride
  • Schistosomiasis: an estimated 260 million infected
  • Emerging challenges: increasing use of wastewater in agriculture is important for livelihood opportunities, but also associated with serious public health risks

The Health Opportunities: Implementing good practice

  • 4% of the global disease burden could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation, and hygiene
  • A growing evidence base on how to target water quality improvements to maximize health benefits
  • Better tools and procedures to improve and protect drinking-water quality at the community and urban level, for example through Water Safety Plans
  • Availability of simple and inexpensive approaches to treat and safely store water at the household-level