Bengaluru, March 27, 2016: Worldwide, inadequate access to safe drinking water is a greater threat to the health of children than the combined impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. More than 800 000 people die every year from diarrheal diseases directly attributable to contaminated water, while tens of thousands die from schistosomiasis, an acute and chronic parasitic disease contracted through exposure to infested water.

In the WHO South-East Asia Region, inadequate access to safe drinking water is an ongoing concern. Stresses to water quality and quantity increase annually due to population growth, urbanization, industrialization and by associated changes in climate. And despite recent advances, 12% of rural populations and 5% of urban populations continue to lack access to an ‘improved’ water source, meaning the water they consume is subject to external contamination, including from faecal matter. This must be addressed as a matter of urgent priority. Doing so must be seen as an opportunity rather than a cost.

Investing in water infrastructure enhances public health and diminishes the burden water-borne diseases have on the health system and economy. For every dollar invested in water and sanitation services an estimated USD 4.3 is returned via reduced health care costs and enhanced productivity.

Expanding access to water also creates jobs. WHO’s Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking water survey in 2014 shows that only half of the countries in the South-East Asia Region have sufficient skilled workers in the sector, while only one third has devised a strategy to fill the gaps. This is a missed opportunity. By investing in training and human resource development governments can create jobs in the water sector that provide steady employment as well as wider social and economic benefits. Those already working in the sector, meanwhile, must be recognized for their vital work and its contribution to the upkeep of our health.

On World Water Day, the connection between water and jobs, health and the economy, must be appreciated and acted on by policymakers. Access to safe drinking water is not only a human right; it is also an economic imperative.

Corporate Comm India (CCI Newswire)