International organisations, governments on mission to rescue 2.6 billion people

In India, for every 1,000 children, 87 die before they reach age five (5), while national water coverage is 87% but sanitation trails at 30% nationally in the country, according to reports from UNICEF.

For Nigeria in Africa, the United Nations agency says out of a 1,000 children, 198 die before they celebrate their 5th birthday, the national coverage for water is 60%, while for sanitation it is 38%.

In Ethiopia, children who die before they are five are 169 for every 1,000, while the coverage figures for water and sanitation are 22% and 6% respectively, according to the same UNICEF source.

Thirty-seven (37) out of 1,000 of China’s children also die before their fifth birthday, while national water coverage is 77% and sanitation 44%.

For Ghana as well, the number of child deaths before age five (5) per every 1,000 as at 2009 was 50, while national coverage for drinking water was 82% and 13% for improved sanitation as at 2008 (UNICEF).

Also, 125 of every 1,000 of Iraq’s infants die before age five (5), whereas water coverage is at 81% and sanitation 80%, a rare occurrence in water and sanitation ratio, according to short profiles that include a summary of the water and sanitation status in 37 countries where UNICEF works.

Most of the children who die before attaining age five, statistics show, die mostly out of diseases caused by the lack of proper hygiene in handling food, nutrition, potable water, and improved sanitation.

Annual child mortality in a host of countries globally, add up to about 9 million of all children who die  each year, from preventable and treatable illnesses before reaching their fifth birthday, and constitute a portion of the 2.6 billion peoples of the world who daily go without improved sanitation and proper hygiene observation and education.

Diarrhoea’s contribution to child mortality

According to, a rehydration project embarked upon by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and other partners, 2.2 million children will die from diarrhoea and related diseases this year.

It continues that 80% of them will die in the first two years of their life; 42,000 a week, 6,000 a day, four every minute and one every fourteen seconds.

The site continues that Diarrhoea is the passage of loose or watery stools occurring three or more times in a 24-hour period, listing the three types of diarrhoea as acute diarrhoea, persistent diarrhoea and dysentery.

If an episode of diarrhoea lasts less than 14 days, it is acute diarrhoea, which causes dehydration and contributes to malnutrition, whereas the death of a child with acute diarrhoea is usually due to dehydration, the site states.

If the diarrhoea lasts 14 days or more, it is persistent diarrhoea. Up to 20% of episodes of diarrhoea become persistent and often causes nutritional problems, creating the risk of malnutrition and serious non-intestinal infection as well as dehydration, it continues.

Diarrhoea with blood in the stool – with or without mucus – is called dysentery and is very dangerous because of its ability to lead to anorexia, rapid weight loss, and damage to the intestinal mucosa and sepsis, according to information gathered by the project.

The project states further that although the global under-five mortality from acute diarrhoea has decreased from 4.5 million to 1.8 million annually, acute diarrhoea continues to take a huge toll on children’s health in developing countries (WHO 2006). Diarrhoea again represents a significant burden on the health system, the household, and the nutritional status of children (Bateman and McGahey 2001).

Diarrhoea is the second leading killer of children under the age of five, accounting for approximately 15% of under-five child deaths worldwide, or almost two million deaths annually (WHO 2003).

However, though the means to prevent diarrhoea through water supply, sanitation, and hygiene have been well documented, each year roughly one and one half billion episodes of acute diarrhoea occur among children under the age of five, the Rehydration Project has also documented.

Further, according to WaterAid, an international Non-Governmental Organisation, “1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation – 4,000 child deaths a day or one child every 20 seconds.”

Available statistics also indicate that 65% of all child deaths are from three causes, which are Acute Respiratory Tract  infections which now kill 3.6 million children each year, Diarrhoeal diseases which are responsible for about 2.2 million child deaths every year and preventable diseases: measles, tuberculosis, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and  pertussis, also responsible for some 2.1 million child deaths every year. Of all these, almost 1 million are attributed to measles.

WSSCC’s rescue plan

It is to deal with this global albatross that the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), together with a host of partners, including the Government of India, Government of Maharashtra, SHARE (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity), Sulabh, Unilever, WaterAid, UNICEF South Asia, Plan International, Freshwater Action Network/FAN-South Asia, ANEW, The CLTS Foundation, Public Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW), WIN (Water Integrity Network), CREPA, Arghyam, EAWAG, IDE, IDS, International Water Association, WASH United, and WSP are holding a Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) from October 9, 2011 to October 14, 2011.

The event, according to the organisers,  offers a prime opportunity to share ideas on leadership, skills, knowledge, behaviour change and actions that can improve the lives of the 2.6 billion people in the world without safe sanitation and hygiene.

They opine that the forum will not be a talk shop but will instead, facilitate learning and sharing between practitioners, policymakers and other experts inside and outside of the sanitation sector, and will energize professional communities by focusing exclusively on sanitation and hygiene.

It is also expected to showcase knowledge, investment, communications, advocacy, partnership and networking approaches, as well as strengthen national, regional, South-South, and global dialogue and collaboration and includes the plenary, break-out and workshop sessions, each with dynamic speakers and presentations.

Some topics for the plenary sessions are: Inspire to Act; Breaking the Mould; What Changes Behaviour; Getting from Small to Big; Looking at Sanitation from the Lens of the Vulnerable; What Success Would Look Like with an Equity Lens; Sharing Across the Regional Sanitation Conferences; Regional Reports on Key Actions; Closing Plenary: Where Do We Go From Here?

For Break-out sessions some of the topics will be: Exploring Private Sector Partnerships in Behaviour Change; Rewards, Sanctions and Benchmarking as Tools for Behaviour Change; WASH Advocacy: How to Win Minds and Hearts; Total Sanitation: Reaching Many Millions; The CLTS Debate; Communications for Change; Urban Sanitation at Scale; Designing for the Human Life Cycle; Governance for Equity; Monitoring for Equity; Financing for Equity; Knowledge and Network Partnerships.

There will also be training sessions on Communications for Behavioural Impact (COMBI); CLTS 101: An Introduction; Sanitation Marketing; Equitable Service Delivery; Using Dev Info to Monitor Equity in Human Development; Monitoring Behaviour Change as well as urban and rural sanitation field visits.

Commenting on the forum, Anna Tibaijuka, Chair, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, said “What is needed, today, is serious engagement around the sorts of programmes and policies that are going to help us reach beyond 2015 – to a world where all people have access to decent sanitation and hygiene. As a global community we need to agree what is needed, how to get there, and what skills we need to achieve results.”

Launch of Global Community of Practice

A special feature of this year’s Global Forum will be the launch of a “Global Community of Practice for Sanitation and Hygiene.” WSSCC is launching the initiative in response to sector demand for collaborative learning in sanitation and hygiene and it will be a space for honest and frank debate across sanitation and hygiene thematic areas, to share experiences, lessons learned, successes and failures and identify best practices through national-international and South-South exchange.

Although over 40 sector professionals discussed this concept at the World Water Week in Stockholm 2011, the organizers believe the real conversation will start when the global gathering of participants at WSSCC’s Global Forum identify pressing questions and learning opportunities that will determine the focus of the “Community of Practice” for the coming year.

Top-level Speakers:

Top-level speakers for the forum include professionals in government and business including Sri Jayaram Ramesh, the Minister of Rural Development, Government of India; Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra (TBC); Bindheshwar Pathak, Sulabh; and Rohini Nilekani, Founder-Chairperson of Arghyam.

Dr. Robert Aunger, a leading researcher in Evolutionary Public Health with the Hygiene Center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, will also give a keynote speech on the science of behavior change.

From the BBC World Service Trust will be Siddharta Swarup, who will present how “Communications does its magic” in fostering social and economic development. There will be in-depth reflections led by speakers from Unilever, IDE Cambodia and BRAC on the private sector’s participation and supply chains in providing latrines, soap and sanitary napkins in “Exploring private sector partnerships in behavior change.” Social entrepreneurs David Kuria of Ecotact in Kenya, and Anshu Gupta of Goonj – both distinguished ASHOKA Fellows – will for their part, present inspiring stories of change : be it from franchising public toilets in Africa or the ”production of sanitary napkins from recycled cloth.”

Global Participation

WSSCC has taken into consideration every aspect of the conference which is attracting hundreds of people, including participants at the six-day forum, and has therefore made sure 90% of the participants are coming from the places where the 2.6 billion people in the world without safe sanitation and hygiene live, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and China. According to them, “this will foster a dynamic and interactive atmosphere for South-South knowledge exchange and partnership building.”

WSSCC itself is sponsoring a large number of participants from many developing countries through its Bursary Fund process with support from SHARE and UNICEF. These include Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iran, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

By Edmund Smith-Asante in Mumbai, India

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