News story

Hygiene, sanitation and water: Forgotten foundations of health

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

PUSS O'Brien launches a Sanitation & Water Series published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine.

Diarrhoea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined - and yet simply washing hands with soap can reduce the risk of diarrhoeal diseases by 42 - 47%. Hygiene promotion is probably the most cost-effective public health intervention, costing just US$3 per DALY averted.

Today, PUSS O’Brien launches a Sanitation & Water Series published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine.

Sanitation stands as the most off-track MDG target in Africa, and globally nearly a billion people are still without safe drinking water. Lack of basic sanitation and safe water are the forgotten foundation of health.

Diarrhoea that results from inadequate sanitation is the leading cause of under-five deaths in Africa and accounts for nearly 20% of all child deaths in the world. It kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Practising simple good hygiene and stopping open defecation can significantly reduce the chances of contracting neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and blinding trachoma. Safe drinking water can prevent other NTDs like Guinea worm.

Sector experts assess that some 50% of the consequences of undernutrition may be caused by environmental factors, including a lack of access to safe water and sanitation and/or poor hygiene practices.

Better hygiene, safe sanitation, and improved drinking water are proven and cost-effective interventions to prevent these deaths and morbidity. The new series, published in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine, outlines why water and sanitation are concerns for the health community and describes the key steps required to ensure access to sanitation, hygiene practices and water is accelerated.

You can read the series at PLoS Medicine:  

The titles are:

  1. Bartram, J, Cairncross S (2010) Hygiene, Sanitation and Water: Forgotten Foundations of Health. PLoS Med 7 (11).
  2. Hunter PR, MacDonald AM, Carter, RC (2010) Water Supply and Health. PLoS Med 7 (11).
  3. Mara D, Lane J, Scott B, Trouba D (2010) Sanitation and Health. PLoS Med 7 (11).
  4. Cairncross S, Bartram J, Cumming O, Brocklehurst, C (2010) Hygiene, Sanitation and Water: What Needs to Be Done? PLoS Med 7 (11).

These are outputs from DFID’s RED-funded Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE programme). The SHARE Research Programme Consortium will also be launched at the event today, hosted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. SHARE is focused on building the evidence base for what works and what doesn’t on sanitation and hygiene.