Household Water Security

Published on Aug 22, 2003 08:18 PM IST

Many chemicals that have the potential to harm people?s health can be found in drinking water. So be careful.

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Household water security covers the reliable availability of safe water in the home for all domestic purposes. Access to a reliable safe water supply is a human right as defined in the General Comment on the Right to Water and the Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

If access to safe water is reliably assured, it contributes greatly to health - enabling and encouraging hygiene through key actions such as handwashing, food hygiene, laundry and general household hygiene. When household water security is endangered, contaminated water may transmit disease and lack of water may prevent minimum hygiene behaviours to protect health.

Many of the diseases prevented through use of water in hygiene are the same as those that can be transmitted by water when contaminated.

The most important of these is diarrhoea, the second biggest child-killer in the world. Diarrhoea is estimated to cause 1.3 million child deaths per year - about 12% of total deaths of children under five in developing countries.

Other infectious diseases with similar patterns of transmission include hepatitis A and E, dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever.

Lack of household water security is also associated with skin and eye infections including trachoma, and with schistosomiasis, which may be acquired whilst collecting water from infested sources.

Many chemicals that have the potential to harm people’s health can be found in drinking water. For example an excess of fluoride is associated with crippling skeletal fluorosis. In countries where high levels of arsenic are found in drinking water, the symptoms of arsenicosis are sometimes seen amongst young children.

In 2000, WHO and UNICEF estimated that 1.1 billion people lacked access to an improved water source. Access to an improved water source may be as little as a protected well or spring within an hour’s walk of home.

But the number of people without access to reliable safe water in or just outside the home is undoubtedly far greater than the number with access to an ‘improved’ source. Around 80% of this ‘unserved’ population live in rural areas. Where water must be collected from remote sources – whether protected or not – it is often women and children who have this task.


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