India’s public health centre’s need better water infrastructure
A quarter of the world’s health facilities lack basic water services, affecting two billion people, the United Nations said on Wednesday, warning that unhygienic conditions could fuel the global rise of deadly superbugs, a strain of bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotic drugs. In the poorest countries, about half the facilities do not have basic water services, meaning water delivered by pipes or bore-holes that protect it from faeces. This puts birthing mothers and newborns in particular danger, new data showed. It would not be wrong to say that a health care facility without water is not a real health care facility at all. This is because sick people shed a lot more pathogens in their faeces, and, without toilets, staff and patients — this includes mothers and babies — are at much greater risk of diseases caused and spread through human waste, say experts.
While the report does not mention India separately, the warning is very much for the country as it is for other parts of the developing world. India’s problem is actually two-pronged. One, its public health system is in a shambles with basic infrastructure and hygiene challenges. According to WaterAid India, one in five newborn deaths in the country can be prevented by ensuring access to clean water and by providing a clean birthing environment. With 167 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births and 28 newborn deaths per 1,000 live births, India has one of the highest rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in the world. Second, according to WaterAid, more than 163 million people in India do not have access to clean water. That is the highest in the world. So the people are not just at risk when they are at the public health facilities but also outside it.
In the past five years, the National Democratic Alliance government has focused hugely on building toilets, but failed to invest equally in providing water connections. This discrepancy must be fixed soon. Otherwise, the long-term impact of the other investment (sanitation) will not have the desired result.