Got Water? A Necessity for Good Health, and Good Health Care

There is much to celebrate on World Water Day this year.

A progress report released this month confirms that in 2010 the world achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water. More than 2 billion people have received access to an improved water source since 1990.

For an estimated 780 million, however, safe drinking water is still out of reach. Geographically, progress has varied widely: almost half of the 2 billion people who gained access over the past two decades live in Asia— in China and India—while other regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, lag behind, and disparities across economic and rural/urban divides remain.1

Health workers are on the frontlines combating the burden of disease caused by unsafe water in their communities, and for too many health workers, access to clean water on the job remains a luxury. In some countries, only about half of all health facilities have regular access to an improved water source. Safe water is not only essential to good health, but to good health care.2

Without clean water, the care health workers provide is compromised by risk of infection, for patients and providers. If you or a loved one were sick, injured, or about to have a baby, would you go to a health facility without clean water? If you were a health worker, would you choose to work in one if you had the choice? Unsafe water affects the health workforce in many ways, directly and indirectly.

Identifying and addressing performance gaps and facility needs related to clean water and hygiene, and leveraging multi-sectoral partnerships to advocate for increased access to safe water, are two ways that IntraHealth and  other global health organizations can help to extend this celebratory moment to those communities still in need.

1. UNICEF and World Health Organization, 2012. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update.

2. National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development, Ministry of Medical Services, Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, ICF Macro. 2011. Kenya Service Provision Assessment Survey 2010.