WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Towards sustainable access to safe drinking water in South-East Asia

Regional Adviser, Water and Sanitation, WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia

Date of Web Publication19-May-2017

Correspondence Address:
Regional Adviser for Water and Sanitation, WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi

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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206614

PMID: 28607267

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How to cite this article:
Payden. Towards sustainable access to safe drinking water in South-East Asia. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health 2015;4:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Payden. Towards sustainable access to safe drinking water in South-East Asia. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Jul 4];4:1-2. Available from: http://www.who-seajph.org/text.asp?2015/4/1/1/206614

2015 is a landmark year in international development, with the ending of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period and the advent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This transition will be formalized in September with the adoption of the 17 proposed SDGs and their 169 subtargets that will challenge and shape global development for the next 15 years. The sixth proposed SDG, on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation, has as its first target: “By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking-water for all”.[1]

The end of the MDG era marks commendable progress made by the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region in meeting its target for access to improved drinking water. More than 92% of the region’s population now has access to improved drinking-water sources, 95% in urban areas and 88% in rural areas. Nevertheless, even with high levels of access, the safety of drinking water from improved water sources is not guaranteed unless additional measures are taken to ensure integrity of the water supply.

In early 2013, WHO convened experts from 14 collaborating research institutions to produce a series of studies to update previous WHO estimates on the burden of diarrhoeal disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene in 145 low-and middle-income countries. For the WH0 South-East Asia Region, they concluded that an estimated annual 207 773 deaths and 10 748 disability-adjusted life years lost due to diarrhoea were attributable to inadequate drinking water.[2] With respect to the microbial quality, Robert Bain and colleagues estimated that 1.8 billion people worldwide use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated and 60% drink water that is of at least so-called moderate risk (> 10 Escherichia coli or thermotolerant [faecal] coliforms per 100 mL). Their modelling of data from nationally randomized studies suggested that 10% of water from improved sources may be so-called high risk (≥ 100 per 100 mL) and that drinking-water contamination is most prevalent in Africa (53%) and South-East Asia (35%).[3] In this issue of the WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health, the study by Su Latt Tun Myint and colleagues in an expanding periurban neighbourhood in Myanmar provides a clear example of the type of challenges faced in the region where drinking-water sources are improved but faecal contamination is high.[4]

In the WHO expert review, several evidence-based interventions were identified, notably that diarrhoea can be reduced significantly if water quality can be ensured up to the point-of-consumption. Effective and consistent application of household water treatment and safe storage can have a substantial effect in reducing diarrhoeal disease, depending on the type of water supply.[5] Achieving the SDG target on access to safe drinking water will, therefore, require a concerted continuation of work done to date. Key to these efforts are water safety plans, recommended by the WHO guidelines for drinking-water quality as the most effective means of consistently ensuring the safety of a drinking-water supply.[6] Water safety plans use a risk-based and risk management approach to prevent contamination of water sources, water treatment, distribution till it reaches its consumers. Intersectoral collaboration between the health sector, water suppliers and sanitation, agriculture and industrial sector is essential to the successful implementation, since contamination of drinking water is linked to the activities of these sectors. Health can play a major role in ensuring water quality surveillance and water safety plans are implemented as per WHO guidelines and national water quality standards.

With funding support from the Australian Government, WHO has been supporting Member States to implement water safety plans since 2005. In areas where concerns about water have traditionally focused on water quantity, WSPs raise awareness of the importance of water quality and empower communities to identify hazards and reduce risks with minimum resources and simple techniques. To date, major efforts in Bangladesh,[7] Bhutan[8] and Nepal[9] have resulted in significant successes. Building on these foundations, the Regional Office for South-East Asia is now supporting other countries to introduce water safety planning to ensure drinking-water safety.

Continued support of these and related initiatives will strengthen regional capacity to meet the SDG target on drinking water and thereby help reduce the burden of waterborne and water-related diseases in the region.

  References Top

Open Working Group proposal for sustainable development goals. New York: United Nations, 2014 (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/ content/documents/1579SDGs%20Proposal.pdf, accessed June 30 2015).  Back to cited text no. 1
Preventing diarrhoea through better water, sanitation and hygiene: exposures and impacts in low- and middle-income countries. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014 (http://apps.who.int/iris/ bitstream/10665/150112/1/9789241564823_eng.pdf?ua=1/&ua=1, accessed June 30 2015).  Back to cited text no. 2
Bain R, Cronk R, Hossain R, Bonjour S, Onda K, Wright J et al. Global assessment of exposure to faecal contamination through drinking-water based on a systematic review. Trop Med Int Health. 2014;19(8):917-27.  Back to cited text no. 3
Su Latt Tun Myint, Thazar Myint, Wah Wah Aung, Khin Thet Wai. Prevalence of household drinking-water contamination and of acute diarrhoeal illness in a periurban community in Myanmar. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health. 2015;4(1-2): 62-68.  Back to cited text no. 4
Wolf J, Prüss-Ustün A, Cumming O, Bartram J, Bonjour S, Cairncross S et al. Assessing the impact of drinking water and sanitation on diarrhoeal disease in low- and middle-income settings: systematic review and meta-regression. Trop Med Int Health. 2014;19(8):928-42.  Back to cited text no. 5
WHO guidelines for drinking-water quality, fourth edition. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2011 (http://whqlibdoc.who.int/ publications/2011/9789241548151_eng.pdf?ua=1, accessed July 4 2015).  Back to cited text no. 6
Bangladesh case study. Delhi: WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia; 2015 (http://www.searo.who.int/entity/water_sanitation/ bangladesh.pdf?ua=1, accessed June 30 2015).  Back to cited text no. 7
Bhutan case study. Delhi: WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia; 2015 (http://www.searo.who.int/entity/water_sanitation/bhutan_final. pdf?ua=1, accessed June 30 2015).  Back to cited text no. 8
Nepal case study. Delhi: WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia; 2015 (http://www.searo.who.int/entity/water_sanitation/nepal_final. pdf?ua=1, accessed June 30 2015).  Back to cited text no. 9


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