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Water and Health

“Clean water may be the biggest lifesaver in history. Some historians attribute one-half the overall reduction in mortality, two-thirds of the reduction in child mortality, and three-fourths of the reduction in infant mortality to clean water. In 1854, John Snow traced a cholera outbreak in London to a water pump next to a leaky sewer, and some of the big public works projects of the late 1900s involved separating clean water from dirty. Cities ran water through sand and gravel to physically trap filth, and when that didn’t work (germs are awfully small) they started chlorinating water.” – Laura Helmuth, Slate Magazine

 In Latin America, 95,000 deaths a year are related to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene.

 Community interventions that promote adequate hygiene reduce by 30%-40% the incidence of diarrhea if safe drinking water is available.

 Good hygiene and hand washing greatly reduce gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases, especially in children younger than five.

 Interventions targeting the improvement of household water quality have the largest impact in the reduction of diarrhea at all ages, but especially children under the age of five.

 Dirty water kills more children than war, malaria, HIV/AIDS and traffic accidents combined.

 Interventions in water, hygiene, and sanitation are among the most cost-effective health interventions.

 Besides diarrhea, other diseases commonly found in untreated water include schistosomiasis, trachoma, ascariasis a (parasitic roundworm which affects approximately 45% of the population of Latin America), trichuriasis (a parasitic worm which affects more than 800 million people worldwide, mainly children) and hookworm.