Poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions cause nearly 90% of all deaths from diarrhoea, mainly in children.
Residents in crowded urban communities are exposed to serious health risks from inadequate facilities. In fact, child mortality in slums is higher than in other urban, or rural areas.
In overcrowded urban schools, diseases can spread fast.
Contamination from poorly managed sanitation rapidly spreads into the water system, moving the problem from one particular community and into the wider urban environment.
Even richer residents are not immune, for example when they eat vegetables irrigated by water mixed with sewage.
But we can make a difference.
Increasing access to safe water, improving management of sanitation waste and ensuring that people practice better hygiene can improve the health and well-being of the world’s urban residents.
Reducing health risks from poorly managed sanitation
In urban areas, large quantities of faecal waste are dumped illegally by informal providers, contaminating the environment and posing a public health risk. Affordable services for collecting and treating faecal waste results in cleaner and healthier communities and urban ecosystems.
Decreasing dependence on unsafe water
Untreated water can pose a serious threat to health and can be linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Increased access to safe water delivered as part of a regulated citywide service can help low-income residents to life healthier lives.
Using data to better understand the spread of diseases
Cholera is a common public health burden in cities across the developing world, and tackling the spread of cholera in low-income communities is a high priority for city authorities. Data can play a major part in addressing this challenge: if city authorities are better informed, then they can act accordingly – by promoting pit-emptying services to reduce the likelihood of water becoming contaminated with faeces.
Promoting behaviour change to improve health
Poor hygiene practices, such as not washing hands with soap, are major contributors to ill health and the spread of disease, particularly amongst children. Hygiene education and the promotion of handwashing with soap are highly cost-effective ways to prevent diseases.