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The International Year of Sanitation 2008 and world water day.

The International year of Sanitation 2008 aims to raise the profile of sanitation issues on the international agenda and to accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing by half the proportion of people living without access to improved sanitation by 2015. Within the United Nations system, the focal point for the International Year of Sanitation is the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in collaboration with the UN Water Task Force on Sanitation. World Water Day provides an opportunity to draw attention to the International Year of Sanitation 2008, which the UN General Assembly designated in order to emphasize sanitation and hygiene problems.

Sixty-two per cent of Africans do not have access to a proper toilet that separates human waste from human contact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)/United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) joint monitoring program for water supply and sanitation. A global report will be published later this year; however, preliminary data on the situation in Africa was released in April as part of World Water Day 2008. Built around the theme that "Sanitation matters," World Water Day seeks to draw attention to the plight of about 2.6 billion people around the world who live without access to a toilet at home and thus are vulnerable to a range of health risks. Improved sanitation contributes enormously to human health and well-being, especially for girls and women. Simple, achievable interventions can reduce the risk of contracting diarrheal disease by one-third.

Although WHO and UNICEF estimate that 1.2 billion people worldwide gained access to improved sanitation between 1990 and 2004, an estimated 2.6 billion people--including 980 million children--have no toilets at home. If current trends continue, there will still be 2.4 billion people without basic sanitation in 2015, and the children among them will continue to pay the price in lost lives, missed schooling, disease, malnutrition, and poverty.

Improving access to sanitation is a critical step towards reducing the impact of disease. It also helps create physical environments that enhance safety, dignity, and self-esteem. Safety issues are particularly important for women and children, who otherwise risk sexual harassment and assault when defecating at night and in secluded areas.

Also, improving sanitation facilities and promoting hygiene in schools benefits both learning and the health of children. Child-friendly schools that offer private and separate toilets for boys and girls, as well as facilities for hand washing with soap, are better equipped to attract and retain students, especially girls. Where such facilities are not available, girls are often withdrawn from school when they reach puberty. In health care facilities, safe disposal of human waste of patients, staff, and visitors is an essential environmental health measure. This intervention can contribute to the reduction of the transmission of health care-associated infections, which affect 5% to 30% of patients.
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Title Annotation:EU Update
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:474
Previous Article:Healthy People 2020: the road ahead.
Next Article:Emerging issues in water and infectious diseases.
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