Healthcare experts call for improved access to safe water to rein in waterborne diseases among children

by Laxmi Yadav, originally posted on January 7, 2017


Expressing concern over unsafe water adversely affecting children’s immune system making them vulnerable to diarrhoea and pneumonia, leading cause of one-third of all deaths of children under five years of age in India, healthcare experts have called for immediate corrective and preventive actions for safe water and improved immunity.

It is estimated that around 37.7 million Indians, especially children, are affected by water-borne diseases annually. Over 5 million children are estimated to die of diarrhoea alone, and 73 million working days are lost due to water-borne diseases each year. Unsafe water and poor sanitation contributed 7.5 per cent of total deaths and 9.4 per cent of total disability-adjusted life years in India, according to a WHO study.

Forty five per cent of India’s children are stunted and 600,000 children under five die each year, largely because of inadequate water supply and poor sanitation, says a report by UNICEF.

Dr. Sushant Mane, Associate Professor in Pediatrics, JJ Hospital says, “Unsafe water supply is dangerous for both kids as they are the most vulnerable lot. Poor quality water adversely affect their immune system. Studies reveal that one-third of all deaths of children under five years of age in India are due to diarrhoea and pneumonia which are result of poor immune system.”

“Even those survive face many challenges on health front. Such diseases further weaken their immune system. Some of them who survive become underweight and malnourished, which has a severe impact on their learning ability throughout their lives,” Dr. Mane added.

Situation is even worse in rural India. Surveys have estimated that over one-third of rural groundwater sources in India may be contaminated with microbes, much of this contamination is preventable through proper operation and maintenance of water sources coupled with safe sanitation practices.

“Access to safe drinking water remains a challenge in rural areas. About a very large number of people in India still defecate in the open and 67 per cent of Indian households do not treat their drinking water. Likewise, in urban areas water supply pipelines and open drainage channels running side by side put the safety of drinking water at stake,” says Dr. Mukesh Sanklecha, Consultant Pediatrician and Neonatologist, Bombay Hospital.

“We need to make efforts on two fronts. First people should be made aware about safe water consumption, proper hygiene and ill-effects of unsafe water on immune system of kids. Children need not only safe water but proper intake of recommended intake of key nutrients-vitamin A, C and Iron to boost their immunity,” Dr. Sanklecha added.

Unsafe water causes havoc on kid’s health. So it is time to act fast.  Immediate corrective and preventive actions need to be taken to ensure safe water and improved immunity. India can afford lower immunity, a major cause of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases, experts said.

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