Provide universal, safe, sustainable sanitation as unsafe sanitation leads to enormous public health costs: Experts

·3-min read
Representative Image
Representative Image

New Delhi [India], September 7 (ANI): Healthcare experts have stressed on providing universal, safe, sustainable sanitation as unsafe sanitation leads to enormous public health costs.

Apart from high mortality rates due to the spread of diseases, poor sanitation also incurs high public health costs. During the pandemic, not having effective WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) systems have had an enormous impact on the economy where urban slums have borne the costs, experts said at an online discussion organised by the National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) Alliance.

The discussions during the webinar highlighted that WASH in healthcare facilities is an essential factor to the successful implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 in India as well as the newly launched Pradhanmantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana 2021, according to the statement.

Madhu Krishna, Deputy Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-India, said providing universal safe, sustainable sanitation is like vaccination and the need for it is growing in urban areas now.

"We have invested extensively in sanitation and will continue to do so. It is evident that untreated human waste has adverse impact on our health and safe sanitation is required to prevent a host of communicable diseases. Looking at it from the gender lens, service delivery impacts women and girls more.

"Therefore, we need to take an inclusive approach. 90 per cent of the frontline workers are women, yet sanitation facilities are not ensured for them. Providing universal safe sustainable sanitation is like vaccination and the need for it is growing in urban areas now," she said.

Neeraj Jain, Country Director, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), India, said there is a need to look at preventive and curative measures, where preventive is appropriate WASH practices and curative is access to health services.

"Diseases spread due to bad hygiene and environment. We are a large country where scalable solutions are critical for the success of a public health programme. "We are witnessing large-scale funding in healthcare and we need to align WASH under the health priorities of the country," he said.

Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, Centre for Advocacy and Research, said, "The groundswell from communities, their own compulsion, their own involvement and participation is absolutely necessary to drive the agenda of health outcomes."

The panel discussion has highlighted the importance of integrating public health approaches when working towards inclusive and safe sanitation discourse in the country.

The discussion was moderated by senior sanitation practitioners and NFSSM Alliance members, Depinder Kapur, Senior Fellow, Shiv Nadar University; Sanjeev Jha, Project Leader, India Sanitation Coalition and Shubhagato Dasgupta, Senior Fellow, Center for Policy Research, the panel discussion brought these insights to the forefront.

"90 per cent of all deaths from diarrhoea, mainly in children, are caused due to lack of access to safe, clean drinking-water and basic sanitation facilities - further influencing child mortality and morbidity. It was recently also identified as a major factor contributing to child stunting," the experts said.

The panelist concluded that opportunities for convergence in the Sanitation and Health Sector at various levels were a combination of a broad spectrum of efforts ranging from focusing on the emphasis and scaling of sanitation and nutrition under health mandates to attract greater institution and funder goodwill.

It emphasized the importance of providing support to various government departments at the central, state, and local level to ensure greater coordination for programmatic intervention as part of the Family, Health, Nutrition and Welfare initiatives thus ensuring joint outcomes and accountability. (ANI)

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