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Thursday 24th May 2018

Poor sanitation 'kills millions'

13th May 2009

A global water charity says that failure by aid agencies and governments to set healthcare priorities correctly is endangering millions of children.


WaterAid has released a new report which warns that children are being put at risk by poor sanitation.

It says more children are being killed around the world by diarrhoea than by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria put together.

However, governments and aid agencies are far more willing to spend money on HIV than on making sure the world's children have good enough sanitation.

WaterAid warns in its reports of a growing inequity between the diseases that are killing children and the amount of money actually being spent.

According to the charity, 1.8 million children died around the world from diarrhoea, but global spending on sanitaiton only reached US$1.5 billion from 2004 and 2006.

By comparison, HIV/AIDS spending topped US$10.8 billion during the same period. But HIV was only responsible for the deaths of 300,000 children during that time.

The report criticised as irrational the global response to diseases caused by sanitation problems.

It said the problem stemmed from the fact that sanitation was not 'fashionable' enough to catch the attention of politicans, leading to a lack of political motivation.

Aid decisions should be more closely in tune with the actual burden of disease, according to report author Oliver Cumming, who suggests the world relearn some of the lessons of history.

He said the results were shocking, considering the role that investments in sanitation played in the history of the world's richer countries.

In Britain, government-led investments in sanitation brought about the biggest reduction in child mortality at the end of the 19th century, Cumming said.

The effect was greater than the setting up of the NHS.

He also castigated developed countries for failing to deliver on aid promises.

That money could be used by developing countries to provide a more balanced response to sanitation if it were in fact delivered as promised.

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