Safer Water and Sanitation for the World
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 the
"International Year of Sanitation," highlighting the
crucial need for countries worldwide to have safe drinking water
and sanitary places to wash up and use the bathroom.
The initiative came during a year when Zimbabwe endured the
largest outbreak in its modern history of cholera, a serious
diarrhea-causing disease that's often spread through
contaminated food or water. The illness killed hundreds and
sickened tens of thousands. Most types of diarrheal infections
aren't serious and go away after a few days, but others can be
deadly when diarrhea leads to dehydration. According to the United
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) 5,000-plus tots under age 5
die each day because of diarrheal diseases that many contract
because of contaminated drinking water or a lack of fundamental
sanitation facilities, like bathrooms with flushable toilets.
In the battle against diarrheal illnesses that are killing 1.5
million kids each year, more than 70 countries in five continents
participated in the first ever Global Handwashing Day during the
end of 2008. Efforts like these have helped to put the number of
people worldwide without improved drinking water below the 1
billion mark for the very first time (with more than half of the
people in the world getting piped water in their homes). But a 2008
report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF shows that
2.5 billion still don't have access to better sanitation - and
1.2 billion of those don't have any sanitation facilities at
What to Watch:
Global health officials still have a long way to go before most
countries are able to enjoy safe sanitation facilities and healthy
drinking water for all of its communities. But the simple act of
washing hands can cut deaths from diarrheal illnesses by as much as
50% (or almost 2 million people). In fact, hand washing is the most
effective - and cheapest - way to prevent diarrheal infections.
That's because dirty hands carry infectious germs into the body
when kids bite their nails, suck their thumbs, eat with their
fingers, or put any part of their hands into their mouths.
On the homefront, parents can help keep many infectious
illnesses at bay by making sure kids understand how to wash their
way. They need to learn how to use warm soap and water to scrub
(both sides of the hands, the wrists, between the fingers, and
around the nails), then wash for at least 10 to 15 seconds (about
as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" nice and
kids wash is important, too. Kids should always lather up before
after using the bathroom, blowing their nose, coughing, touching
animals, and playing outside or with other kids. In a pinch, hand
sanitizers can help fend off most of these nasty germs, too.
What Are Germs?
What's the Big Sweat About Dehydration?
Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands?
Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands After Using
Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea
How Can I Wash My Hands Without Spreading Germs?
Dehydration Instruction Sheet
What Are Germs?
Why Is Hand Washing So Important?
View the entire list of
Issues to Watch
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.