Water & Health : Time to leap into action !

Water and health experts consult one another all too rarely. This despite the fact that waterborne diseases contracted from unsafe drinking water kill 2.6 million human beings each year! These diseases are well known: cholera, diarrhea, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, bilharzia, polio, etc.

Haiti: Cholera treatment in an affected household in Port au Prince ©Solidarites International

Unsafe drinking water is a major cause of mortality and, as such, it is a humanitarian emergency—particularly in the poorest countries where populations are beset by conflicts and natural disasters.
Water and health constitute two of the main priorities of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals (SDGs). Goal 6 seeks to achieve universal access to drinking water and sanitation in 10 years.

Although progress has been made, the official figures show we still have a long way to go (see pp. 6-7 of our Barometer). As it stands, 29% of the global population lacks access to drinking water and 55% to sanitation.

Likewise, 1.4 billion people lack access to sanitary facilities equipped with water and soap, and 3 billion are still unable to wash their hands at home. Moreover, 80% of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment untreated.

Nearly 1 in 4 health centres worldwide lacks access to drinking water. 1 in 10 lacks access to sanitation services. And the situation is far worse in the 47 least-developed countries, where 1 in 2 health centres lacks drinking water and 3 in 5 lack sanitation. As of 2019, a mere 30% of schools worldwide were equipped to provide pupils with safe drinking water.

Hand washing point in a health centre in Turgeau ©Solidarités International

We need to act now: unsafe drinking water doesn’t just kill ; it also stifles development.

And we need to act on two fronts simultaneously: 1 – delivering humanitarian and development assistance to vulnerable populations, and 2 – lobbying institutions to ensure that policies get enacted and critical resources mobilized.

We need to pick up the pace and seek out new tools if we are to achieve universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, as per the unanimous commitment made by 195 states at the UN in 2015.


By Antoine Peigney, chairman of Solidarités International and Alain Boinet, founder of Solidarités International

Article taken from Solidarités International’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Barometer 2021.

Who is Antoine Peigney ?

From a professional point of view, he is since July 2017 the Director of the Health Department of Expertise France, the French agency for international technical expertise.

From 1998 to 2016, he headed the international operations of the French Red Cross. During this period, Antoine Peigney engaged teams in nearly eighty countries in crisis response, development aid and cooperation. Prior to that, he carried out several field missions from 1990 to 1995, mainly in the Horn of Africa and the former Yugoslavia, but also in Romania, Lebanon, Mauritania, Angola and Haiti, and was responsible for programmes in Africa at the headquarters of the NGO EquiLibre from 1995 to 1997. In this capacity, he supervised missions in Mali, Niger, Madagascar, Burundi, Uganda and Morocco.

Antoine Peigney is an auditor of the “Institut des hautes études de la Défense Nationale” from the 2013/2014 session, and graduated in 1991 from the Institut Bioforce-Développement in Lyon.

For more information :

Video “Together, let’s fight to make drinking water accessible to alll”

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Barometer 2021, by Solidarités International

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