Water and Health: The Role of Drinking Water in the Fight Against Tropical Diseases
When we talk about Tropical diseases We refer to those infectious diseases that occur and are transmitted in places where heat and humidity reach extreme levels. Thus, countries located in the tropics are the most affected by this type of disease and drinking water is an indisputable ally in the fight against them.
Malaria, dengue or sleeping sickness are some examples of these types of ailments. This list is increased by the calls neglected tropical diseases (EDTs) , those that also affect populations with a high level of poverty and lack of resources, such as the Zhika virus or the chikungunya
Most of these diseases are parasitic, that is, transmitted by carrier insects whose habitat has high temperatures and stagnant waters, although many others are spread by contaminated water. Insects act as vectors transmitting from an infected man to a healthy man the parasites, bacteria or viruses that are the real causes of diseases. Malaria, dengue fever, amoebiasis, schistosomiasis, cholera, and filariasis are the most common tropical diseases.
Even so, there are also non-parasitic diseases, some transmitted by bacteria, such as leprosy or tarcoma, or by viruses. Water-infested soils are a breeding ground for some types of worm that lead to zoonosis infections, and in many others, direct ingestion of contaminated water is the direct cause of infection.
The relationship between poor access to water and disease
The relationship between the absence of drinking water and disease is therefore evident, and the proliferation of these diseases in places with poor sanitation leads to extreme spending on health systems that cannot be relaxed in an environment of infinite epidemic.
When we talk about drinking water, we are not only referring to water suitable for consumption, but also to decontaminated water that allows us to clean and hygiene our hands, clothes and surfaces. Washing hands, face or wounds is essential to fight against blindness due to trachoma, intestinal worms, infection of the lymphatic system by lymphatic filariasis, or infection from rabies bites.
The role of water in the WHO action plan
In 2015 the WHO published the Action Plan for the Elimination of Neglected Infectious Diseases 2016-2022 in which he developed the guidelines to fight against said diseases. The Executive Council, after its meeting in February 2020, defined the new roadmap for NTDs with scope between 2021 and 2030, dates in which to reach the Sustainable Development Goals in which water plays a leading role. And it is that the WHO wants to agree with all the actors involved in this action plan to increase global awareness about the collateral benefits of improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene on the eradication of TDS.
The economic aspect also counts in the action plans for the fight against EDT and is that the WHO calculates that for every dollar invested in improving drinking water, governments get 5 dollars in return thanks to the reduction in medical costs and improving productivity.
This new WHO Roadmap has four main objectives :
- Reduce 90% of medical interventions due to NTD
- Reduce 75% of life years lost due to NTD-related disability.
- Get 100 countries on the planet to have at least one NTD eradicated
- Fight for the global eradication of guinea worm and yaws.
To achieve these objectives, the WHO considers it essential to move from theory to practice by promoting projects that make the improvement of the populations most affected by EDT a reality thanks to the improvement of access to drinking water.