According to WaterAid, a clean-water non-profit NGO, diarrhea caused by dirty water and poor toilets kills almost 800 children a day around the world.
25 Mar 19 - Source: Myanmar Times - Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) urgently need to be prioritised globally as one third of the global health facilities do not have clean water and hand washing facilities while 20 percent of hospitals do not have sanitation facilities, said an executive of an international non-profit organisation that advocates safe drinking water and safe sanitation and hygiene for all.
"Imagine you are a mother going to give birth and have to walk into the bushes to address your sanitation needs. The same can be said about water in school. One third of schools in developing world do not have access to proper sanitation and water facilities," said Olga Ghazaryan, director of international programmes for WaterAid.
"As a result, lots of children drop out of school. That affects girls especially. When they start to menstruate, there are no facilities to address and manage their menstrual hygiene. A lot of girls either drop out of school completely or they miss a lot of school during that time" she added.
Aside from addressing public health issues, clean water, good hygiene and sanitation also plays a vital role in the economic development of the countries.
"In fact one calculation has shown, it is very cost-effective investment, US$1 invested in safe drinking water, good sanitation and hygiene provides $4 in returns in increased productivity," Ghazaryan said.
Ghazaryan said one in nine people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water due to several factors.
"One of the reasons is there is a tension and competition between use of water for domestic drinking purposes and use of water for commercial purposes such as agriculture, industry and other purposes," she said. "In number of cases, government and industries have preference for industrial use."
Climate change has also compounded the problem, according to the WaterAid executive.
"Climate change makes it worse if water is used and proritised for commercial purpose rather than portable water for drinking purposes," she said.
While many Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar, have been able to provide basic water services to up to 80pc of their population, there are still challenges in meeting the goal of providing safe drinking water, good hygiene and sanitation for all.
"Southeast Asia has clean water from improved sources but the basic level of services are often available only half and hour away (from people's home). And in terms of access to safely managed water, No. 6 in the UN's sustainable development goals, there is a need for clean, safe drinking water that is available close to home," Ghazaryan said.
The WaterAid executive hails Myanmar for its strong commitment to provide safe drinking water, good sanitation and hygiene for its people by 2030.
"The good thing is Myanmar government is very serious about it and very committed. There is a political will to address that. And there are also policies, guidelines, and strategies in place," she said.
A report of key indicators about Myanmar's living conditions noted that while access to improved water has been improving since 2015, it has mostly been driven by the private sector, rather than through increased and more sustainable use of piped and groundwater sources.
The 2017 survey, which was conducted by Myanmar's Central Statistical Organisation and backed by the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, also showed that households in multiple states and regions have to transport water from source to the consumption point, increasing the risk of contamination.
It also noted that the use of surface water for drinking remains high in Ayeyarwady and Rakhine.
The percentage of households reporting open defecation has halved since 2014, from 14 percent of households to six percent, according to report.
U Henry Van Thio, Vice President said during the World Water Day 2019 ceremony held in Nay Pyi Taw earlier in the month that Myanmar is a water rich country but still facing challenges for water security.
"Myanmar had abundant water resources, holding 16pc of water resources among the 10 ASEAN countries and 12pc in all of Asia. However, with diversity in rainfall, the increase in population and population density, the rise of industrial zones and economic zones and other changes to social systems means there would be a rapid increase in demands for water supply and new challenges for providing adequate water to every person," said U Henry Van Thio, who is also Chairperson of National Water Resources Committee (NWRC)
The vice president underscored the importance for systematic water management to address the above problems.
Ghazaryan said WaterAid is working with the Myanmar government in monitoring rural water supply as well as in providing safe drinking water, good sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities. It also helps in the training of health professionals.
World Water Day is celebrated annually on March 22. This year's theme was''Leaving no one behind', an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: As sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.