About this Research Topic
- World Water Day 2022: Importance of WASH, Equal Access Opportunities, and WASH Resilience - A Social-Inclusion Perspective
The UN International World Water Day was first established in 1993 and has been observed since to celebrate water and its fundamental role in supporting human life. On this particular March 22, 2022, Frontiers in Water has decided to honour World Water Day by fostering discussion on one of the main services that water affords: clean water and sanitation.
In 2010, access to water, sanitation, and hygiene – commonly referred to as WASH – was recognised as a human right by the United Nations General Assembly. Alongside its implications for global health, WASH is also subject of dedicated targets within the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which aims to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”, mostly by 2030. Yet, seven years after the SDG 6 was first established in 2015, over 2 billion people globally remain unable to access safely managed drinking water, while 3.6 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services, including handWASHing facilities with soap. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear how safely managed WASH services and waste management practices are pivotal to the prevention and protection of human health.
The dangers to human health that derive from absence of WASH services have severe socio-economic repercussions on the lives of those affected, both directly and indirectly. An individual without access to safely managed drinking water will be driven towards unprotected sources such as surface water or possibly contaminated wells. Sources of water that are located a great distance away from impacted communities disproportionately affect women and girls, who in many instances will be the ones expected to act as water purveyors. Such obstacles increase their risk of exposure to contaminated water and of development of musculoskeletal trauma, as well as exposing them to abuse, sexual assault, or even dangerous wildlife. People with disabilities make up 15% of the global population, but many have less access to water and sanitation facilities at home than people without disabilities. This population are less able to independently collect water or use the household latrine and are more likely to come into contact with urine and faeces when doing so.
Similarly, lack of improved sanitation forces people to use sub-optimal communal latrines or practice open defecation. Exposed faecal matter can then re-enter the food chain as well as the water cycle, facilitating the spread of infectious diseases. Compromised health and increased time and energy expenditure derived from lack of WASH facilities prevent a large proportion of the population from finding employment, particularly women and girls. Women and girls often provide informal care for family members who need support with WASH, including people with disabilities and older adults. Many do so without guidance about how to provide care hygienically and with dignity. Further, the education of children with no access to WASH may be inhibited due to illness or the time burden resulting from extended trips to water sources. Malnutrition and its consequences, such as stunting, will also affect children with no access to WASH, as chronic diarrhoeal diseases impair absorption of nutrients in food.
To promote equal access opportunities to WASH for all, appropriate systems need to be put in place, starting from well-resourced institutions delivering services and altering conducts in a constructive manner. This Research Topic seeks to inform academics, practitioners, decision-makers, and policies about the multiple ways in which inequalities in the access to WASH can affect adversely human health and lives.
On this World Water Day 2022, Frontiers in Water is launching a Research Topic aimed at exploration of the following themes:
• Access to WASH and health, with special attention to populations that are at risk of exclusion from WASH services, including women and girls, people with disabilities, and older adults;
• Challenges to the achievement of WASH;
• Climate-resilient WASH; and,
• WASH and the Global South.
Keywords: WASH, water sanitation and hygiene, disease prevention, human health, water contamination, WASH services, low-to-middle income communities
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.