Globally, inadequate water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are strongly linked to the burden of disease. NTDs are no exception. Schistosomiasis and trachoma are the most common NTDs that are spread, due largely to contaminated water supplies. Those with trachoma rely on clean water and good hygiene to prevent the infection from spreading to others. For schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis (river blindness), unsafe water sources are the actual breeding grounds for the animal vectors that carry the disease. Soil-transmitted helminthes (ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm) are also typically spread as a result of WASH issues.
Women often have the most exposure to these contaminated water sources, as they shoulder the largest burden for collecting water in the family. Young children, who usually play close to the ground and near water sources, are also at high-risk for contracting water-borne NTDs, as are groups such as farm workers and fishermen.
Improving WASH will have a positive impact on reducing the burden of NTDs, along with other diseases. According to WHO, improving WASH can reduce trachoma by 27 percent and improved sanitation could reduce schistosomiasis by as much as 77 percent. Integrating WASH into NTD programs aimed at disease control will ensure a comprehensive approach to reducing the burden of disease and impacting health and development worldwide.
- Global Network Factsheet: Water and Sanitation
- Geographical analysis of the role of water supply and sanitation in the risk of helminth infections of children in West Africa
- CDC: WASH Away NTDs
- Effects of improved water supply and sanitation on ascariasis, diarrhoea, dracunculiasis, hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, and trachoma
- Water Aid: WASH: The silent weapon against NTDs