Water and sanitation: critical elements in emergencies

On World Water Day we reflect on the need of having access to safe water in disasters

Water, a basic element for life, can be one of the major causes for concern after a disaster. The availability of water in sufficient quantity and quality is critical to provide health care, to ensure its use by the affected population, to maintain minimum standards of hygiene and to support the rescue work, among other activities. On World Water Day, PAHO/WHO calls for reflection on the importance and need of including in risk management plans and response plans actions to ensure access to quality drinking water, sanitation and hygiene during emergencies and disasters.

Ensuring water supply is one of the most important measures during an emergency and, in this sense, the monitoring of water quality becomes an action of vital importance to ensure the delivery of safe water to the affected population, hospitals and health facilities.

Water, sanitation and hygiene also become critical elements to avoid diseases that may occur due to the poor health conditions of the affected area. After disasters, water becomes the most precious value and its shortage or contamination can have serious consequences for public health.

For these reasons, PAHO/WHO reiterates the need of taking the necessary measures to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene to the people affected by disasters. These actions involve a number of actors ranging from local authorities and entities providing water service to the affected community. The success of these activities will depend on the level of coordination between these actors.

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