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On World Water Day, PAHO Urges Greater Attention to Urban Water Management

Access to Water, Sanitation Can Reduce Disease by 80 Percent

Washington, D.C., March 22, 2011 (PAHO) – On the occasion of World Water Day, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) called on governments, organizations, communities and individuals to focus greater attention on urban water management, and especially on the impact of urban population growth, industrial growth, national disasters and instabilities  related to climate change on urban water systems.

Photo PAHO/WHO David Spitz

Luis Augusto Galvão, manager of PAHO's Area of Sustainable Development and Environmental Health, said that access to water and sanitation services can reduce water-related diseases such as diarrhea and cholera by up to 80 percent.

"In Latin America and the Caribbean, some 105 million people have no access to basic sanitation, and the majority of these people are women, indigenous people or older adults living in rural areas or on the outskirts of major cities," Galvão said in a recorded message. Access to water and sanitation can reduce the incidence of diarrhea, for example, by 50 percent, he noted.

In a panel discussion organized by PAHO/WHO, experts on environmental health called for wider recognition of access to water and sanitation as a basic human right, as recognized by the United Nations. Galvão said that PAHO/WHO has begun a study of evidence on access to water and sanitation and human rights that will support efforts to work with countries toward the goal of "water for all."

Paulo Teixeira, PAHO regional advisor for urban health, said the concept of access to water and sanitation as a human right should "have greater visibility and promote concerted actions to review legal and regulatory frameworks" to ensure this right is guaranteed.

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