The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) call for a reduction of the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by half between 1990 and 2015. Yet, an estimated 884 million people in the world, 37% of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa, still use unimproved sources of drinking water1.
Lack of access to safe drinking water contributes to the staggering burden of diarrhoeal diseases worldwide, particularly affecting the young, the immunocompromised and the poor. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – is due to diarrhoea. Diarrhoea kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined2. Drinking contaminated water also leads to reduced personal productive time, with widespread economic effects.
Approximately 43% of the global population, especially the lower-income populace in the remote and rural parts of the developing world, is deprived of household safe piped water. Thus, there is a pressing need for effective and affordable options for obtaining safe drinking water at home. Point-of-use (POU) treatment is an alternative approach, which can accelerate the health gains associated with the provision of safe drinking water to the at-risk populations. It empowers people to control the quality of their drinking water. Treating water at the household level or other point of use also reduces the risk of waterborne disease arising from recontamination during collection, transport, and use in the home, a well-known cause of water-quality degradation3. In many rural and urban areas of the developing world, household water-quality interventions can reduce diarrhoea morbidity by more than 40%4,5. Treating water in the home offers the opportunity for significant health gains at potentially dramatic cost savings over conventional improvements in water supplies, such as piped water connections to households6.
Water filters have been shown to be the most effective interventions amongst all point-of-use water treatment methods for reducing diarrhoeal diseases7. The Cochrane review demonstrates that it is not enough to treat water at the point-of-source; it must also be made safe at the point-of-consumption.
1. WHO and UNICEF. 2008. Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation
2. UNICEF and WHO. 2009. Diarrhoea: Why children are still dying and what can be done
3. Wright, J. et al. 2003. Household drinking water in developing countries: a systematic review of microbiological contamination between source and point-of-use. Trop Med Int Health 9: 106 – 117
4. Ghislaine, R and Clasen, T. 2010. Estimating the Scope of Household Water Treatment in Low- and Medium-Income Countries. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 82(2), pp. 289–300
5. Fewtrell, L. et al. 2005. Water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions to reduce diarrhea in less developed countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infectious Diseases (5): 42–52
6. International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group). Safe Water for All: Harnessing the Private Sector to Reach the Underserved
7. Clasen, T. et al. 2006. Interventions to improve water quality for preventing diarrhoea (Review). The Cochrane Collaboration