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Unsafe sanitation driver of enormous public health costs: Experts

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New Delhi: Unsafe sanitation leads to enormous public health costs and there is a need to provide universal safe, sustainable sanitation, healthcare experts said here on Thursday.

Apart from high mortality rates due to the spread of diseases, poor sanitation also incurs high public health costs, they said at an online discussion organised by the National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) Alliance.

Madhu Krishna, Deputy Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-India, said providing universal safe, sustainable sanitation is like vaccination and the need for it is growing in urban areas now.

“We have invested extensively in sanitation and will continue to do so. It is evident that untreated human waste has an adverse impact on our health and safe sanitation is required to prevent a host of communicable diseases. Looking at it from the gender lens, service delivery impacts women and girls more.

“Therefore, we need to take an inclusive approach. Ninety percent of the frontline workers are women, yet sanitation facilities are not ensured for them,” she said.

Neeraj Jain, Country Director, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), India, said there is a need to look at preventive and curative measures, where preventive is appropriate WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) practices and curative is access to health services.

“Diseases spread due to bad hygiene and environment. We are a large country where scalable solutions are critical for the success of a public health programme.

“We are witnessing large-scale funding in healthcare and we need to align WASH under the health priorities of the country,” he said.

Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, Centre for Advocacy and Research, said, “The groundswell from communities, their own compulsion, their own involvement and participation is absolutely necessary to drive the agenda of health outcomes.”

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