Globally, we have seen remarkable improvements in billions of people gaining access to water and sanitation services and improving hygiene practices. The past decade alone saw greater government commitments and increased investment for improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
Despite this substantial progress, much remains to be done. The majority of the world’s open defecators (more than 600 million) live in South Asia. Millions have limited access to safe water services and practice poor hygiene behaviours, which are the leading causes of child mortality and morbidity. These further contribute to undernutrition and stunting and act as barriers to quality education for girls and boys in the region.
- In South Asia, the proportion of people practicing open defecation fell from 65 percent to 34 percent with India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan achieving more than a 30 percent reduction in open defecation. However, despite the great progress, 610 million people in South Asia still practice open defecation (over 60% of the global burden).
- In South Asia, access to improved water increased from 73 percent to 93 percent since 1990. However, over 134 million people still do not have access to improved drinking water. It is currently estimated that in South Asia between 68 to 84 percent of water sources are contaminated.
- Poor drinking water and sanitation facilities in schools, as well as inappropriate hygiene behaviours among children, is contributing to the reduction of quality of education in primary and secondary schools all across the South Asian region. This, together with poor menstrual hygiene management among young girls in school, is one of the causes of school absenteeism and drop-off.
- Inadequate conditions of drinking water and sanitation facilities and inappropriate hygiene practices among children under the age of five and their caregivers also reduce the quality of Early Childhood Development in many countries of the region
- Poor conditions of drinking water and sanitation services in health care facilities and inappropriate hygiene practices among health personnel and patients reduce the quality of healthcare and represent some of the causes of high newborn and mothers’ mortality and morbidity rates in several countries in the region.
- South Asia is highly vulnerable to both natural- and man-made disasters. Every year, natural hazards like floods, cyclones, droughts, and earthquakes displace and cause suffering to millions of people especially children and the most vulnerable groups. Inadequate drinking water, sanitation facilities, and poor hygiene practices worsen the situation for the disaster-affected population, causing an increase in water-borne diseases and slowing the recuperation of the population affected by the crises.