The World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef say two billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water at home and 3.6 billion to sanitation.
The insufficiency causes illness and even death from diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid.
Yet there exists plenty of opulence in technology, law and water sanitation.
Water sanitation and hygiene practices began from time immemorial. In ancient Hellas, since the Bronze Age (circa 3200-1100 BC), there were substantial sewerage and drainage and other elaborate sanitary structures in major cities and towns. This was considered the most escalating era in the design of sanitary engineering.
In ancient Rome, the knowledge of the ancient world on hygienic matters was incorporated into legislative rules. Despite the incapacitation of this legislation through the ages, sanitation practices kept being petitioned even via a technical tradition of the masons.
As cities grew in size, the pressure of larger populations resulted in the construction of communal toilets with seats that were more densely packed together. In the hindmost part of the 19th Century, a technological approach began. For example, the disinfection of water was introduced in the US.
Regrettably, the elite, including scientists and politicians, snobbishly watch television narrations of the developing episodes of poor water sanitation and hygiene.
They take no notice of or disregard training the public on modern methods of water sanitation and hygiene—such as sustainable sanitation, wastewater management, faecal sludge management, container-based sanitation, ecological sanitation and community-based sanitation.
The answer, at the outset, is to augment access to clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices. Besides, promote community-based handwashing through media and campaigns like Global Handwashing Day. There must be a focus on sustainability as it leads to considerable resource savings.
The national government should construct and rehabilitate solar-powered water systems to address increasing water scarcity and work in close collaboration with the private sector, academia, civil society and communities to improve systems and practices that fulfil a right to water and sanitation.
Studies should be conducted on the sources and characteristics of water sanitation and the possible adverse effects of its inappropriate handling. There must be knowledge and clarity on what constitutes water hygiene and its classification, including historical contexts of management.
Insubstantial cognizance of the problems of unsafe household water, lack of infrastructure to deal with it and absence of well-defined legislation to combat it is to blame for the growing catastrophe. Let the state establish and implement water and sanitation management laws and regulations.
Mr Alwala, head of chemistry laboratories at Kibabii University, is the organising secretary, Kenya Chemical Society-Western Chapter. [email protected]