The 19th annual World Water Day recently featured an abundance of events all over the world. This international day, to raise awareness about the importance of preserving freshwater resources, has gained wider attention in recent years as access to safe water has become a major modern development priority.
But the focus has not been as intense for the less sexy side of the water story: sanitation, toilets and hygiene. Together, they have the potential to save many more lives at a lower cost than just providing access to clean water.
The international community should grasp the opportunity to combat the preventable diseases of poverty — specifically diarrheal diseases and infections — through improving access to sanitation and hygiene. This is a holistic approach that embraces health-care systems as opposed to solely water-based strategies.
More than 780 million people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. This number is dwarfed by the approximately 2.5 billion people — 37 percent of the developing world's population — for whom no suitable sanitation facilities are available, according the United Nations Children's Fund.