Every year there are an estimated 1.5 million deaths from diarrhoeal disease that are related to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene. The vast majority of these deaths are among children under the age of 5 years old and, under normal conditions, the disease would be easily treatable and even preventable.
Household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) interventions can lead to dramatic improvements in drinking water quality and reductions in diarrhoeal disease—making an immediate difference to the lives of the nearly 900 million people who still rely on water from polluted rivers, lakes, unprotected wells and springs and countless more using piped supplies which have been contaminated.
The International Network on Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage, established in 2003 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and as of 2011 co-hosted by WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is an initiative bringing together over 100 key stakeholders worldwide to promote and scale up the adoption of practices and technologies that improve the quality of household drinking water for vulnerable populations. Established in 2003, the informal network format emphasizes flexibility, participation and creativity to support coordinated action.
The mission of the Network is to contribute to a significant reduction in water-borne and water-related vector-borne diseases, especially among vulnerable populations, by promoting household water treatment and safe storage as a key component of community-targeted environmental health programmes.
In the first phase of activity, initial Network efforts focused on raising awareness of HWTS needs and technologies. Now in Phase II, the Network is concentrating on effective implementation and achieving scale.
Four strategic objectives capture the mission statement:
- Evidence base of the public health relevance of household water treatment and safe storage significantly strengthened;
- Tangible results in the scaling-up of household water treatment and safe storage achieved in countries in all regions of the world;
- National policies and institutional frameworks developed and in place to ensure the integration of different environmental health interventions with drinking-water treatment and safe storage at the household level from a broad public health perspective; and,
- Best practice in HWTS programmes evaluated and disseminated for advocacy purposes.