Oct 12 2004
A plea to the world's physicians and health authorities to do more to support measures to provide access to safe drinking water at low cost to every human on the planet has been made by the World Medical Association.
At its annual General Assembly in Tokyo, the WMA called for the prevention of pollution of water supplies, more access to sanitation and the provision of potable water during emergencies.
In a statement approved by more than 400 delegates from 40 countries, the WMA said that over half the world's population did not have access to clean and uncontaminated water, and even in those places where there was an abundance of fresh water it was threatened by pollution and other negative forces.
The WMA is seeking to encourage all those responsible for health to consider the importance of water for individual and public health. Water-borne diseases account for a large proportion of mortality and morbidity, especially in developing countries, and these problems are accentuated in times of disaster, such as wars, earthquakes, epidemics, droughts and floods.
The statement adds that where water is provided for profit rather than as a public service, there are implications for access to an adequate supply of drinking water.
In calling for a list of measures, the WMA Statement said that the development of a sustainable infrastructure for the provision of safe water contributed greatly to sound public health and national well-being.
Curtailing infectious diseases and other ailments that are caused by unsafe water alleviate the burden of health care costs and improve productivity. This creates a positive ripple effect on national economies.
Among the measures being called for by the WMA are:
- the devopment of plans for providing potable water and proper wastewater disposal during emergencies;
- preventive measures to secure safe water for health care institutions after the occurance of natural disasters, especially earthquakes;
- more efficient use of water resources by each nation and for hospitals and health institutions to examine their impact on sustainable water resources.
Dr Delon Human, Secretary General of the WMA, said: 'Today's statement is very timely, because next month (Nov. 15/16) the WMA, in collaboration with the World Ocean Observatory in New York, will be holding a high level conference on New York on the strategic link between water and the ocean and public health. Medical, public health and environmental leaders will draw up an agenda for better addressing water related public health issues, including sanitation, water borne diseases and water conservation. They will also discuss the biomedical potential of the ocean'.