New Delhi, March 7: A WHO reports gave India a reason to be happy as it said the nation has one of the best access to improved drinking water sources. However, the report did not end on a positive note as it revealed how India wastes the privilege by balancing it with poor sanitation.
Talking about the world ratio, one in every four children under 5 years of age die because of unhealthy environments. These environmental factors include indoor and outdoor air pollution, secondhand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.
According to a fresh report of WHO, India holds the second highest death rate of children under 5 years in south-east Asia regions, which mainly occurs due to environmental risks such as pollution and poor sanitation.
In fact, India is far behind China and is among the top 35 countries in the world with highest death rate among under-5 years children attributable to unhealthy environment.
While India recorded 248.14 deaths among children under-5 years of age per lakh people, Myanmar, also a part of the WHO's south-east Asia region, reported over 297 deaths per lakh annually.
One of the most obvious reasons behind this poor performance is defecating in the open, which is still opted as a medium for a large number of Indians. Distribution of funds for toilet and social advertisements opposing it did not succeed in stopping people from open defecation.
These bring along a greater risk of infectious diseases like diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection along with malnutrition.
Lack of menstrual hygiene is also seen as a major cause of infection among young girls and mothers. Use of clothes and using sanitary pads even after recommended time periods results in infection.
"National behaviour change handwashing programmes in India and China would produce large economic gains from reduced diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections such as a 92-fold return on investment in India and a 35-fold return on investment in China," one of the reports said.
The report also pointed to health risks from polluted drinking water, mainly presence of arsenic, which occurs naturally in ground water and causes serious risks to children's health.