Home water treatment ‘is best for fighting disease’

Women filling water containers from a well in Ethiopia Copyright: WHO/P. Virot

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[BEIJING] Treating water in homes is a more effective way of controlling diarrhoea in poor countries than interventions at wells.

So concludes a review published today (19 July) by The Cochrane Collaboration.

Its authors, led by Thomas Clasen of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, considered the outcomes of 30 field trials involving more than 53,000 participants.

The trials, which compared the effectiveness of different water treatments, were mostly carried out in the developing world.

Unsafe drinking water is the main cause of more than 1.8 million deaths from diarrhoea in developing countries each year.

Differences in the trial’s methods and settings limit the extent to which generalisations can be made, but the researchers say that all the treatment procedures were effective at preventing diarrhoea in people of all ages.

The results suggest that the health gains associated with safe drinking water can be achieved by providing people with simple, affordable technologies, such as chlorination, filtration, solar disinfection and improved storage in their homes, Clasen told SciDev.Net.

He says that delivering clean water directly to people’s homes can significantly reduce episodes of diarrhoea, but this demands considerable expenditure on infrastructure.

This would currently be too costly to maintain in developing countries, where 1.1 billion people do not have sustainable access to water within a kilometre of their home, says Clasen.

“Our challenge now is to show that these interventions can be disseminated at [large] scale on a sustainable basis,” says Clasen.