By Jacqueline Mills

Each year on March 22, the international community focuses its attention on World Water Day. The theme for this year is “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge.” Today, organizations and individuals around the world are working specifically to promote innovative solutions to provide safe water and sanitation to growing informal settlements.

In his message today, Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon writes:

Over the past decade, the number of urban dwellers who lack access to a water tap in their home or immediate vicinity has risen by an estimated 114 million, and the number of those who lack access to the most basic sanitation facilities has risen by 134 million. This 20 percent increase has had a hugely detrimental impact on human health and on economic productivity: people are sick and unable to work.

With inadequate access to safe water and proper sanitation water-borne diseases are endemic in urban slums, most notably in Asia and Africa. The Coalition against Typhoid, whose secretariat is housed at the Sabin Vaccine Institute, has been working toward the prevention and control of one such water-borne disease: typhoid fever.

Each year, 21 million people become ill with typhoid fever resulting in 216,000 – 600,000 deaths, predominantly in children of school age or younger.

Access to safe water and proper sanitation and the promotion of hand-washing are key elements in the prevention of water-borne disease, including typhoid fever. Safe, effective and inexpensive typhoid vaccines can also play an important role. The implementation of typhoid vaccines is even more important in populations where antibiotic resistant typhoid is prevalent.

The Coalition against Typhoid works to raise awareness of the World Health Organization’s recommendation in support of typhoid vaccination for endemic and high risk populations. These recommendations are also supported by the GAVI Alliance. Immunization against typhoid will help to address immediate prevention, as access to safe water and proper sanitation is increased over time. Together these interventions can help keep water cleaner and people healthier.