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Article UN experts say improving water, sanitation are key to fighting Zika

United Nations human rights experts say improving water and sanitation services may be the best answer to addressing the outbreak of the Zika virus in Latin American and the Caribbean.


On Friday, the experts said such critical factors should not be in the shadow of hi-tech solutions being considered.
“We can engineer sterile mosquitoes or use sophisticated Internet tools to map data globally, but we should not forget that today 100 million people in [the region] still lack access to hygienic sanitation systems and 70 million people lack piped water in their places of residence,” Léo Heller, the Special UN Reporter on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Highlighting a strong link between weak sanitation systems and the current outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, as well as dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya, Heller stressed that “the most effective way to tackle this problem is to improve the failing services.”

He noted that while the region has met the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for water in 2010, advancements are still not reaching all.
Regarding sanitation, the UN said the MDG target remains unachieved and three million people still practice open defecation.
“Because of stricter definitions for the related goals within the framework of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development these will reveal an even more dramatic lack of access to safe water and sanitation in the region,” Heller warned.
“Governments in the region must speed up the improvement of water and sanitation conditions, in particular for the most vulnerable populations, in order to save lives in the face of this unfolding global health crisis,” he urged.
Leilani Farha, Special Reporter on adequate housing, said when people have inadequate living and housing conditions, where they do not have access to safely managed water services, they tend to store water in unsafe ways that attract mosquitoes.
“In addition, poor sanitation systems where waste water flows through open channels and is disposed of in unsafe pits leads to stagnant water and unfit housing – a perfect habitat for breeding mosquitoes,” she said.



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