Water pollution and child mortality Essay

Water pollution and child mortality are two grave issues which often subject to heated debates in modern times. Any sensible person would agree that there is the serious scarcity of the water due to global warming and certain other factors. The number of the water resources is either lessening or being abused and polluted as such the world is exposed to the threat of various diseases and death. It is in this context, a discussion of the effects of water pollution on child mortality becomes significant. As water belongs to the basic necessities, one is sure that the scarcity of the water will have adverse effect on human lives. Water pollution is “contamination of water by undesirable foreign matter.” It has impacts on our sea, our surface, and our ground water (Yanful 140).This underlines the fact that water pollution will certainly affect day to day life. According to Encyclopaedia of Public Health, “Infant and child mortality are deaths to children under age 1 and under age 5…. Child mortality (often called under-five mortality) is measured as probability, or the proportion of children dying before their fifth birthday…. Infant mortality is defined as probability of dying between birth and exactly one year of age expressed per 1000 live births” (Encyclopedia of Public Health 755). Though there are various reasons attributed to the infant mortality or child mortality, water pollution can be treated as the most significant among them.

It is a fact that infant mortality and child morality occur in various parts of the world. However, majority of the studies agree that the child mortality rates are higher in under developed and developing countries when comparing with the developed nations in the world. An overview of the reports related with this issue unveils that majority of the under developed nations are there in African continent where the number of children died in infancy are quite alarming. According to the latest report of the World Fact Book of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Afghanistan, Mali and Somalia are on the first three places having the higher infant mortality rate (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency 2014). They are marked with more than hundred infant deaths in 1,000 live births.

Statistics of Child mortality due to water pollution

The statistical evidences proposed by various organizations concerning this issue reveal the present state of child mortality. Globally, two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the world’s waterways and at least 1.8 million children under five years-old die every year from water related disease, or one every 20 seconds (UNEP & UN HABITAT 2010). The study of UN Habitat points to necessity of taking immediate actions to control the mortality rate through the sanitation of the waterways and by providing purified water.

The water pollution has been identified as the root cause of various chronic as well as contemptuous diseases which may eventually lead to one’s death. Such water associated diseases include diarrhea, cholera, malaria, and so on. Therefore, it should be noted that “Globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoeal diseases and of these some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. Almost 90 per cent of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene” (Unicef press centre).

A combined study of WHO and UNICEF also acknowledges this by stating that there occurs 4 billion cases of diarrhoea each year due to polluted water and it causes for 2.2 million deaths, mostly of children under five. The study confirms that 15% of child deaths each year are attributable to diarrhoea – a child dying every 15 seconds. This is quite applicable to India where nearly half a million children dies each year (UNEP & UN HABITAT). However, UNICEF has identified that there is a significant decrease in the death rate globally even if the world population marked a huge growth rate. A report of the UNICEF states “…these deaths have come down significantly over the last decade, from 1.2 million per year in 2000 to about 760,000 a year in 2011” (Unicef press centre). But this is a contradiction to note the UNICEF child mortality data that about half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan and China (Unicef press centre).

Various studies conducted overtime have identified the main causes of water pollution from industrial as well as agricultural wastage. Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water (UNEP & UN HABITAT). As a result, it paves the way for the waterborne diseases and immature deaths which are often counted more than deaths from all violence including war in a year (UNEP & UN HABITAT).

Another hopeful factor related with this issue is that in some regions the child mortality rates have marked a significant decrease. Though Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the decline in the under-five mortality rate accelerate, with the average annual rate of reduction increasing from 0.8 percent in 1990–1995 to 4.2 percent in 2005–2013, the region still has the highest child mortality rate—92 deaths per 1,000 live births, more than 15 times the average for developed regions (UNICEF 2014). UNICEF in one of their studies predicts that by 2050 close to 40 percent of all births will take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 37 percent of children under age five will live there, so the number of under-five deaths could stagnate or even increase without more progress in the region (UNICEF 2014). In addition to this one should also consider the fact that every year nearly 40% of all under-five child deaths are among newborn infants, babies in their first 28 days of life or the neonatal period (World Health Organisation). This indicates that there should be extra care and concern especially in fostering infants, providing them clean and unpolluted water to protect their health and life. Many studies have undoubtedly identified the momentous roles of individuals in assuring skilled care during and immediately after birth. Researchers have agreed that up to two thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented if known, effective health measures are provided at birth and during the first week of life (World Health Organisation). When the organizations like WHO and UNICEF implement various actions to reduce the infant and child mortality, some nations divert from the proper track and they could not successfully regulate the number of deaths. Such nations include India (24 per cent) and Nigeria (11 per cent) where one could find out more than a third of all under-five deaths. But the contradiction is that these countries also have significant populations and no improved water and sanitation systems (Unicef press centre). Of the 783 million people worldwide without improved drinking water, there are 119 million in China; 97 million in India; 66 million in Nigeria; 36 million in DRC; and 15 million in Pakistan (Unicef press centre). The collected data throws light to the real danger of water pollution and its effects on child mortality.

Background and current status of this issue in underdeveloped countries

Majority of the underdeveloped countries in the world now face the severe issue of Infant mortality and Child mortality. Though various reasons can be attributed to the increase of mortality rates in these countries, water pollution assumes greater significance. The increasing number of the child mortality rate in African countries is quite alarming. However, one cannot ignore the vast number of the deaths reported even in the developing countries like India and Bahrain despite the fact that there is a slight decrease in the child mortality in the developing countries. A study conducted in Singapore after implementing pure sanitation system shows a significant decrease in child mortality. The report elucidates, “Child mortality fell by 55%, which suggests that water and sanitation have a substantial impact on child survival” (Esrey et.al.).This report points to the necessity of pure and hygienic water for sustaining human life. Water for personal and domestic hygiene was important in reducing the rates of ascariasis, diarrhoea, schistosomiasis, and trachoma (Esrey et.al.). These diseases are often recognized as root cause of child mortality. The study underlines the fact that sanitation facilities decreased diarrhea morbidity and mortality.

A report of the UNICEF, published in 2013 provides a clear picture of the fact. According to the report, “In 2013 the under-five mortality rate in low-income countries was 76 deaths per 1,000 live births—more than 12 times the average rate in high-income countries. Many countries still have very high rates—particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, home to all 12 countries with an under-five mortality rate of 100 deaths or more per 1,000 live births” (UNICEF 2014).

The UN Habitat has conducted a significant study on the causes of the premature death of children and identified that majority of the child mortality are due to water associated disease. Of the 10.4 million deaths of children under five, 17 per cent are attributed to diarrhoeal disease, i.e. an estimated 1.8 million under-fives die annually as a result of diarrhoeal diseases (UNEP & UN HABITAT 40). The study also proposes that for an estimated 88 per cent of diarrhoea cases the underlying cause is unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene (UNEP & UN HABITAT 40).

In majority of the Arab countries, the environmental issues like the wastage of the oil production, and the waste materials as part of the constructions create serious threats to the sanitation and hygiene. One of such examples can be cited from Bahrain where it marked an average of 8.7 per 1000 live births. Regarding this one can join with UN Habitat when it evaluated the child mortality rate of 8.7 per 1000 live births as relatively high for Bahrain, a country ranked 39 on the human development index (Esrey et.al). However, the child mortality stands much lower at 2.7 per 1000 live births indicative of improved preventative medical services (Esrey et.al.). The current status of Bahrain is indicative of its attempts to decrease child mortality rates. Nevertheless, Bahrain should certainly adopt strict measure to restrict the child mortality; else the country will be shifted to the status of under developed nations.

Bahrain should also be careful in using the water resources and it should save this for future. The Arab countries are now facing serious water scarcity, pollution and child mortality. A study over the present status of the Arab countries demonstrates it clearly when it says, “In addition to overexploitation, pollution from agricultural, industrial and domestic activities threatens the Arab region’s groundwater and surface water resources. As water quality deteriorates, water usability diminishes, reducing water supplies, intensifying water scarcity, increasing health risks and damaging the environment, including fragile ecosystems” (United Nations Development Programme 28). The study points out the imminent danger awaiting the Arab countries in the coming future, specifically focusing on the increasing health risks and environmental problems.

An overview of Bahrain in this context would make anyone realize this fact. As in the case of many other Arab countries, Bahrain does not have much water resources. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has identified that the groundwater in the Dammam aquifer is the only natural source of freshwater in Bahrain and the aquifer’s safe yield is about 110 million cubic metres per year, estimated as the steady-state underflow rate received from the equivalent aquifers upstream in eastern Saudi Arabia. (United Nations Development Programme 28). This is sure that the overuse of water resources will gradually lead to water scarcity, pollution and ultimately to various diseases and deaths.

Another difficulty related with this issue is the expenditure to produce and supply fresh water. As there is not much natural resources, most of the Arab countries face the severe threat of contaminated water contemptuous diseases. For Bahrain, the marginal cost is enormous— equal to producing about 110 million cubic metres per year of desalinated seawater or treated wastewater at an estimated cost of $160 million a year (United Nations Development Programme 28). Naturally, it causes for so many social as well as economic crises in the country. In addition, the loss of groundwater to salinization affects the country’s socio-economic development as well as agriculture and the environment (United Nations Development Programme 28).

Water pollution is at its peak in African countries ultimately resulting in many health problems, disease and death. In Africa water is daily used in homes and industries; about 700 m3 per person/year mainly from rivers and boreholes. This is well below the internationally fixed water poverty level of 1,000 m3 per year per person (Yanful 150). Current economics plans and industries show that it will add more drinking water scarcity and pollution if proper solutions are not suggested.

The previous literature regarding this issue shows that infant and child mortality rate is higher in South Asia where it still accounts for one-third of the burden of global under-five deaths (Okigbo 179).

The causes and effects of this issue

Analyzing the causes of this issue, one can see that water pollution or the use of the contaminate water causes for many health problems and death. It is recognized that there are four groups of diseases as a result of the unhealthy use of water. Nowadays it is commonly understood that clean water may prevent the spread of waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, which are directly transmitted when water contaminated by faeces or urine is drunk or used in the preparation of food; increased quantity and access to water may reduce the impact of water-washed diseases, like the common diarrhoeal diseases, which are transmitted by faecal-oral routes other than the ingestion of contaminated water, by providing the opportunity to improve hygiene: washing hands, face, eyes, cooking utensils, and cleaning floors (Poppel & Heijden). The use of contaminated or polluted water during pregnancy or after child birth have been identified as adversely affecting the physical health of the child and if proper care is not given there are chances of immature deaths.

The words of Bradley makes it clear when he writes, “Improved water may lead to decreased contact with unsafe water sources, which decreases the impact of water-based-diseases, where water provides the habitat for intermediate host organisms in which some parasites spend part of their life cycle; and of water related diseases like malaria, where water provides a habitat for insect vectors of disease” (Bradley 17). So there should be sincere attempts assure the availability of clean and fresh water which can sustain human life on earth.


The study on the effects of water pollution on child mortality rates in underdeveloped countries leads to the following conclusions. First of all, after the study it is crystal clear that unpolluted water is essential to sustain human life on earth. Water rate of water pollution is higher nowadays so that we are more exposed to death and disease. When water pollution refers to the contamination of water by a foreign body, infant and child mortality refer to the deaths of children below five. The study has also proved that the child mortality rates are higher in the underdeveloped and developing countries where there is the lack of proper sanitation and hygiene. Though majority of the waterborne diseases and death rates are commonly found in the African continents, some developing countries like India and Bahrain and the developed county like China have the higher rates of child mortality. Among the counties having the highest rate of child mortality are Afghanistan, Mali and Somalia.

The study has exposed that the tons of sewage, agricultural and industrial wastage bumped into the water sources contaminate the water and thus causing for many chronic as well as contemptuous diseases and ultimately leading to infant and mortality. The main water associated diseases are diarrhea, malaria, cholera and so on. Majority of these diseases are contemptuous diseases which can be prevented only through proper treatment and care.

The study has also identified that the global rate of child mortality is lessening because of strict actions taken by the organizations like, W.H.O, UNICEF, UNDP, and so on. In countries like Bahrain where they lacked natural resources of water, they had to depend on artificial methods to purify water. This causes for huge expenses and will not be possible in the long run. Thus, the study is concluded on the grounds that water pollution has severe impacts on infant and child mortality and there should be sincere attempts from the part of the world nations to assure the better health of the future generation.

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