Water free from hepatitis A virus is a human right

20 Mar 2019 Isabel Bull

22nd March is World Water Day, an annual global awareness day to highlight the importance of safe water. Many people across the world are suffering due to unsafe water and water shortages. In particular dirty water can cause hepatitis A infection, leading to devastating consequences for some of the world’s most marginalised communities.

Globally, there are 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A cases each year. Unlike hepatitis B and C, infection from hepatitis A does not causes chronic liver disease. Whilst there is no cure for hepatitis A, infection usually clears the body within a few weeks. There is also a hepatitis A vaccine.

This does not mean that hepatitis cannot be extremely harmful, though. It can cause incapacitating symptoms and lead to acute liver failure, which can result in death. What’s more, short term symptoms can be very unpleasant for those infected, hampering day-to-day living.

Hepatitis A is primarily spread through eating contaminated foods or consuming unsafe water. Therefore with adequate sanitation and available safe water, infection is easily prevented and lives can be saved.

In India, hepatitis A infection is particularly prevalent. Our member in India, Public Awareness for Healthful Approach for Living (PAHAL), focuses its work on stopping the spread of this disease. Read on to find out what they’re doing.

 

By Dr Diwakar Tejaswi, PAHAL

Hepatitis A is very prevalent in India. It is one of the most common strains of the hepatitis virus in our country. Many regions don’t have potable water supply systems and many people don’t practise safe food hygiene. 

Generally there are no drinkable water supply systems in rural areas and there is poor sanitation in urban, concentrated spaces, with decades old pipelines for both sewage disposal and water supply.

To combat this we are trying to educate people about hepatitis A. We organise Hepatitis Awareness camps, at different intervals, at the slums of Patna and nearby rural villages to raise awareness of Hepatitis A, its mode of transmission, and the importance of hand washing and community hygiene. We target both those who live in the urban slums and nearby rural populations.

We also explain the advantages of the hepatitis A vaccination and we refer vulnerable populations to medical professionals to receive this vaccine.

On a larger scale, proper potable water supplies are needed across India to combat our hepatitis A epidemic. Greater awareness regarding personal and community hygiene and mass vaccinations of vulnerable peoples against hepatitis A are also needed too.

We must remember that whoever you are, wherever you are safe water is a human right.