Almost 4 lakh diarrhoeal disease deaths can be averted if JJM meets target: WHO study
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New Delhi: Almost 4 lakh diarrhoeal disease deaths can be averted if Jal Jeevan Mission’ meets its target of providing clean water to all rural households, according to a new study by the World Health Organisation.

The government launched the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in 2019, a nationwide programme that aims to provide all houses in rural areas with safe and adequate drinking water through individual tap connections by next year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was requested by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to conduct a study to assess potential health gains and associated cost savings due to increased access in safely-managed drinking water services in India.

The study found that, on an estimate, if the Jal Jeevan Mission provided safely-managed drinking water to all of India, this would result in averting almost 4 lakh deaths caused by diarrhoeal disease.

According to official figures, till now 62 per cent rural households have been provided with tap water connection.

“With universal coverage of safely-managed drinking water in India, almost 14 million DALYS (Disability adjusted life years) from the diarrhoeal disease are estimated to be averted, resulting in estimated cost savings of up to USD 101 billion,” the study said.

Also, the study said that providing a tap connection to every household would result in significant time saved on water collection (66.6 million hours each day), especially among women.

Presenting the research findings, Richard Johnston, co-lead of WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, said if the world achieves its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets of drinking water and sanitation, it will be because of India.

“There are two reasons for it — population and size — as India is the country with the largest population in the world so what happens in India is important for the world but it is also because India is demonstrating what can be done and what is possible when it makes commitments and investments,” he said.

Dr Rajiv Bahl, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, said these findings are plausible.

“We must understand that these are gross underestimates of the total benefits of providing safe water not only because these benefits go beyond health and they affect many communicable and non-communicable diseases. And even malnutrition, which is a big issue for us as they are all also related to water, so we must consider these just modest assumptions and tip of the iceberg,” Bahl said.

WHO estimation of health impacts is based on comparative risk assessment (CRA) methods, which are used extensively in the burden of disease assessments (Ezzati 2002, Pruss-Ustun 2019).

The analysis estimated potential health gains from the Mission by comparing two scenarios.

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The JJM scenario assumed that coverage of safely managed drinking water services in India increases linearly from baseline levels to 100 per cent coverage at the end of the programme, whereas, the business-as-usual scenario assumed improvements in coverage rates are in line with historical annual rates of 0.5 percentage points change per year.

For the economic analysis, the value per DALY averted from the JJM initiative was based on an approach described in the 2001 report of the WHO’s Commission on Macroeconomics and Health which assigned each life year a value of three times the GDP per capita.

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