Communities Challenged to Reduce Risk of Water-Borne Diseases


Peter Knight, Director of the Environmental Health Unit in the Ministry of Health, has challenged communities to devise strategies to reduce the risk of water-borne diseases, which caused millions of illnesses and deaths worldwide annually.
Mr. Knight, who was addressing the recently held Water and Sanitation Conference in Trelawny, said that one simple strategy that residents could undertake, was to promote good sanitary practices such as hand washing, encourage the safe disposal of human waste and minimise the opportunities for the breeding of mosquitoes, rats and other vermin.
“Basic low-cost sanitation systems can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by up to 30 per cent. As a Ministry, we see nothing wrong with the use of pit latrines…we would be happy if there are communities that have a solution, not necessarily a water carriage solution, but a basic system which can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea… hand washing is also seen as one of the major barriers of disease prevention,” he stated.
Among the diseases caused by unsafe water is gastroenteritis, which some 39,464 Jamaicans were reported to have contracted last year. Of this total, 14,182 cases involved children less than five years of age, while 25,282 cases involved children over five years old. “You see that our children, those under five and those over five, are the individuals that this problem impacts on mostly,” Mr. Knight pointed out.
He also revealed that for the period January 1 to April 16, there were 6,393 reported cases of gastroenteritis, with 2,729 cases among children under five years and 3,364 involving children over five years.
Mr. Knight informed further, that with 10 reported cases of typhoid fever last year, the Ministry of Health was paying particular attention to that disease.
The WASH conference, which was held on April 26 and April 27, brought together representatives of ten Benevolent Societies from across the island, which are implementing water supply projects in their respective communities. The Benevolent Societies shared their experiences, strategies, challenges and responsibilities as Community Water Organisations (CWOs), and sought to find, through this exchange, the most effective methods for dealing with the challenges of providing safe water and proper sanitation.
Mr. Knight further informed that while water quality is important, copious amounts of water is equally important.
“It is good for individuals to have safe, clean water but people must have water in abundance that they can do what they need to such as washing of hands and the various other sanitation practices,” he said.
In closing, the Environmental Health Unit Director cautioned the participating community members and WASH promoters to think about simple solutions and strategies to protect public health and the environment as these are the easiest to implement and are oftentimes, the most effective.

JIS Social