Improved sanitation and water access could prevent 77,000 childhood deaths each year in India, according to new CDDEP study

September 8, 2016

Improved sanitation and water access could prevent more than 50 million episodes of diarrheal disease and save more than $400 million in medical treatment expenditure each year.

India accounts for a fifth of the global deaths of children under the age of five years, topping the list of contributors to this burden. More than 300,000 under-five children in India die from diarrheal diseases each year, with an associated economic loss of (in 2013 US$) $13 billion, or 1.5 percent of gross domestic product.

A detailed model-based study by researchers at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), based in Washington DC and New Delhi, published in Social Science & Medicine, predicts that scaling up access to piped water and improved sanitation could avert nearly 50 million episodes of diarrheal disease and 77,000 deaths among the 113 million under-five children in India each year. It would also save families more than $400 million in out-of-pocket treatment costs. Scaling up services to reach about 95 percent of families would cost a total of $4.5 billion.

According to CDDEP Director Ramanan Laxminarayan, “We are not saying that scaling up is a simple task—many obstacles must be overcome. However, the Government of India has taken this as a priority and has invested substantial sums already. Appreciating the huge payoff in terms of children’s lives should further encourage the Government and the public to support more aggressive efforts, especially to bridge the gap between access to sanitation and its use. A great thing is that the benefits are extremely progressive, with the poorest citizens and poorest states gaining the most, both in lives and finances.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend a seven-point plan to challenge childhood diarrhea, with three of the seven strategies related to hygiene: “Promotion of handwashing with soap”, “Improved water supply quantity and quality, including treatment and safe storage of household water,” and “Community-wide sanitation promotion.”

The article in Social Science & Medicine can be found here:


About the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy

The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) produces independent, multidisciplinary research to advance the health and wellbeing of human populations around the world. CDDEP projects are global in scope, spanning Africa, Asia, and North America and include scientific studies and policy engagement. The CDDEP team is experienced in addressing country-specific and regional issues, as well as the local and global aspects of global challenges, such as antibiotic resistance and pandemic influenza. CDDEP research is notable for innovative approaches to design and analysis, which are shared widely through publications, presentations and web-based programs. CDDEP has offices in Washington, D.C. and New Delhi and relies on a distinguished team of scientists, public health experts and economists.

Authors: Arindam Nandi, Itamar Megiddo, Ashvin Ashok, Amit Verma, Ramanan Laxminarayan


8 Sep 2016