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close this bookFact sheet No 122: Cities and Emerging or Re-emerging Diseases in the XXIst Century - June 1996 (WHO, 1996, 3 p.)
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View the documentCities and Emerging or Re-Emerging Diseases in the XXIst Century
View the documentEmerging and Re-Emerging Diseases
View the documentEnvironmental Health
View the documentThe Health of Women and Children in Tomorrow’s City

Environmental Health

Every year more than 5 million people die of illnesses linked to unsafe drinking water, improper excreta disposal and unclean domestic environments - again, most of them in the South. Diarrhoeal diseases remain among the most prominent causes of premature death and illness in many urban areas. The proportion of urban dwellers with provision for piped water and sanitation has improved considerably since the first UN Conference on Human Settlements, Habitat I, was held 20 years ago. However, with the rapid increase in urban populations, the absolute number of people not served by water supplies and sanitation has increased, not declined. In 1994, close to 300 million urban dwellers still had no proper water supply. Similarly, more than 600 million urban dwellers lack provision for sanitation which is easily accessible, reduces the possibility of human contact with human excreta, and is easy to maintain.

WHO guidelines or national air quality standards are oftentimes not met, and more than 1.5 billion urban dwellers are exposed to levels of ambient air pollution which are above the recommended maximum levels. Worldwide, about 400 000 additional deaths are attributable each year to air pollution. Air pollution control, the implications and priorities of which vary from country to country, involves coordination among sectors such as industrial development, city planning, water resources development and transport policies.