Water and Health

Most Common Waterborne Diseases in Bangladesh (and How to Prevent Them)

The need for clean drinkable water is something that is a global health concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that globally about 1.8 million people die from diarrheal diseases annually, many of which have been linked to diseases acquired from the consumption of contaminated water. Diarrheal diseases are the most common of the water-borne diseases, but the illness caused by dirty drinking water is not exclusive to diarrheal diseases. These diseases are more common in the equatorial regions like Bangladesh. 

Waterborne diseases are those diseases that are transmitted through the direct drinking of water contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. Contaminated drinking water when used in the preparation of food can be the source of foodborne disease through the consumption of the same microorganisms.

What are the symptoms?

Waterborne illnesses come in many forms. The brunt of the diseases may range from slight discomfort to severe fatal infections. In Bangladesh symptoms often arise as stomachache, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, and skin, ear, respiratory, or eye problems. These affect both the rural and urban populations in equal measure. Children and people with lower immunity (such as old people, people suffering from other illnesses) are more devastatingly impacted than their other family members.

How are the diseases spread?

A variety of bacteria cause these waterborne diseases. Often fecal contamination and subsequent drinking of this contaminated water allow the bacteria to enter the body and cause diseases. The ones that predominantly affect Bangladeshis are:

·         Diarrhea & Gastroenteritis

·         Typhoid

·         Dysentery

·         Cholera

·         Meningitis

Rural and Urban demographic differences

According to WHO, over 80 percent of people with unimproved drinking water live in rural areas. The rural dwellers often source their drinking water either from deep tube wells or from natural water bodies like rivers and streams. For more than a decade now, we have come to know that most of the tube wells are contaminated with deadly arsenic. The urban citizens often source their water from government-mandated water systems which are slightly safer. However, in developing countries like Bangladesh, the state of water treatment facilities is contentious. Both the city and village dwellers think that boiling water is enough to purify it. This is completely wrong.


By now, you must understand the often life-altering implication of water-borne diseases. So, we move onto the crucial step of the prevention of these diseases. As we all know prevention is better than cure. Prevention of these diseases are not cost-effective compared to cure, but it is also very simple and can be adapted in our daily routine.

Always check for visible dirt and color change to ensure that the water is visibly clean and free of any silt or sand. Filter water to take out solid particles

Do not drink untreated water. Drink water that has been purified to kill any harmful microorganisms present. Store drinking water in a safe place with a closed lid. Do not drink water that has been standing for a long time. Microorganisms, invisible to the naked eye, may grow in them.

Practice excellent hand hygiene, washing hands thoroughly with soap after using the toilet, before preparing food and before eating.

Ensure all food is washed, cleaned, and thoroughly cooked to kill harmful bacteria and other harmful germs that may be present. A good and effective water filter is going to be very useful to counter waterborne diseases.

Last, but not the least, water-borne diseases continue to jeopardize the lives of many and also have an overall social and economic cost to the country. Just through adapting a few simple good habits, we can collectively minimize the spread of this type of illness.


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