Ethnic inequalities in access to WASH in Bangladesh

Elsevier, The Lancet Global Health, Volume 10, August 2022
Alam M.Z.

The human right to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is at the core of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 (clean water and sanitation) and indirectly related to SDGs 3 (good health and well-being) and 10 (reduced inequalities).1 Sufficient, safe, culturally acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water and sanitation facilities should be available without discrimination. WASH also became important in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the main measures of protection in Bangladesh.2

Tribal people and minority ethnic groups comprise 1·1% of Bangladesh's total population.3 Their residence is divided into “indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts” with at least 11 indigenous groups and “‘indigenous peoples of the plains” with at least 21 indigenous groups.3 Many minority ethnic groups are deprived of fundamental socioeconomic rights and experience discrimination, land extortion, ethnic prejudice, poor health, and poor nutritional status.3 Although in Bangladesh 23·2% of the population lives below the national poverty line and 67·9% is literate, some of the hardcore poor people are found among minority ethnic groups, with 70% of minority ethnic households (ie, twice the national average) earning less than the minimum food requirements set for Bangladesh.3 The educational situation among minority ethnic groups is quite poor, with only 9% being literate and 2% having completed secondary education.3 Fewer data are available for these minority ethnic groups than for the Bengali population, which is a form of discrimination, because researchers and the Bangladeshi Government are not including these groups in their work or policies. These factors together create inequalities in access to WASH among minority ethnic groups and the Bengali population (figure).