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Safe Water Out Of Reach For Almost 1 Billion People

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The UN Children's Fund is warning that access to water is becoming more challenging every year due to a rising water demand and unreliable availability.

With almost one billion people lacking access to safe water, World Water Week (16-22 August) serves as a forum for global leaders and experts to share innovative solutions on water-related issues and its impact on poverty, health, education, gender equality and the environment.

Access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and improved hygiene is crucial for infants and children to get the best possible start in life. Every day some 4,500 children die before their fifth birthday due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

For school-aged children water supply, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools have a profound impact on school attendance and retention. An easily accessible water source close to the home will free up girls from the often laborious, and time consuming task of fetching water thus allowing them to take their rightful place in the classroom.

Simple, affordable and effective interventions such as handwashing with soap and water help reduce the incidence diarrheal morbidity - the second biggest killer of children under five - by up to 47 per cent.

It is encouraging that 87 per cent of the global population or approximately 5.7 billion people worldwide have access to safe drinking water, much remains to be done, particularly as water stress grows due to increasing demand and the impacts of climate change.

Global economic turmoil along with an increase in emergencies has left millions, particularly women and children, without basic services including access to water and adequate sanitation and hygiene. Climate change will further exacerbate this situation.

In many countries, UNICEF is the only agency to work on all levels; from local communities to international agencies. This broad spectrum of access allows for customized and sustainable interventions/change. UNICEF places an increased emphasis on water access, and quality in conjunction with sanitation and hygiene programmes -- providing an accelerated response during emergencies.

Maximum child survival and development benefits are only realized when water supply, sanitation and hygiene programmes are successfully incorporated into national policy formulation. Governments must integrate water into their development agenda recognizing that a policy of common good must appreciate the rural/urban, rich/poor divide.

The United Nations declared 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action 'Water for Life' realizing that achieving the millennium development targets for water and sanitation have wide-ranging benefits including yielding greater socio-economic returns via improved health, a productive workforce, and educated children. NZ donors are supporting UNICEF water-related projects in countries such as the Solomon Islands, Laos and Ghana.

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