400 million children deprived of safe water
On Eve of World Water Day, Children Deliver Urgent Call for Change
The call to action was delivered to government ministers by young participants in the Children’s World Water Forum (CWWF), at the close of the 4th World Water Forum in
More than 100 child water activists from the world’s poorest countries and industrialised nations attended the CWWF, a unique platform for children’s views and voices on water.
“Waterborne illness kills a child every fifteen seconds and underlies much of the world’s disease and malnutrition,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said in
The CCWF was co-organized by UNICEF, the Mexican Institute of Water Technology, the Japan Water Forum and the U.S.-based water organisation Project WET. Many of the young people participating in the forum have overcome great odds to improve water and hygiene conditions in their own communities, where safe water is a priceless luxury.
“Where I live, many children are out of school because of diseases they catch from their drinking water or from their unwashed hands,” said Dolly Akhter, a 16 year-old hygiene educator from a
Children pay the highest price for an unhygienic world where over 1 billion people struggle without safe water and a staggering one in three lacks even a basic toilet. Ordinary diarrhoea sickens more children under five than any other illness, killing 4,500 children every day (the second highest single cause of child deaths) and pushing many times that number to the very brink of survival.
Major social needs such as education are closely linked to safe water and hygiene. Waterborne diseases sap children’s energy and ability to learn. Every day, a large number of children in developing countries are missing school because of diseases like diarrhoea and intestinal worms. And without decent, private sanitation facilities at school, many girls find attendance impossible.
A child growing up in these conditions has little chance of escaping poverty, Veneman said. Human potential is drained out of poor communities by constant death and disease. Chronic under-development is the inevitable result. It is estimated that days missed at work or school translate into approximately $63 billion in lost global productivity every year.
UNICEF is sponsoring young people from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America to bring their stories of courage against water and sanitation deprivation to the CWWF; stories like Dolly Akhter’s hygiene education programme in a Bangladesh slum, teaching local schoolchildren how to keep their hands and homes clean, and 11 year-old Ojulo Okello’s struggle in the wake of Ethiopia’s civil strife to bring toilets and safe water to his school. These children and 13,000 others are being asked to share their experiences on UNICEF’s Voices of Youth interactive website.
Different regions, different water challenges
The children’s stories reflect the wide range of water challenges facing their native regions.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, decades of conflict, poor land management and the grip of this latest vicious drought in the southern half of the continent has left most children facing a desperate water shortage. Over 42 per cent of the population has no access to safe water and only 36 per cent have a toilet. This region is the only one lagging on both its water and sanitation development goals.
In South and
In Central and Eastern Europe, water reserves are shrinking in the wake of environmental change, and national water systems are struggling to cope. With severe imbalances in access and a lack of regional co-operation to manage the existing water resources, the poorest children are being left far behind.
Veneman said World Water Day (22 March) is a chance to measure our progress towards the global pledge to halve the proportion of people without safe water and basic sanitation by 2015 – the seventh Millennium Development Goal. Keeping this promise means making children the focus of national water planning and policies, bringing the swiftest improvements in overall national health and education rates.
UNICEF and water : Since the 1960s, UNICEF has been on the ground delivering safe water, sanitation and hygiene education to children in over 90 countries in Africa, Asia and the
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The Children's World Water Forum
Get more information about the 2nd Children’s World Water Forum
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