World Water Day: children can help bring solutions
A boy and a young girl on their way to carry water in Gondola, Manica province. Domestic work can affect children physical and education development.
Maputo, 22 March 2006- Under the theme Water and Culture, World Water Day 2006 highlights the many ways water is used and celebrated across the world.
This year, World Water Day coincides with the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico City, from 16-22 March, where world leaders are gathered to discuss solutions to the global water crisis. The meeting also gave children a voice in the world water debate. As part of a Children World Water Forum, more than 100 children from across the world participated in the debates with government ministers to discuss what children can do to help solve the world’s growing water crisis.
In Mozambique, the main World Water Day event will take place in Zambézia, the province with the poorest water supply in the country– only 14 per cent of the population there have access to safe drinking water.
Why water, sanitation and hygiene?
- Lack of safe water and basic sanitation is a global emergency. One sixth of all people, over 1.1 billion, struggle daily without safe water. And 2.6 billion people – one in three - lack even the most basic toilet.
- These appalling living conditions are a leading cause of illness in the world. Diarrhoea, a mere inconvenience in developed countries, is in fact one of the most under-estimated and under-reported public health crisis on earth. Every day it incapacitates millions, sending health costs soaring and draining global productivity and education rates.
- Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the lowest water and sanitation coverage rates in the world. Over 42 per cent of the population in the region has no access to safe water and only 36 per cent have access to sanitation facilities. Seven of the 20 countries with the most child deaths are found here, with waterborne infections like diarrhoea a major contributing factor.
- Getting children involved in water and hygiene projects is critical. In many poor communities, children are leading the fight against water-related illness. By teaching families and friends to wash their hands, children can help reduce diarrhoea cases in their neighbourhoods by up to 40 per cent. Children’s improvement of school sanitation facilities has helped bring more girls into school. In poor communities across the world, children have also been first in line to organize hand washing facilities, persuade parents and neighbours to build latrines and demand better services from governments.
- Unsafe water and poor hygiene impacts children first, and worst. It has a devastating impact on every aspect of a child’s life, from survival and development to education.
- Diarrhoea sickens and kills more children in developing countries than any other disease. Globally, it is the second largest single cause of child mortality, killing 4,500 children under five every day.
- Waterborne diseases are responsible for much of the world’s diseases and malnutrition. Globally, over 4 billion episodes of diarrhoea every year push children’s bodies to the brink of survival. Over 220 million children are infected with intestinal worms, which drain them of nutrients and cause wasting and stunting. Every year, these diseases cripple health systems and condemn millions of children to a life of permanent disabilities and lost potential.
- Children’s education suffers, particularly for girls. Every day, classrooms across the developing world are missing pupils who are sick with waterborne diseases. Without adequate water sanitation facilities at school, attendance can be impossible for girls.
- Reaching MDG targets on water and sanitation depends on better access for children. Centring national water policies and plans on children is the swiftest route to boost access for all.
A girl helping her sick grandmother to carry water in Changara district, Tete province.
Mozambique has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world – 178 children (per 1,000 live births) die before reaching the age of five. A considerable number of these deaths are due to waterborne diseases. Lack of access to safe water and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions are one of the major causes of diarrhoea. Less than 40 per cent of the population has access to clean and safe drinking water. Only 48.3 per cent have access to improved sanitation facilities. Zambézia is the worse province, followed by Niassa, Nampula and Inhambane, where only one in every three people has access to safe water.
UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion programme in Mozambique aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality due to diseases associated with inadequate water supply and sanitation as well as poor hygiene practices. The programme also aims to promote girl’s education by reducing the time and energy they spent in activities related to water collection. Some of the main achievements in 2005 include:
- 93, 000 people gained access to safe drinking water and 38,000 people gained access to adequate household sanitation facilities in rural and peri-urban areas of Zambézia, Gaza, Maputo and Sofala provinces.
- 27,000 primary school children gained access to child-friendly sanitation and hygiene facilities.
- 177 new water points provide access to safe drinking water.
- Since 2002 Child-to-Child Sanitation Committees have been introduced in 258 schools.
- A new National Water Policy was prepared, addressing several critical issues such as sanitation, HIV/AIDS, hygiene and sustainability issues. In Zambézia, the province with the poorest water supply in Mozambique, UNICEF is supporting the development of the Provincial Master Plan for rural water and sanitation. The project has a decentralized approach and involves communities in the planning and implementation process in line with the National Water Policy guidelines. The good achievements of the project are to be replicated in other provinces of Mozambique.