Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

World Water Day 2005: 4,000 children die each day from a lack of safe water

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ04-0440/Nesbitt
A girl balances a bucket of water on her head, standing with other children in a camp for people forced to flee their homes in the town of Kass in southern Darfur.

NEW YORK, 20 March 2005 – Two buckets of safe water a day – 20 litres – is the bare minimum a child needs to live.  This is enough for drinking and eating, washing and basic sanitation. But some 4000 children die every day, because they simply don’t have access to an adequate supply of clean water.

“Clean water is an inviolable right, not a privilege,” says UNICEF’s Executive Director Carol Bellamy.

After the Indian Ocean tsunami, contaminated water supplies and infrastructure destruction threatened the lives of many survivors of the disaster. UNICEF and partners rushed in with simple interventions, including hygiene kits and water pumps. Hundreds of thousands of people have benefited.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ05-0240/Pirozzi
A boy in the Maldives carries collapsible water containers, which are included in UNICEF basic family water kits. UNICEF has distributed thousands of kits to tsunami-affected families.

World Water Day 2005, 20 March 2005, comes about three months after the tsunami. UNICEF wants water to be at the forefront of people’s minds again. The organization says the international community must step up efforts to bring clean water and sanitation to the poorest families, or risk not meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half, by 2015, the number of people (1 billion) who don’t have a safe water supply within fifteen minutes walk of their home.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 43 per cent of children drink unsafe water and one in five die before their fifth birthday. A lack of clean water and basic sanitation is responsible for 1.6 million preventable child deaths each year. Millions more children suffer from waterborne illnesses, such as typhoid, worms and diarrhoea.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ04-0935/Noorani
Two small girls fetch water at a handpump, at a UNICEF-assisted water point in the Riyad

UNICEF is working with communities around the world, installing latrines and water pumps. These improvements typically show immediate results, in the form of improvements in child health and attendance at school. Community education about basic sanitation and hygiene also has a dramatic effect on reducing both mortality and poverty.

“Children forced to drink unsafe water and live in unsanitary conditions cannot thrive,” says Bellamy. “But when their lives are protected, their families are strengthened and their own children are likely to be born with better prospects. It’s the surest, shortest, smartest route to a more hopeful future.”

2005 also sees the start of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life” – an effort to bring safe water and basic sanitation into homes and schools worldwide.


 

 

Video

19 March 2005:
On World Water Day 2005, UNICEF highlights the implications of a lack of safe water around the world.

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