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Ethiopia, 22 March 2013: Clean water, sanitation and a hygienic environment, crucial for children

Addis Ababa, 22 March 2013 – As the world celebrates World Water Day today, UNICEF urges governments, civil society and ordinary citizens to remember that behind the statistics are the faces of children. 

Globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoeal diseases and of these some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. 

“Sometimes we focus so much on the big numbers, that we fail to see the human tragedies that underlie each statistic,” says Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme. 

“If 90 school buses filled with kindergartners were to crash every day, with no survivors, the world would take notice. But this is precisely what happens every single day because of poor water, sanitation and hygiene.” 

Almost 90 per cent of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene. Despite a burgeoning global population, these deaths have come down significantly over the last decade, from 1.2 million per year in 2000 to about 760,000 a year in 2011. UNICEF says that is still too many. 

In Ethiopia, an estimated 22 per cent of children under five die because of diarrhoeal diseases. Diarrhoea prevalence is highest among children residing in households that drink from unprotected wells (18 per cent), those residing in rural areas (14 per cent), and children residing in Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella (both 23 per cent), which are two of the Developing Regional States. 

Ethiopia is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target related to water, where 62 per cent of the population should access improved sources of drinking water by 2015. According to the 2011 Demographic Health Survey (EDHS), more than half of the households (54 per cent) have access to an improved source of drinking water, compared to 35 per cent in 2005 and 25 per cent only in 2000. 

However, the country is lagging behind on sanitation target. While the MDG target for access to improved sanitation facilities is 58 per cent, only 8.3 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation. Encouragingly, 61.6 per cent of the population has access to some form of sanitation facilities. 

Children in school are especially vulnerable as the National Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Inventory data shows that only 33 per cent of school have improved sanitation facilities for students and teachers, and only 31 per cent have access to water.

“Sanitary and hygienic environments are crucial for pupils, but the lack of such facilities in schools has a stronger negative impact on girls than on boys. Girls need safe, clean, separate and private sanitation facilities in their schools,” said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia. UNICEF working with the Government is supporting the provision of WASH in schools through 

UNICEF’s global “Child Friendly Schools” (CFS) concept, which is designed to improve the quality of education. UNICEF’s CFS principles were integrated in the government’s General Education Quality Improvement Programme (GEQIP) 2007. In addition a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been recently signed between four key Ministries (Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Water; and Energy and Ministry of Education). This is major landmark which shows commitment to improve coordination and implementation of the One National WASH Programme in Ethiopia in line with the WASH Implementation Framework in in Ethiopia. 

UNICEF urges citizens, parents, teachers, health workers, policy makers and government officials to play their role in making sure that every child receives the benefits of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in schools, in their communities and that every patient and care giver receives the benefits of WASH in Health facilities. 

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UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. 

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: 

In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than half the world’s governments have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival. 

For further information, please contact: 

Alexandra (Sacha) Westerbeek, Communication Manager, UNICEF Ethiopia
Tel.: +251 11 518 4039, Mobile: +251 911 255109, email: 

Wossen Mulatu, Communication Officer, UNICEF Ethiopia,
Tel.: +251 115 184028, Mobile: +251 911 308483, email:



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