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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

World Water Day and the need for global action on safe water and sanitation

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1076/Nesbitt
Boys carry buckets of water to clean the latrines at Kadadaba Primary School in Kadadaba, Nigeria. Efforts to improve sanitation access continue to show progress across the country.

NEW YORK, 19 March 2009 – As World Water Day 2009 approaches on 22 March, UNICEF-supported water, sanitation and hygiene projects are working to improve child health and survival in more than 90 developing countries.

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Globally, an estimated 125 million children under the age of five live in households without access to a safe drinking-water source. Even more people – a total of more than 2.5 billion around the world – are living without proper sanitation.

Focus on water in Africa

About a third of the total world population deprived of safe water lives in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Central African Republic, fully three quarters of the population has no access to adequate sanitation. The situation is particularly dire in the camps where thousands of refugees from regional and cross-border conflicts are settled.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0418/Pirozzi
Girls tote their infant siblings while carrying water from a local hand pump, in the town of Boda in the Central African Republic.

UNICEF USA Ambassador and rock musician Joel Madden summed up the situation during a trip to one camp where nearly half of the children who die before the age of five are killed by diarrhoeal disease.

"I'm no better than they are," he said after spending the day in Sam Ouandja camp. "I was just born in a country where I can have clean water, and that's just the standard. We have [safe water] right in our house. They have to walk 15 minutes with a wheelbarrow to get water."

Tap Project makes an impact

But for people fortunate enough to live where safe water and sanitation are taken for granted, there are ways to help children and families for whom these things require wheelbarrows and time. The Tap Project, initiated by the US Fund for UNICEF and partners, is one of them.

Working from the knowledge that just $1 can provide safe drinking water for a child for 40 days, the project asks diners in restaurants across the United States to donate $1 for the tap water that is generally provided for free. Currently more than 2,300 restaurants throughout the country are participating.

All the funds are used to support UNICEF's efforts to halve the number of people without safe water and sanitation worldwide by 2015.

"Inaction on water issues is not an option," said UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Clarissa Brocklehurst. "Access to clean water and sanitation is fundamental to every aspect of a child's life – from health to survival and dignity."




March 2009: UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on water and sanitation in the Central African Republic and the chance to help through the Tap Project.
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