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Rap star Jay-Z’s video diary to spotlight water crisis in Angola and worldwide

© UNICEF Angola/2006/Stark-Merklein
US rapper Jay-Z, on a visit to Angola, speaks to Bela, 14, a student who lives in the municipality of Rangel. The family’s makeshift house has no sanitation or running water.

By Brigitte Stark-Merklein

LUANDA, Angola, 11 October 2006 – Hip-hop idol Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter, presently on an international concert tour, made a stop in Angola to produce the first segment of ‘Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life’, a video special being produced by MTV.

The video is part of a joint initiative between MTV and the United Nations to call attention to the plight of billions of people worldwide who lack access to safe water and sanitation.

MTV cameras are accompanying Jay-Z as he visits areas affected by the world water crisis and learns about possible solutions. Here, they followed him to Primary School 513 and the home of one of the students in Rangel Municipality.

As in many neighbourhoods in the capital, the streets of Rangel are strewn with garbage, and children have to jump over a river of sewage and puddles of foul water to enter the schoolyard. Water from the city’s piped system runs only a few times a week, and many houses don’t have any running water at all.

Cholera outbreak

Appalling conditions such as those in Rangel contributed to the quick spread of a cholera outbreak that hit Angola earlier this year, killing almost 2,000 people – a third of them children under the age of five.

© UNICEF Angola/2006/Stark-Merklein
Jay-Z being filmed by an MTV crew as he inspects old latrines at Primary School 513.

Diarrhoea, worms and other water-related diseases are rampant and contribute to Angola’s sad distinction as a country with one of the world’s highest under-five mortality rates (one in every four children dies before reaching his or her first birthday). About 20 per cent of these deaths are related to cases of diarrhoea.

Jay-Z was clearly shocked by the conditions at the school. The dilapidated building has not been repaired since it was built 26 years ago, and the toilets have never had running water. It also lacks sufficient light, ventilation and hand-washing facilities.

Witness to school repairs

Thanks to the Schools for Africa Initiative (a partnership between the Hamburg Society, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and UNICEF to build and rehabilitate schools in six African countries), Primary School 513 is finally being repaired. A new roof will soon replace the perforated ceiling that keeps children out of school when it rains.

In addition, UNICEF recently installed brand new latrines with running water, and Jay-Z witnessed how the children – for the first time in their school lives – flushed the toilet and washed their hands with soap over the new sinks.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s 2006 and this is still happening. We are not talking about a luxury. We are talking about water, the most basic of needs.”

Legacy of war

Almost 30 years of war have left Angola’s infrastructure in a shambles. The water, sanitation and education sectors have been hit especially hard. Up to 50 per cent of Angolans do not have access to safe water, and only 30 per cent have adequate sanitation facilities.  Between 1992 and 1996 alone, 1,500 classrooms were destroyed by the war.

Unlike the school Jay-Z toured, hardly any of the country’s other schools have acceptable toilet facilities – a major factor in the high drop-out rate of girls.

Jay-Z also visited the home of Bela Neto, 14, a student at Primary School 513. Her family’s makeshift house has no sanitation or running water. Bela showed Jay-Z where she buys water and how she purifies it for drinking purposes, using chlorination tablets and safe-water containers provided by UNICEF.

The rapper’s upcoming ‘Water for Life’ video diary aims to educate young people who may not be aware of the water crisis and inspire them to take action. The programme – which will air 24 November 2006 on MTV channels in 179 countries – is part of MTV’s ongoing initiatives to involve young people in global issues.



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