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2009 World Water Week: "Responding to Global Changes: Accessing Water for the Common Good”

Leaders and experts gather in Stockholm to take stock of water-related issues

STOCKHOLM, 16 August 2009 - Access to water is becoming more challenging every year due to a rising water demand and unreliable availability. With almost one billion people lacking access to safe water, the annual World Water Week (16-22 August) serves as a forum for global leaders and experts to share innovative solutions on water-related issues and its impact on poverty, health, education, gender equality and the environment.

Hosted and organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, this weeklong event aims to build capacity, promote partnerships, and review progress achieved. The theme of World Water Week 2009 is: "Responding to Global Changes: Accessing Water for the Common Good – With a Special Focus on Transboundary Waters.”

UNICEF is hosting and participating in several seminars, workshops and side events including: (i) Unite for children – Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Schools, (ii) Diarrhoea: What's WASH Got to Do with it?, (iii) Safe Water Services in Post-conflict and Post-disaster Contexts (iv) Sanitation Promotion 101: What are the Various Promotional Approaches We Use?

Access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and improved hygiene is crucial for infants and children to get the best possible start in life.

For school-aged children water supply, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools have a profound impact on school attendance and retention. An easily accessible water source close to the home will free up girls from the often laborious, and time consuming task of fetching water thus allowing them to take their rightful place in the classroom.

Whereas it is encouraging to note that 87 per cent of the global population or approximately 5.7 billion people worldwide have access to safe drinking water, much remains to be done, particularly as water stress grows due to increasing demand and the impacts of climate change.

Every day approximately 4,500 children die before their fifth birthday due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. Simple, affordable and effective interventions such as handwashing with soap and water help reduce the incidence diarrheal morbidity – the second biggest killer of children under five – by up to 47 per cent. 

In recent years the global economic turmoil along with an increase in emergencies has left millions, particularly women and children, without basic services including access to water and adequate sanitation and hygiene. Climate change will further exacerbate this situation.

In many countries, UNICEF is the only agency to work on all levels; from local communities to international agencies. This broad spectrum of access allows for customized and sustainable interventions/change. UNICEF places an increased emphasis on water access, and quality in conjunction with sanitation and hygiene programmes –- providing an accelerated response during emergencies.

Maximum child survival and development benefits are only realized when water supply, sanitation and hygiene programmes are successfully incorporated into national policy formulation.
Governments must integrate water into their development agenda recognizing that a policy of common good must appreciate the rural/urban, rich/poor divide.

The United Nations declared 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ realizing that achieving the millennium development targets for water and sanitation have wide-ranging benefits including yielding greater socio-economic returns via improved health, a productive workforce, and educated children.

For more information please visit: worldwaterweek.org

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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, safe 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 further information, please contact:
Saira Saeed Khan, UNICEF Media NY, Tel + 1 212 326 7224, E-mail: sskhan@unicef.org

Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media NY, Tel + 1 212 326 7452, E-mail: Kdonovan@unicef.org





UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem highlights UNICEF efforts to promote water and sanitation in schools.
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