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Safe water saves children's lives, says UNICEF as it celebrates World Water Day with Nigeria

ABUJA, 22 March 2010--UNICEF is joining Nigeria and the world to celebrate World Water Day today. With the theme “Clean Water for a Healthy World”, the day reminds us of the role clean water plays in preserving life and health, particularly of children and people whose immune system is compromised.

Globally the lack of access to safe water is associated with 4 billion cases of diarrhea each year and results in the deaths of 1.7 million people, most of whom are children under the age of five. “In Nigeria, diarrhea is the second largest killer of children, causing as many as 17% of the deaths of those under the age of five. This is largely a result of unsafe water and poor hygiene. Safe water saves lives,” said Suomi Sakai, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.

The recently launched 2010 WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) Report says 42% of the population in Nigeria has no access to improved drinking water, accounting for nearly 20% of all those without access in Africa as a whole.

Without adequate access to safe water, attainment of other MDGs is jeopardized. Globally as well as in Nigeria water resources are increasingly under threat either due to over-exploitation, the impacts of climate change, and contamination.

The National Population Commission's 2008 Demographic and Health Survey shows that 85% of the rural population is not treating their water in any way prior to drinking, even though only 43.6% of the rural population has access to safe water (75.4% have access in urban areas).

Families can protect themselves against diarrhea and other diseases caused by unsafe water by boiling water before drinking or cooking with it; washing their hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before eating; and making sure that babies receive only breast milk for the first 6 months--nothing else, not even water. More information can be found at

UNICEF's work in support of Nigeria's efforts to increase access to safe water and improve sanitation is carried out with the significant contribution of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union.

For more information, contact

Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Officer:  mobile +234 803 525 0288;



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