Let’s ‘be the change’ on World Water Day and beyond

22 March 2023
UNICEF Pacific Representative Jonathan Veitch, and the Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr Ratu Atonio Lalabalavu, during the World Water Day event with the theme, Accelerating change at the Ganilau park in Savusavu.
UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch, and Fiji’s Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr. Ratu Atonio Lalabalavu, during the World Water Day event in Savusavu.

Savusavu, Fiji, 22 March 2023 – Today, children from 10 schools in the Northern Division in Fiji were among the first in the world to celebrate World Water Day by taking part in an oratory and drama contest organized by the Ministry of Public Works, Meteorological Services and Transport and UNICEF.

The contest has provided a platform for the children to share their voice and advocate on the importance of accelerating change when it comes to saving their homes from water scarcity as well as water borne diseases - one of the leading causes of death for children under five across the Pacific.

“Water is an essential need to survive, and we all need to take responsibility. Since everything on earth is connected to water, we, ourselves, need to look after it,” said Ethan Rossi, 14, from St. Andrews Primary School who was also the winner of the primary level oratory contest. “I am grateful that a platform like this has been provided for children like myself to be able to lead, inspire, and empower others on the importance of water.”

Approximately 96 per cent of Fiji’s total population has access to improved drinking water. However, while access is good, there is still the need to ensure that services are available on demand, and free from contamination, especially during and after disasters.

“The theme ‘Accelerating Change’ is correct as this is very much the focus of the Government’s development programmes in all sectors including water,” said the Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr. Ratu Atonio Lalabalavu. “The theme also seeks to inspire people at different levels and sectors to learn more about water-related issues and to take action to make a difference.”

Students from primary and secondary levels took part, including Savusavu Secondary School, St. Bedes College, Navatu Secondary School, Seaqaqa Central College, Ahmadiyya Muslim College, Khemendra Sanatan Primary School, Nasavusavu Public School, Nasavusavu District School, St. Andrews Primary School, and Muanivatu District School.

The children advocated to key stakeholders, including the media, about how water affects everyone and equally, there is a need for everyone to take action. Families, communities, schools and even children can make a difference by changing the way they use, consume and manage water in their daily lives. This can be achieved as easily as through saving water by taking shorter showers and fixing leaking water pipes.

“While Fiji has made remarkable progress towards improving the lives of Fijians through improved services of water and sanitation, we still must not forget that a third of children in the Pacific do not have access to good sanitation, and one in ten do not have access to safe drinking water,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch.

“We thank the Ministry of Public Works, Meteorological Services and Transport, and other partners, in supporting UNICEF to provide a platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of children on this critically important topic.” 

This event is supported by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management, Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, Heritage and Arts, Ministry for Lands and Mineral Resources, Water Authority of Fiji, Live and Learn and Habitat for Humanity Fiji.

The Ministry of Public Works, Meteorological Services and Transport also acknowledges the valuable support from various donor and key stakeholders for improvements of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Fiji including the Government of United Kingdom, Government of Australia, Government of New Zealand, Government of the Republic of Korea, Government of Japan and the European Union as well as United Nations agencies including WHO and UNESCO. 


UN 2023 Water Conference:

This week marks the first UN Water Conference in the last 46 years!

Taking place in New York from 22-24 March 2023, the conference comes at a pivotal moment in history, on the heels of a global pandemic that underscored the importance of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene access. The world is also in the throes of a rapidly worsening climate crisis, with water becoming scarcer in some areas due to drought, and dangerously destructive in others through floods and storms. No one stands to suffer more than children.

The Pacific has just recently again seen the result of this first-hand with the recent droughts in Kiribati and Tuvalu as well as the twin cyclones that hit Vanuatu. These are not new for the region, but the weather and rainfall patterns have become more erratic because of the climate crisis over the past few decades.

World leaders, relevant organizations and other participants will convene for the first time in 46 years to review progress toward ensuring access to water and sanitation for all. At the conference, UNICEF is calling for:

  • Rapid scale-up of investment in the sector, including from global climate financing.
  • Strengthening climate resilience in the WASH sector and communities.
  • Prioritizing the most vulnerable communities in WASH programmes and policies.
  • Increasing effective and accountable systems, coordination, and capacities to provide water and sanitation services.
  • Implementing the UN-Water SDG6 Global Acceleration Framework and investing in the key accelerators.

About the Fiji Ministry of Public Works, Meteorological Services and Transport:

The Ministry is responsible for policy formulation, planning, design, regulatory, coordination and implementation of programmes, projects and services relating to infrastructural works, utilities (water and electricity), transport (air, road, sea), meteorology and hydrology. 

Similarly, responsible for policy and legislative oversight of the Fiji Roads Authority, the Water Authority of Fiji, the Land Transport Authority, the Maritime Authority of Fiji, and Energy Fiji Limited. The Ministry develops infrastructure that moves people, the economy, and the nation forward. It provides services for the protection of life and property with environmental integrity. 

For more information, please contact:
Mr. Mohammed Nistar Khan, Department of Water and Sewerage, Ministry of Public Works, Meteorological Services and Transport, mohammed.khan@govnet.gov.fj

Zubnah Khan, UNICEF Pacific, Tel: +679 9988137, zukhan@unicef.org

Media contacts

Zubnah Khan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Pacific
Tel: +679 330 0439 Ext. 175
Tel: 9988137


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/pacificislands/

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