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Pakistan children look to the future of safe drinking water at home and school

Islamabad, 21 March 2011 – Hundreds of children from around Pakistan will be presenting their innovative ideas on the future of clean water tomorrow as part of World Water Day.

The annual day highlights the importance of safe water for the health and social economic development of children and their families. This year’s theme, “Water for cities: responding to the urban water challenge”, focuses on the impact of rapid urbanization on the availability of safe water. Pakistan has one of the highest rates of urbanization in South Asia.

Globally, 1.1 billion people lack access to an improved water supply, with some 1.4 million children dying each year from preventable water-related diseases such as diarrhoea. In Pakistan, as many as 60 million people may not have access to safe drinking water, while more than 100,000 child deaths in Pakistan may be attributed to drinking unsafe water each year.

A leading contributor to water-related diseases is poor quality of water at the point of use, such as when it is being consumed in the home or at school. Research by the Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources has found that more than 80 per cent of water samples were contaminated with bacteria at the point of use. The incidence of diarrhoeal disease is also known to be higher among urban children than those in rural areas.

UNICEF has been working with partners – the Ministry of Environment of the Government of Pakistan, UN HABITAT, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Pakistan Institute for Environment Development Action Research, WaterAid and selected schools – to promote a child-led campaign to disinfect water at the point of use.

More than 840 children from 143 schools in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Vehari and Kabirwala have been working over the past month on ways to keep drinking water safe at home and school. Children will present their ideas tomorrow at events in their local areas, including speeches, poetry and presentations. Their suggestions will help form the basis of a manual about water purification at point of use that will be distributed to school children across Pakistan.

UNICEF Deputy Representative, Karen Allen, says that it is important to encourage children to talk about the importance of safe water.

“The availability of safe water is vital to children’s health and well-being. Children have enjoyed the opportunity to think about the issue and come up with their own innovative solutions.

“Children represent today and tomorrow. Their ideas will make an impact not only by filtering through to their family and communities, but as they grow into adulthood.”

Ms Allen says that promoting household water treatment and safe storage helps vulnerable populations to take charge of their own water security by providing them with the knowledge and tools to treat their own drinking water.

Meanwhile, UNICEF continues to provide safe drinking water to people affected by the devastating monsoon floods that struck between July and September last year. More than 4.4 million flood-affected people now receive safe drinking water every day through a combination of water tankering, restored water supply schemes, and water purification plants.



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