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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Bad water kills 4,000 children a day

© UNICEF Sudan/2004
These village residents may not understand the danger of drinking contaminated water. Better education is essential to save lives.

NEW YORK, 25 August 2004 - A dead fox has just been removed from a community well in southern Sudan. Unaware of the danger from contamination, the villagers continue to drink the water. They don’t realise they’re risking their lives.

“This water is killing the people,” says John Mamer, a UNICEF water specialist who has taken samples from the polluted well. “But they don’t know, when they are dying, that it is through this water.”

Four thousand children die every day from diseases caused by bad water and sanitation. Some 1.8 million people, mostly children, are killed by diarrhoea alone each year. An understanding of basic hygiene would cut the number of these deaths by almost half.

In another village nearby, women and children scrape away sand to collect water from a puddle. In many poor and remote areas, there are no alternative sources of fresh water.

UNICEF is working with local communites to install and maintain wells across the region. Keeping them free from contamination is vital – and so is education.

UNICEF Sanitation Officer Christine Ochieng explains: “Within our system we have a trained number of hygiene promoters within the community. The hygiene promoters move from house to house, educating the mothers about the importance of clean water and also telling them that when they get water from the river, they need to boil and filter it. But in most cases we find that at the end of the day only very few really follow that kind of method.”

Those who do follow the advice reap the benefits. One woman in the village tells Christine how there have been no cases of diarrhoea in her community since latrines were built. Without latrines water supplies can become more easily contaminated.

Safe water and good hygiene are the best defence against diarrhoea and other water-related diseases. UNICEF is working in the world’s poorest communities to ensure that these essentials are available to all.




25 August 2004: Safe water and good hygiene are essential, says UNICEF
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