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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Global event brings the urgent need for safe water into focus

© UNICEF/NYHQ2005-1648/Palani Mohan
Students in Thailand have access to safe water at school.

NEW YORK, USA, 22 March 2010 – Three quarters of the planet is covered by water, yet only about one per cent is available for human agricultural, manufacturing, community and personal use. This year’s World Water Day theme – ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World’ – aims to raise awareness and spur action on improving water quality worldwide.

A global event on water quality took place today in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to mark the occasion. The event, organized by UN Water, brought together national and local government representatives, UN agencies, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, scientists, local and international media, and the general public – including school children – to discuss policy options and initiate action to improve water quality around the world.

Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage

Unsafe drinking water, along with poor sanitation and hygiene, are the main contributors to an estimated 4 billion cases of diarrhoeal disease annually, causing more than 2.2 million deaths worldwide. Of these, some 1.5 million occur in children under five.  

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1720/Olivier Asselin
A refugee from the Central African Republic pumps safe water from a distribution point in Cameroon.

To prevent these unnecessary deaths, people are changing the way they think about water in their homes. Today, simple, cost-effective ways to prevent disease – known collectively as household water treatment and safe storage techniques (HWTS) – are one key way to improve the lives of children and their families.

Even if water flows safe and clear from a local pump, dirty containers, dirty hands or unsanitary storage can contaminate it, leading to disease and even death. The Safe Drinking Water Project informs people about the dangers of unsafe water, and how they can protect themselves by treating their daily supply at home, with inexpensive products available in their local markets.

The chlorine-based purification products are inexpensive, easy to find and use, and dependable. In some countries, products are manufactured locally, both providing a livelihood for local people and sustaining local demand for additional HWTS products, such as ceramic and slow-sand filters, and solar disinfection.

Treating water at the household level has been shown to be one of the most effectual and cost-effective means of preventing waterborne disease in both everyday and emergency settings. 

The Safe Drinking Water Project, and similar initiatives promoting household water treatment and safe storage, is of vital importance to help ensure that this water stays safe – from the well or pump to the drinking glass – resulting in healthy families and healthy societies.

A shared responsibility for common benefit

The Nairobi event called for collective action by all stakeholders, from individuals and local communities, to international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and civil society to tackle the challenges of water quality globally. 

Various publications, flagship initiatives and outreach materials aimed at raising awareness on water quality were launched at the event, which provided a platform to discuss scientific findings, discuss policy and implementation, motivate key stakeholders, and raise awareness around the world about the stark reality that billions of people do not have access to a simple glass of safe water.




22 March 2010: Household water treatment and safe storage techniques – known as HWTS – are simple, cost-effective ways to prevent disease and improve the lives of children and their families.
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