Ensuring an adequate and safe water supply for the survival and growth of children.
Everyone has the human right to safe drinking water. This holds true in stability and in crisis, in urban and rural contexts, and in every country around the world. When children don’t have access to clean water, it negatively impacts their health, nutrition, education and every other aspect of their lives. Girls, women and people living with disabilities are particularly impacted.
785 million people today do not have basic access to water.
The United Nations' goals include achieving access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. Yet, the current level of global investment is about one third of what is needed to achieve this target.
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The availability of water is not enough to keep children healthy: Water must also be safe, attainable and affordable. This means it must come from a reliable source like a well, a tap or a hand-pump; free from faecal and chemical contamination; readily available for at least 12 hours a day; and located on the premises of a child's household or within reasonable reach. In many countries, though, children and women serve as the carriers of water for the entire family, exposing them to many safety risks and vulnerabilities.
Millions of people rely on water sources that are at high or moderate risk of faecal contamination due to lack of toilets or poor sewer systems. Even water that is safe at its source (for example, from a water treatment plant or well) is at risk of becoming contaminated unless it is treated, transported, stored and handled safely.
Chemical contamination is another real threat in many places across the world. Millions of people drink water containing arsenic or fluoride at levels designated unsafe by World Health Organization guidelines.
The effects of climate change will only increase the threat to water quality, particularly where water is scarce or in regions that are prone to natural disasters.
At any given time, 30 to 40 per cent of the rural water supply in low-income countries does not work. Some factors that affect the long-term sustainability of a water system include the reliability of the source, the transportation method, and affordability.
How water services are maintained over time needs to be at the heart of all WASH systems. Although governments make decisions on who gets what services and how, it is up to all stakeholders, including policymakers and WASH practitioners, to collectively address barriers to sustainability by influencing policies, programmes and behaviours.
UNICEF’s roadmap for safe and sustainable water services for all is laid out in our Water Game Plan. This guiding document outlines key principles and approaches to accelerate our progress towards safe and sustainable water services, with a focus on reaching the children and families who have been left behind.
Increasing access to water supplies requires more than just building infrastructure. UNICEF is working to address safety, quality, reliability and sustainability to meet our goal of water services for all by 2030.
To address key issues of accessibility, UNICEF works with supply chains as well as national and sub-national monitoring systems to identify those left behind.
Applying this approach to local contexts, we help countries move towards water services that are safe, sustainable and able to withstand climate change, conflict and natural disasters. We work to improve water access in households as well as in institutions, particularly health-care facilities and schools.
UNICEF invests in water treatment technologies throughout the supply chain, including in households, to ensure safe storage and chemical removal, and ultimately decrease the risk of contamination.
We promote water safety plans so that countries can identify threats to quality, and support governments in developing quality water data and surveillance systems.
UNICEF helps communities participate in setting service standards and tariffs in order to ensure accountability and transparency. Our work with service providers helps to clarify roles and responsibilities, establishing accountability with clear service delivery models. We also help governments with policymaking, financial planning, capacity-building, regulatory frameworks and sector-wide sustainability checks.