World Water Day: World’s poorest lack access to safe water

@UNICEF Sierra Leone/ Oliver Asselin: Three boys living in the Mabella Slum in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In the slum it is difficult to access safe drinking water.
@UNICEF Sierra Leone/ Oliver Asselin: Three boys living in the Mabella Slum in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In the slum it is difficult to access safe drinking water.

Sierra Leone, 21 March 2014 – Almost four years after the world met the global target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for safe drinking water, and after the UN General Assembly declared that water was a human right, over three-quarters of a billion people around the world, most of them poor, still do not have this basic necessity, UNICEF said to mark World Water Day.

Estimates from UNICEF and WHO published in 2013 are that a staggering 768 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, causing hundreds of thousands of children to sicken and die each year. Most of the people without access are poor and live in remote rural areas or urban slums.

“Every child, rich or poor, has the right to survive, the right to health, the right to a future,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. “The world should not rest until every single man, woman and child has the water and sanitation that is theirs as a human right.”

The MDG target for drinking water was met and passed in 2010, when 89 per cent of the global population had access to improved sources of drinking water — such as piped supplies, boreholes fitted with pumps, and protected wells. Also in 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, meaning every person should have access to safe water and basic sanitation. However, this basic right continues to be denied to the poorest people across the world.

UNICEF WASH programming is taking place in over 100 countries, and new initiatives such as cost-effective drilling and community-based water safety planning are bringing safe water to families living in some of the most isolated regions. UNICEF-supported ‘WASH in Schools’ programming has brought safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to millions of school children around the world.

In Sierra Leone, between 2000 and 2013, the share of the population using unsafe water sources has reduced by 20%. However, 2,666,000 people still do not have access to improved sources of water out of which, 1,599,600 people are in rural areas.

UNICEF, in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone and with support from the UKAid is improving access to sustainable water sources for 1,153,321 people in rural areas over the period 2012-2015.

Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone remarked, “Access to adequate water supply is not only a fundamental and human right. Access to water supply also has considerable health and economic benefits to households and individuals. Equitable access to improved drinking water will speed the achievement of all eight MDGs. Therefore UNICEF continues to support the Government of Sierra Leone to ensure construction and rehabilitation of sustainable safe water sources across the country”.