Almost three quarters of the earth is covered by water but only one per cent is safe for human consumption.
Deteriorating water quality threatens global gains made towards access to safe drinking water. While almost 5.9 billion people or 87 per cent of the world’s population now have access to an improved drinking water source, the risk of water pollution remains, often due to environmental factors such as increasing urbanization, industrialization and poor sanitation. Also, the quality of drinking water often significantly declines after collection from an improved source, especially in low-income settings where water sources can be distant from people’s homes.
This year’s World Water Day theme, “Clean Water for a Healthy World,” focuses on water quality challenges and solutions. Safe and clean water is increasingly becoming a precious commodity as we continue to pollute our water systems with human, agricultural and industrial waste.
UNICEF’s approach to child survival and development includes ensuring that communities and households have access to drinking water of adequate quantity and quality, as well as good sanitation and hygiene practices.
“Access to safe water is essential in order for a child to survive and successfully develop the ability to learn, earn and thrive,” said Ms. Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF Chief of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). “The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right of all children to the highest attainable standard of health, and specifically the right to safe drinking water,” she added.
Unsafe drinking water is a major cause of waterborne diseases including diarrhea (the second biggest killer of children under five), hepatitis and typhoid. Diarrheal diseases kill more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Children who suffer from these diseases often become locked in a lifelong cycle of recurring illnesses and faltering growth, with irreversible and lasting damage to their development and cognitive abilities.
• 2.6 billion people or 39 per cent of the world’s population live without access to improved sanitation. The vast majority live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.