March 22 is World Water Day, established by the United Nations to promote water issues around the world.
At Amref Health Africa we use this day to raise awareness of the fact the huge number of Africans still living without access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and call on our supporters to continue to help us combat this.
We draw attention to something most of us take for granted, even though it is absolutely fundamental to our daily lives – safe water.
There are still nearly one billion people worldwide without access to clean water. The theme of the World Water Day 2012 is Water and Food Security. Access to food that is sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe as well as water that is sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable are fundamental human rights that for many people remain a promise unfulfilled.
11 per cent of the world's population does not have safe water to drink and that this, coupled with poor sanitation, results in 4,000 children dying every day. Globally, some estimated 2.6 billion people do not use improved sanitation facilities and around 925 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished.
Lack of safe drinking water and sanitation impact negatively on access to proper nutrition and food security. Open defecation, poor sanitation facilities and improper waste disposal contaminate food in many communities in Africa. At the same time, unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene frequently lead to increases in diarrhoea
Unless urgent and concerted action is taken, the situation is likely to get worse in years ahead as populations increase and water sources get more scarce. To meet the dietary demands of a growing world population, projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, world food production would need to increase by 70 per cent.
That is why Amref Health Africa on this World Water Day joins the world in advocating for safe water and sanitation for all to ensure lasting health change in Africa. Reductions in diarrhoeal diseases can be achieved by providing improved sanitation and water supply, which in turn can prevent long-term illness and save at least 860,000 children from dying of malnutrition each year.
Amref Health Africa calls for the integration of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programming with child survival interventions to reduce the number of child deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases. We also advocate for initiatives to increase awareness of the importance of simple hand washing, an element of hygiene programming that can reduce the incidence of childhood diseases by approximately 45 per cent.