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NEW YORK (March 22, 2013) – As the world celebrates World Water Day today, UNICEF urges governments, civil society and ordinary citizens to remember that behind the statistics are the faces of children.
Globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrheal diseases. Of these, some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. Despite a burgeoning global population, these deaths have come down significantly over the last decade, from 1.2 million per year in 2000 to about 760,000 a year in 2011. UNICEF says that is still too many.
“The numbers can be numbing, but they represent real lives of real children,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF. “Every child is important. Every child has the right to health, the right to survive, the right to a future that is as good as we can make it.”
UNICEF child mortality data show that about half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan and China. Two countries—India and Nigeria—together account for more than a third of all under-five deaths. These same countries also have significant populations without access to improved water and sanitation.
Of the 783 million people worldwide without improved drinking water, there are 119 million in China, 97 million in India, 66 million in Nigeria, 36 million in DRC, and 15 million in Pakistan. The figures for sanitation are even bleaker: 814 million people in India without improved sanitation, 477 million in China, 109 million in Nigeria, 91 million in Pakistan, and 50 million in DRC. Improvements in water and sanitation would greatly contribute to a reduction in child mortality in these counties.
Wijesekera says the progress made since 1990 shows that with political will, investment, and a focus on reaching the hardest to reach, every child should be able to get access to improved drinking water and sanitation.
Through this year’s UNICEF Tap Project, an annual fundraising and awareness campaign, Facebook users can help provide clean water and adequate sanitation to children around the world and ask their friends and family to do the same. Visit the UNICEFTapProject.org to learn more and access the Facebook app.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.