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World Water Day, 22 March

WHY WORLD WATER DAY IS IMPORTANT

The first World Water Day was celebrated in 1993. It was first proposed at the United Nations (UN) conference on environment and development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and has been celebrated annually on 22 March since then. Every year the UN releases its World Water Development Report on or around this date. Each year has a different theme, looking at things like the role of clean water in the world of work, ways to stop wasting water, finding ways to supply water to underprivileged groups and so on.

SAFE WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Clean drinking water is fundamental. But it is also vital for sanitation and hygiene. It is estimated that more than 700 children under the age of seven die every day from illnesses linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation. The right to water and sanitation was recognized as a human right by the UN General Assembly in 2010. However, there are still at least 2.1 billion people around the world who live without safe water in their homes. These include rural communities, people who have been displaced due to war and local conflicts and areas where climate change is making water more and more scarce.


WATER, SANITATION AND HYGIENE (WASH)

Safe drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene are crucial to human health and well-being. Safe WASH is not only a prerequisite to health, but contributes to livelihoods, school attendance and dignity and helps to create resilient communities living in healthy environments.


Drinking unsafe water impairs health through illnesses such as diarrhea, and untreated excreta contaminates groundwaters and surface waters used for drinking-water, irrigation, bathing and household purposes.


Chemical contamination of water continues to pose a health burden, whether natural in origin such as arsenic and fluoride, or anthropogenic such as nitrate.


Safe and sufficient WASH plays a key role in preventing numerous NTDs such as trachoma, soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis. Diarrhoeal deaths as a result of inadequate WASH were reduced by half during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period (1990–2015), with the significant progress on water and sanitation provision playing a key role.


Evidence suggests that improving service levels towards safely managed drinking-water or sanitation such as regulated piped water or connections to sewers with wastewater treatment can dramatically improve health by reducing diarrheal disease deaths.


THE PROBLEMS FACING COMMUNITIES WITHOUT WATER

Apart from the obvious health issues, a lack of accessible clean water means that people – often women and children – spend hours every day walking to and from distant water supplies. This means they don't have time to dedicate to work, studies and other domestic duties. The search for water becomes their main occupation. And people who are not able to walk to get their own water are particularly vulnerable.

For many people, access to water has become increasingly difficult due to increased demand for a finite resource. According to figures released by the UN, around 4 billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world's population – experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year. It is believed that by 2030 as many as 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity.

 

Sources

- British Council

- World Health Organization (WHO)

 

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