The Global Need for Safe Water
An adequate supply of clean water, sanitation and hygiene
are the most important preconditions for sustaining human
life, for maintaining ecological systems that support all
life and for achieving sustainable development.
African Ministerial Declaration at the
International Conference on Freshwater, December 2001.
Safe water is essential for life itself. Sadly, 1.1 billion people
around the world lack access to safe drinking water, and twice that
many lack adequate sanitation. As a result, the World Health Organization
estimates that nearly two million people, mostly children, die every
year from infectious diarrhea attributable to unsafe water. Much
of this disease burden could be prevented with appropriate water
treatment and proper sanitation and hygiene practices.
Increasing access to safe water can improve more than public health.
In Africa, women and girls spend as much as 3 hours a day fetching
water, an expenditure of calories greater than one-third their daily
food intake. The task of keeping the home supplied with drinking
water is often so laborious and time consuming that it can constitute
the most significant single obstacle standing in the way of a child's
education. In addition, a reliable supply of water is necessary
for almost all economic development.
The United Nations has recognized the critical link between safe
water and sustainable development. At the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, the UN reaffirmed
its goal to reduce by one-half the proportion of people without
access to safe water by 2015. Leaders at the summit also adopted
a comparable goal for improving access to basic sanitation. Meeting
these goals will require sustained, coordinated action and billions
of dollars worth of investment each year.
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