The Global Need for Safe Water
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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