World's poorest have least access to safe water -- Unicef

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

OVER three-quarters of a billion people, most of them poor, do not have access to safe water, the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) said in a press release on Friday to mark the World Water Day, which falls on Saturday.

Estimates from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2013 showed that a staggering 768 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, causing hundreds of thousands of children to sicken and die each year.

Unicef estimates that 1,400 children under five die every day from diarrhea diseases linked to lack of safe water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.

Most of the people without access to safe water are poor and live in remote rural areas or urban slums.

"Every child, rich or poor, has the right to survive, the right to health, the right to a future," said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of Unicef's global water, sanitation and hygiene programs. "The world should not rest until every single man, woman and child has the water and sanitation that is theirs as a human right."

According to Unicef and WHO estimates, 10 countries are home to almost two-thirds of the global population without access to improved drinking water sources. They include: India (99 million); Nigeria (63 million); Ethiopia (43 million); Indonesia (39 million) ; Democratic Republic of Congo (37 million); Bangladesh (26 million); United Republic of Tanzania (22 million); Kenya (16 million) and Pakistan (16 million).

An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On Dec. 22, 1992, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare March 22 of each year World Water Day, to be observed starting in 1993.

In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, meaning every person should have access to safe water and basic sanitation.

However, this basic right continues to be denied to the poorest people across the world almost four years after the world met the global target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for safe drinking water.

"What continues to be striking, and maybe even shocking, is that even in middle income countries there are millions of poor people who do not have safe water to drink," Wijesekera said. "We must target the marginalized and often forgotten groups: those who are the most difficult to reach, the poorest and the most disadvantaged". (PNA)

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