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Lack of clean water robs children of good health and education – UNICEF

Lack of clean water robs children of good health and education – UNICEF

Girls collect water from UNICEF installed handpump in Koya, Iraq
Gearing up for the global conference on water later this month, the United Nations lead agency for youngsters today said lack of clean water and sanitation causes millions of children in the developing world to suffer needlessly from disease and often forces girls to drop out of school.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said a lack of access to clean water in households causes waterborne illnesses that kill more than 1.6 million children each year. The impact is more tragic for girls, who are often forced to drop out of primary school due to inadequate separate and decent sanitation facilities.

“This lack of education early in life often consigns girls to poverty or dependence later in life,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said. “By providing clean water and sanitation to the poorest people on the planet, we can reduce poverty and suffering and ensure education for all children.”

The Third World Water Forum will bring leaders, technical experts and children together in Japan from 16 to 23 March to seek solutions to water and sanitation issues. During the conference, which coincides with World Water Day on 22 March, UNICEF will work to ensure that children have a voice in solving these problems. It is co-hosting a children’s forum, also in Japan, where approximately 100 youngsters will discuss and present their findings to decision-makers attending the Ministerial Conference.

"We all know that fresh water is a scarce resource in many places, often a highly politicized commodity. That's why it’s crucial that we think of these resources in terms of our children – not only for our own children's health, but for future generations," Ms. Bellamy said, urging governments to invest more in clean water and in the protection of scarce water sources.

According to UNICEF, millions of children suffer intestinal infections caused by parasites. Each year 19.5 million people are infected with roundworm and whipworm alone, and an estimated 118.9 million children under 15 suffer from schistoomiasis. Parasites consume nutrients, aggravate malnutrition, retard children's physical development and result in poor school attendance and performance.