The United States rock singer and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Joel Madden has voiced concern for the thousands of children in the Central African Republic (CAR) whose lives are threatened by tainted water diseases after completing his first visit to the impoverished, strife-torn country.
“To come here and see these children dying just because they don’t have clean water to drink, I can’t accept that,” Mr. Madden said after his first mission as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Touring the country with his brother Benji, a fellow member of the band Good Charlotte, Mr. Madden’s trip included visits to the capital Bangui, as well as some of the remotest villages of CAR.
Visiting Sam Ouandja, a town near the border with Sudan’s Darfur region that has been attacked by rebels twice in the last year, Mr. Madden learned of the plight of the local children in a town where nearly 50 per cent die each year due to water tainted diseases.
“Without access every day to clean water sustainable development is impossible; returning to villages for displaced people is just a dream,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, a UNICEF official in the CAR. “We are facing a huge infrastructure deficit and we are struggling to get more and more support.”
CAR suffers from one of the worst child mortality rates in Africa, with one in five children not living to see their fifth birthday. The maternal mortality rate has also reached 1,355 per 100,000 mothers and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS – estimated at 6.2 per cent of population – continues to wreak havoc as well.
UNICEF has made continued efforts to provide safe drinking water in CAR, with the UN agency last year supporting water projects, including the repair and drilling of hundreds of wells for people living in conflict-affected areas. Through such programmes, all prefectures affected by violence in the north of the country now have access to UNICEF-sponsored water, sanitation and hygiene schemes.
With many gaps still remaining in access to safe drinking water, Mr. Madden called on the CAR Government to spend more on water. He also issued a plea to leaders of developed nations to become more active in helping fund solutions to prevent deaths.
“Every day children in CAR are dying from preventable diseases caused by a lack of safe water,” said Mr. Madden. “The good news is that we can stop this now.”