Access to water is a basic human right, however today there are 663 million people who go without. Today, there are 2.4 billion people who do not use a basic toilet, and almost 1 billion who go in the open. While significant progress has been made to improve this situation, millions of children in poor and rural communities have been left behind.
As an advocate for child rights and as a global citizen, today I ask you to join me in supporting UNICEF to reach all children, everywhere, with access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation.
Over the last 10 years I have been working with UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for the rights of children around the world. During this time I have been in places like Ethiopia to raise awareness about the dangers of landmines, in Tanzania and Burkina Faso to highlight the issues related to HIV and to visit centres that cares for HIV-infected children. I have also been to Colombia to join a campaign to protect children from sexual exploitation and violence. These are just some of the places I’ve traveled to with UNICEF
Last week, I was in Stockholm to raise awareness and funds for UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Programmes in Africa and to speak up for the millions of children around the world who are living without clean water and toilets. For these children, a lack of access to drinking water and sanitation places their health, safety, education and survival at risk. Today, water and sanitation related diseases remain among the major causes of death in children under five. Nearly 1,000 children die every day from diarrhoeal diseases linked to poor sanitation and hygiene. These conditions have also been closely linked to stunting, which affects around 161 million children worldwide, causing irreversible physical and cognitive damage.
Today I am asking for you to support UNICEF in their efforts to put an end to this crisis. UNICEF works in over 100 countries worldwide to support water and sanitation services, basic hygiene practices and to boost resilience in emergencies.
There have been some incredible stories of success in sub-Saharan Africa where UNICEF is on the ground in 35 countries to support the development and use of improved drinking water and sanitation. In Ethiopia for example, the proportion of people practicing open defecation has halved over the last decade – with more than 30 million people using a basic toilet. In Mali, there are 53% fewer diarrhoea related deaths and 14% less stunting in children under the age of five. Over 200 schools in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a further 572 in Zimbabwe received new water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
These are just some of the many stories of progress, but we need to hear more. With new challenges like climate change and urbanization putting even more children at risk, we must act now to ensure all children, everywhere fulfil their right to safe water and sanitation. This is crucial not only for their survival, but also their health, happiness, dignity, and development.
Danny Glover is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.