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Terre des hommes supports "World Water Day" on 22 March

Source: Terre des hommes (Tdh) - Switzerland - Fri, 22 Mar 2013 13:27 GMT
Author: J?r?mie Henriod
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Terre des hommes supports “World Water Day” on 22 March

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On 22nd December 1992 , the Assembly General of the United Nations adopted a resolution declaring March 22nd as “World Water Day”. The year 2013 is distinguished by international cooperation in the domain of water. In order to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) – whose deadline expires in less than two years – and to respond to the crying need for access to water, sanitation and hygiene, strengthening cooperation in this field appears to be an innovative and durable solution. Antoine Delepière, consultant for water, sanitation and hygiene at Terre des hommes , goes over some figures relating to the world’s access to water, as well as Tdh’s activities in this domain.

The Millennium Development Goals run out in 2015; one of the main targets, aimed at reducing the percentage of the population having no access to safe drinking water, should be reached by then. In fact, whereas in 1990, 24% of the world’s population had no access to an improved source of water (based on WHO’s indicators), in 2010 this percentage had fallen to 11%. However, behind this progress are hidden very strong regional and national disparities, as well as rural and urban ones. In spite of considerable efforts, Sub-Saharan Africa lags far behind and still has the world’s lowest coverage for improved sources of water. Regarding sanitation, the goal as such will not be reached before 2025. Today, more than one person in three lacks access to decent toilet facilities and one of every six people still defecates in the open.

If we combine these elements, we can see that 783 million people have no access to a source of improved water (not necessarily drinkable) and that 2.5 billion live with no basic sanitary facilities. The consequences of these two factors are disastrous: 2.2 million people die each year from diarrhoea due to poor sanitation, poor access to water, and unsuitable hygiene practices. The bad quality of the water and inadequate hygiene practices are responsible for many diseases (diarrhoea, cholera, poliomyelitis, to mention just a few) encouraging malnutrition, particularly in children. Contrary to popular thinking, food shortage is not the only factor in the development of malnutrition; in more than 50% of the cases, this pathology is linked to infection.

Cooperation promotes peace, brings peoples together and protects the environment

Based on cooperation in the domain of water , the year 2013 allows simple messages to be made on the fundamental role of access to water, but not solely in terms of health.

First of all, cooperation in the domain of water builds peace. It is a fact that on questions as vital as water management, supplying drinking water and sanitation services can overcome cultural, political and social tension by establishing a relationship of trust, in particular between regions and States.

Secondly, cooperation in the field of water is essential for socio-economic development, the fight against poverty, social justice, gender equality and lasting management of the environment. Inclusive, participative and gender-sensitive governance, as well as cooperation between the parties involved can contribute to overcoming inequalities and to preventing conflicts motivated by access to water. It will thus contribute to reducing poverty, to socio-economic development and to improving living conditions and access to education, especially for women and children.

Thirdly, cooperation in the domain of water creates economic advantages. Cooperation allows a more efficient and sustainable use of the water resources, particularly through joint management plans leading to mutual benefits and better living conditions.

Finally, cooperation in the domain of water is a determining factor for conserving water resources and protecting the environment. Cooperation in the domain of water encourages the sharing of scientific know-how, strategies for management and good practices. This shared knowledge assumes a crucial importance in the protection of the environment and sustainable development.

Terre des hommes works direct on the ground

Tdh offers practical help to the people affected by the lack of water and deprived of sanitation. In Guinea and Haiti , the Foundation improves the prevention of cholera and the disinfection of contaminated sites or sources of bacterial infection. In India and Bangladesh , Tdh has rebuilt water supply and sanitation infrastructures, and constructed hundreds of environment-friendly toilets for families in the Bengal region after various natural disasters. Finally, in Afghanistan , Tdh is undertaking the rebuilding of ancestral snow collectors, the ‘Yakhdans’, to transform them to be used for drinking water in mountainous areas where, from a technical and economic viewpoint, access to water is virtually impossible. Altogether, Tdh improved the conditions for access to drinking water, improved sanitation and hygiene practices in 12 countries, and came to the aid of 330,230 people in 2012.

Teams in the field have decided to organize various activities to celebrate. In Kenya , schoolchildren will transform themselves into artists for a day by painting pictures on the theme of water before holding an exhibition in Modogashe. In addition, actors will be performing in a play showing the importance of water fit for drinking. In Bangladesh, meetings will be held in various communities in the presence of representatives from the government and several NGOs to tackle the problems linked to a lack of hygiene. Amongst numerous other activities, we should mention a literature competition in the schools – on the subject of drinking water, obviously . . .

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