Today is World Water Day

World Walks for Water logoToday is World Water Day, and while two fifths of the world live without adequate sanitation and one in eight have no access to safe water, it marks an important day in the international development calendar. Clean water is key to development, not only to halt the staggering loss of life due to water-borne diseases, but because for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, $8 is returned in increased productivity.

443 million school days are lost every year to water-related diseases, yet UNDP research shows that 11% more girls attend school when there is adequate sanitation.

That’s why UK and global charities supported The World Walks for Water – a worldwide campaign that mobilised over 350,000 people in over 60 countries.

Speaking today ahead of her attendance at the Westminster event for the campaign organised by Tearfund and WaterAid, Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary, said:

“For many people in the developing world going into the kitchen and turning on the tap for a glass of water is a luxury they can only imagine.

Today I strongly support End Water Poverty in raising awareness of the desperate situation of many people in some of the poorest countries of the world who do not have access to safe water or basic sanitation.

Access to water and sanitation is essential for tackling global poverty. There must be a concerted international effort to step up efforts to stop children dying needlessly from illnesses caused by lack of access to basic sanitation and clear water. The UK’s development aid makes a real difference. The Government must lead efforts to ensure that the billions of people who do not have access to these basic services don’t have to wait any longer.”

In the recent aid review, the Government failed to take the opportunity to invest in better sanitation and has failed to recognise the right to water that was resolved by the UN Human Rights Council last October. While 4,000 children die from water-related illnesses every day, clear leadership is needed from the Government.

You can take action to lobby DFID and Andrew Mitchell MP to be ambitious in their commitments to water and sanitation aid through WaterAid’s new petition.

Steve Cockburn on the human right to water

There’s a very interesting blog by LCID’s Steve Cockburn over on the Progress site about the Tories pulling out of the process to recognise the right to water.

In July the UK abstained on a UN resolution tabled by the president of Bolivia recognising access to water and sanitation as a human right, due to its status as the second biggest cause of under-five deaths in the world. Then just a month ago, Her Majesty’s government ‘disassociated itself from a Human Rights Council resolution that made this legally binding’ – the diplomatic equivalent of picking up your football and storming home.

This puts us in some unfortunate company, as one of only 12 countries who fail to recognise the right. And Steve makes the importance of the issue clear:

Lack of access to water and sanitation is a perfect example. Those who suffer most are also the most powerless – the girls who drop out of school because of poor sanitation facilities, the rural women kept out of work because they must walk hours every day for water, the women in slums who risk sexual assault when travelling to distant toilets every night, the 1.5 million children under-5 who die of diarrhoeal diseases every year.Because they lack power, they are often ignored. National policies can be blind to the poorest communities, donor funding weakest in the poorest countries, and water sources threatened by resource-hungry industries paying scant regard to the needs of local populations.

You can read the blog post in its entirety over at Progress.