Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is joining forces with UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, to raise money to provide clean drinking water and sanitation systems for the victims of the December 26 tsunami.
UNICEF officials estimate that at least one-third of those who died in the tsunami were children. They say more than one million children are homeless and at risk. In partnership, the Clinton Foundation and UNICEF hope to raise $45 million for the Tsumani Water and Sanitation Fund.
Last week President Bush asked Mr. Clinton and former President George H. W. Bush to head a nationwide private fundraising effort. Mr. Clinton says he looked for an area of critical need where funds were insufficient.
"Our inquiries determined that in the weeks and months ahead more resources will be needed to provide clean water and adequate sanitation, both for survival and for the prevention of disease," he said. "Diseases such as dysentery and diarrhea accompany the absence of clean water, the presence of polluted water and they disproportionately impact children. Even before this tsunami struck, an inordinate percentage of people who die every year on Earth, die because of the absence of clean water. "
The fund will help UNICEF deliver potable water where necessary, build temporary sanitation facilities and provide household water kits and chlorine and water purification systems. Once immediate needs are met, the contributions will be used to help governments with long-term management of water and sanitation systems.
Mr. Clinton says the tsunami has made it clear that better warning systems and disaster management systems are needed. But the former U.S president says the outpouring of generosity has been gratifying.
"This tsunami may illustrate the fragility of human life, but the response to it represents the strength of the human spirit," he said.
The United States government has committed $350 million to the immediate relief effort. But Mr. Clinton says once the long-term reconstruction process begins, he thinks the United States' contributions will probably be in the billions.