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UNICEF Urges Mozambique to Make Health of Children a Priority

The U.N. Children's Fund says unsafe water and poor sanitation are killing 55 children every day in Mozambique. UNICEF says Mozambique is not the only government that gives low priority to providing its people with clean water and proper sanitation facilities. But the U.N. children's agency says Mozambique has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. Two hundred forty-six children out of every 1,000 die before they reach the age of five. The agency says 13 percent of these deaths are directly linked to poor hygiene practices and a lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation.

In addition, UNICEF Spokesman Damien Personnaz says that thousands of people are at risk of cholera because of infections caused by dirty water and bad sanitation. He said malnourished children are particularly vulnerable to water-borne diseases. During last month alone, Mozambique official figures show 1,840 people fell ill with cholera.

"A UNICEF survey shows that, basically, in the rural areas, it takes about one hour for every household to go and pick up water," he said. "And this is an element, which shows that access is an issue. And also the sanitation facilities, basically, do not exist."

Mr. Personnaz says the task of fetching water usually falls to young girls, often preventing them from going to school.

He says UNICEF is spending nearly $16 million over five years to reduce the number of infant deaths due to diarrhea. He says the agency is promoting educational campaigns to inform people on measures they can take to create a cleaner, healthier environment.

"It is trying to advocate toward the government, for the government to put more budget, more money, more emphasis, more focus on these basic social services," explained Mr. Personnaz.

UNICEF says the Mozambican government can make a huge difference in the health of its people by allocating more funds toward improving overall sanitation facilities in the country.