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WHO, UNICEF: One Billion People Lack Clean Water - 2004-08-26

Two United Nations agencies say more than one billion people around the world drink unsafe water, while over 40 percent of the world's population lacks basic sanitation. The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) say more needs to be done to provide clean water and basic sanitation to those in need.

The WHO and UNICEF say about 1.5 billion people lack basic sanitation in China and India, while about 42 percent of those who drink unsafe water reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Other regions are also severely affected.

Gregory Hartle, with the Sustainable Development branch of the World Health Organization in Geneva, says the international community has known for two centuries the effect clean water and adequate sanitation have on public health and on development in general, but more than one billion people are still in need. He says bad public services have particularly dire consequences for children.

Mr. Hartle says, "4000 children per day die as a result of being exposed to unsafe water and lack of sanitation facilities, but as we know also in general there are approximately 1.8 million people who die every year because of water born or water related diseases."

Mr. Hartle says beyond the death and suffering, bad water and sanitation can be a large economic drain on a community.

"We see that people cannot participate fully in the work force or they cannot fully partake in education," he explains. "For girls in particular, if adequate latrine facilities are not provided then a lot of girls will not go to school so it limits their longer-term development. There is a whole host of ramifications from not having clean water and adequate sanitation facilities."

Mr. Hartle says funding to improve global water and sanitation projects should come from international organizations as well as national governments and local organizations.