U.S. Water News Online
GENEVA -- The chronic lack of clean water and sanitation in
the developing world kills as many people as the Indian Ocean tsunami
every month, the international Red Cross said in a new report.
More than 3 million people die annually from diseases spread
though dirty water and poor sanitation facilities, but their plight
rarely gets the same publicity as a single natural disaster, the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said
in a report.
The humanitarian agency also announced the launch of a 10-year
plan to provide clean water and sanitation to the world's poor.
The current shortfall "represents a huge stumbling block to
development," the federation said.
Water-related illnesses account for about a third of common
recurrent diseases around the world and cause lost working time when
people fall sick or have to collect water from far away, explained
Uli Jaspers, the federation's water and sanitation chief.
"The disease burden caused by contaminated water or unsafe waste
disposal in many developing countries is unacceptably high," Jaspers
said. "You can see the destructive impact a lack of water and
sanitation can have on economies and livelihoods."
More than 1.1 billion people around the world lack safe water and
a further 2.4 billion have no access to sanitation, the federation
The Red Cross initiative will target the world's poorest
countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of
the Caribbean and Latin America.
It will focus on long-term solutions, in line with a U.N.
objective to reduce by half the number of people without clean water
and sanitation by 2015. The federation estimated that the campaign
will cost about US$129 million over the next 10 years.
The program includes financial aid for the digging of new wells,
the modernization of existing water supplies and the building of more
The tsunami that hit countries around the Indian Ocean in December
has also highlighted the need for clean water in emergency
situations, the federation said.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the World Health
Organization warned that as many could die from waterborne diseases
as from the initial impact.
The federation said that it already helps more than 2 million
people every year worldwide in the wake of catastrophes.
"Our capacity and expertise in providing adequate water and
sanitation in disasters will continue and expand," Jaspers said.
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