U.S. Water News Online
GENEVA -- The lack of any major outbreak of disease in
areas hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami is largely due to the rapid
deployment of clean water and sanitation teams, the international Red
In a statement marking World Water Day, the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the response
provided a dramatic demonstration of the need for clean water.
But the resource is also essential for longer-term chronic
shortages in the developing world, the federation and other
international organizations said.
The United Nations says more than 1.1 billion people around the
world lack safe water and 2.4 billion have no access to sanitation,
leading to over 3 million deaths every year.
"People who can turn on a tap and have safe and clean water to
drink, to cook with and to bathe in often take it for granted, and
yet more than 1 billion of our fellow human beings have little choice
but to use potentially harmful sources of water," said Dr. Lee
Jong-Wook, head of the World Health Organization.
The Red Cross federation said it had deployed seven emergency
response units in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, providing clean water to
nearly 500,000 people.
It was its largest deployment of water and sanitation teams since
it set up the emergency response system of its national societies 10
years ago, the federation said.
"After a major catastrophe, populations are particularly
vulnerable to waterborne diseases, and our ability to produce large
quantities of safe water and provide adequate sanitation quickly has
been crucial in ensuring that these communities were not subjected to
a second disaster," said Markku Niskala, secretary-general of the
This year's World Water Day marks the launching of the "Water for
Life" decade, during which the United Nations and governments are
seeking to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking
water and basic sanitation by 2015.
Ministers and government representatives are scheduled to meet
next month at the Commission for Sustainable Development's 13th
session in New York to take policy decisions on practical measures to
ensure access to water for people worldwide.
"We need to increase water efficiency, especially in agriculture.
We need to free women and girls from the daily chore of hauling
water, often over great distances," U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan
The plan also aims to safeguard water for the future of the
Earth's ecosystems, crucial for protecting and preserving
biodiversity in freshwater lakes and rivers, mountain landscapes,
wetlands, estuaries, coastal zones and oceans.
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