Friday, June 24, 2011

WASH: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

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Almost fifty per cent of the developing world’s population (2.5 billion people) lack improved sanitation facilities and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services is one of the leading causes of diarrhea, which in turn is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths for children under 5. In Rwanda two-thirds of the population has access to an improved water source, but less than a third uses improved sanitation facilities and even less have received hygiene education like learning hand washing. UNICEF is working around the world to improve these statistics and specifically in Rwanda they have launched a project to make sure every school has proper water and hygiene facilities.

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Women are particularly impacted by the lack of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) because they are denied their right to education if a school lacks private and decent sanitation facilities. When girls hit puberty they will often stop going to school if the school does not have separate bathroom facilities for boys and girls. The job of fetching water also usually unfairly falls on children an girls in particular are forced to spend large parts of their day carrying extremely heavy containers of water for miles.

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We visited a clean water pump in Rwanda and got to try to each try to pick up a full container of water that men and women carry every day. It was so heavy we could barely lift it let alone carry it for miles on a dirt road.  UNICEF is working to put in more of these pumps across the country and all over the world so children do not have to walk such a far distance to access clean water and have more time for school.
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In 2007 UNICEF launched its Tap Project specifically to raise money to bring safe water to children in developing countries. The Tap Project started in New York based on a simple concept: restaurants would ask their patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually get for free and all funds raised would go to UNICEF’s efforts to bring clean and accessible water to millions of children around the world. The project returns every year during World Water Week across the country. For a list of participating restaurants check out this link.

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