Health - World Water Day

One in six without safe drinking water worldwide

A homeless man washes his face in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 22 March. World Water Day is highlighting the fact that more than a billion people lack access to clean water
A homeless man washes his face in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 22 March. World Water Day is highlighting the fact that more than a billion people lack access to clean water Reuters

Nine countries in Africa’s drought-affected Sahel region are coming together this week to discuss ways of managing scarce water supplies and protecting people against food shortages. Meanwhile, in France water companies are using World Water Day to draw attention to protecting the precious resource.

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An estimated one out of every six people lack safe drinking water worldwide, and two out of every five people lack adequate sanitation, according to the UN. It has chosen the slogan "Clean Water for a Healthy World" as this year's theme of World Water Day, which is observed every year on 22 March.

Shortage of safe drinking water is a major problem in countries in the Sahel region in Africa, where nine countries are meeting this week to discuss the issue. The Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel consists of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Many of these countries have experienced problems in food production because of less rainfall.

Their 25 March meeting in Chad will work on setting up a global coalition on managing water, a Chadian official said.

The coalition was agreed on in 2004 and the committee said its intention is to harness human and financial resources “to make the control of water a strategic priority of the first importance”.

The committee said gaining control of water was key in trying to solve the Sahel region’s biggest problems.

It said Niger and Chad were particularly affected by food shortages in March, leaving millions of people vulnerable.

Meanwhile, World Water Day has prompted French companies to launch an internet and press campaign to draw attention to the precious resource.

The campaign focuses on the need for innovation to protect the resource and the importance of guaranteeing high-quality water around the clock, as well as good waste water treatment.

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