The poor bear the greatest brunt of this lack of access to water and sanitation. For women and girls, collecting water cuts into time they can spend caring for families and studying. In insecure areas, it also puts them at risk of violence and attack. UNICEF estimates that in Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking to collect water.
This year’s theme on World Water Day, which falls on March 22, is “Water and Sustainable Development”. The theme aptly encapsulates the overarching role of water in our lives, be it for human consumption, food production, for health, for power generation, for industry and for the sustenance of nature as a whole, without which life would not exist.
This year’s theme highlights the importance of water to our existence and emphasizes the need to look at the holistic development of the water sector, reduce water wastage and prevent contamination of this increasingly scarce resources. “Everyone, be it the government, the civil society, international development partners and the citizens including children have a critical role to play in ensuring that water is sustainably used and is available for generations to come” said Kannan Nadar, Chief, Water and Sanitation, UNICEF.
UNICEF has been working with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources as well as the state governments to promote use of sustainable approaches and technologies for water abstraction and use. In the last two years nearly 2.5 million people gained access to safe water in rural areas through UNICEF support that also included funding from EU and UKAid. UNICEF-supported ‘WASH in Schools’ programming has also brought safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to thousands of school children in Nigeria.