World Water Day 2009
Press Releases
World Water Day 2009

DELHI, 22 March 2009 – World Water Day 2009 calls for collective action to tackle the issue of access to safe drinking water and water sharing. This year’s theme -- transboundary waters -- aims to increase global understanding of the need to manage water resources in an integrated manner.

Cooperation is the key to properly managing the world’s water resources, particularly when watercourses cross national boundaries. Access to clean, safe water is essential to the health and wellbeing of children, wherever they may live.

“Inaction on water issues is not an option,” said Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. “Access to clean water and sanitation is fundamental to every aspect of a child’s life – from health to survival and dignity. Water, which is a limited natural resource that can unite or divide communities, is also essential to ensuring children’s rights.”

The good news is that 87 per cent of the global population, or approximately 5.7 billion people worldwide, are now using safe drinking water. However, it is a sobering fact that globally more than 125 million children under five years of age live in households without access to a safe drinking-water source.

In India, while 84 per cent of the country’s rural population has access to improved water sources, chemical and bacteriological contamination still remains a problem. Chemicals such as fluoride, arsenic and iron in the groundwater make it unpotable, affecting over 100 million people in India.

“The only sustainable solution is to develop alternative sources of water,” said Dara Johnston, Water and Environmental Sanitation Specialist with UNICEF, India. “Guidelines set up by the Government of India (GOI) recommend the use of multiple water sources including rainwater, ground water and surface water as well as reuse of grey water after treatment. Large investments have been made to create new water sources where chemical contamination has been identified.”

Globally, even more people - a total of 2.5 billion people - are without sanitation, and this further threatens their health and jeopardizes the quality of water they rely on.

In India, bacteriological contamination of drinking water is the greatest risk to water quality. A lack of proper sanitation is a major cause of contamination of ground water, and over 650 million people still defecate in the open. UNICEF’s program in India concentrates on behaviour change initiatives to solve this widespread problem.

“It is the community’s behaviour which is polluting water sources, and their collective action to protect the wells and stop open defecation is paramount in preventing fecal bacteria from contaminating the drinking water,” Johnston said.

UNICEF supports water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes in more than 90 countries around the world with a focus on simple, affordable and accessible interventions at the community and household level. UNICEF WASH programmes focus on sustainable, long-term solutions through the use of low cost technologies, such as, rainwater harvesting, hygienic latrines, and the promotion of simple household practices including handwashing with soap and treatment of drinking water.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and HIV/AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Angela Walker, Communication Chief, UNICEF India.
Tel: +91-98-18106093; e-mail:

Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India.
Tel: +91-98-18105861; e-mail:

Alistair Gretarsson, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India.
Tel: +91-98-7153-5586; e-mail:


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