World Water Day 2011: A Day for Celebration and Continued Education

March 22 is International World Water Day.  Designated in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, it is a day that calls our attention to the importance of water, and to the sustainable use and management of our water resources.

Recently, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 5.9 billion people or 87% of the world’s population now have access to drinking water from safer and improved sources.[1]

This news calls for a celebration of the combined efforts of individuals, organizations and governments working together around the world.  These efforts, such as the protection of sources from outside contamination and the installation of water purification and distribution systems include the work of Episcopal Relief & Development’s partners across the globe—from Nicaragua to Kenya and Burundi, and from India to Myanmar and the Philippines.

Yet, while considerable progress has already been made, in many rural communities throughout the developing world, less than 50% of residents are being served by similar improvements. In addition, in these same areas many people also lack adequate sanitation facilities and often practice open defecation, which may contaminate sources of water.  The combination of unprotected water sources, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices has profound implications on public health, as it is the principal contributor not only to diarrhea, but also to chronic outbreaks of cholera.

Today, diarrhea is the second leading cause of child death in the world, and it is the top cause of child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.  Reducing child mortality through the proper treatment and prevention of diarrhea is a key focus of Episcopal Relief & Development’s integrated child survival program and NetsforLife® malaria program partnership in northern Angola.  Working together with the Anglican Diocese and Mother’s Union in Angola, and in collaboration with local authorities, rural communities are protecting water sources, constructing household and public latrines, and mobilizing women to lead community-wide health and hygiene education campaigns.

Communities in Angola recognize that increased child survival depends upon improved household and public health, and in this integrated child survival and malaria program they are demonstrating that improved public health means everyone must get involved!

Episcopal Relief & Development and its worldwide church partners are working together to contribute to Millennium Development Goal #7 of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Research has shown that for every $1 invested in clean water and sanitation, $8 is returned in productivity and reduced health care costs.[2]

In recognition of International World Water Day, please remember those without access to clean water sources, and invest your $1 today!

Tammi Mott is a Program Officer with Episcopal Relief & Development.

Photo: Almeida Sylvestra demonstrates how he washes his hands with soap before each meal.  Almeida is the grandson of Rosalina Jorge, a Mother’s Union member who is learning, sharing and acting for better hygiene, sanitation, and public health in the village of Caseche, Uige Province, northern Angola.


[1] WHO/UNICEF (2010). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-water: 2010 update. Geneva: World Health Organization.
[2] J Bartram, L Haller, and G Hutton. (2006). Economic and Health Effects of Increasing Low-Cost Water and Sanitation Interventions. Geneva: World Health Organization.