The lack of access to safe water and sanitation has many other serious repercussions. Children – and particularly girls – are denied their right to education because they are busy fetching water or are deterred by the lack of separate and decent sanitation facilities in schools. Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, and national economies suffer. Without safe water and sanitation, sustainable development is impossible.
UNICEF works in more than 90 countries around the world to improve water supplies and sanitation facilities in schools and communities, and to promote safe hygiene practices. We sponsor a wide range of activities and work with many partners, including families, communities, governments and like-minded organizations. In emergencies we provide urgent relief to communities and nations threatened by disrupted water supplies and disease. All UNICEF water and sanitation programmes are designed to contribute to the Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation: to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation.
Unsafe water and lack of sanitation and adequate hygiene contribute to the leading killers of children under five, including diarrhoeal diseases, pneumonia and undernutrition, and have implications for whether children - especially girls - attend school. Thus achieving Millennium Development Goal 7, and its 2015 targets of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, is of vital relevance for children and for improving nutrition, education and women's status. This issue of Progress for Children reports on whether the world is on course to reach MDG 7, and where efforts are falling short.