Sadly, this really isn’t news at all…
Dirty water kills more people than war: UN
March 23, 2010
The Associated Press
resident fills a container with water taken from a partially dried-up
reservoir in China’s Yunnan province March 4, 2010.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon challenged
world leaders Monday to ensure that all people have access to safe
drinking water, saying more people die from unsafe water than from all
forms of violence, including war.
“Clean water has become scarce
and will become even scarcer with the onset of climate change,” the
U.N. chief warned in a message coinciding with World Water Day.
Every day, millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and
agricultural waste are poured into the world’s water systems, and it is
the poor who “continue to suffer first and most from pollution, water
shortages and the lack of adequate sanitation,” Ban said.
According to a report issued Monday by the U.N. Environment Program, the
estimated 2 billion tons of waste water discharged daily fuel the
spread of disease and damage ecosystems.
At least 1.8 million
children under the age of five die every year from water-related
diseases, or one every 20 seconds, the report said, and over half the
world’s hospital beds are occupied with people suffering from illnesses
linked to contaminated water.
Achim Steiner, executive director
of the Nairobi-based U.N. agency, warned that if waste can’t be managed
properly, “that means more people dying from waterborne diseases.”
The secretary-general called the deaths “an affront to our common
World leaders have the “know-how to solve these
challenges and become better stewards of our water resources,” Ban said,
and he challenged them to act ahead of a high-level General Assembly
meeting in September to assess progress toward meeting the U.N.
Millennium Development Goals to reduce global poverty by the target date
One of those goals calls for reducing the proportion
of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by
According to the latest report of the Joint Monitoring
Program for Water and Sanitation, the world is on track to meet the
drinking water target.
Prince Willem-Alexander of the
Netherlands, chair of the secretary-general’s Advisory Board on Water
and Sanitation, speaking via video-link to Nairobi’s Water Day events,
said 810 million people, including 120 million in sub-Saharan Africa,
had gained access to drinking water since 2000 “but we cannot lean
It isn’t certain that this water is safe to drink, he
explained, because an alarming quantity of water carried unsafe levels
of microbes and chemicals, making people sick.
At a high-level
General Assembly water event Monday, former assembly president Jan
Eliasson, who chairs WaterAid Sweden, added that despite the progress,
some 885 million people still did not have access to clean water and
there were still great regional disparities.
Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said the number of people in rural
areas without clean water is over five times the number in urban areas —
and 37 per cent of people without access to clean water are in
Migiro said the sanitation picture was
Although 1.3 billion people have gained access to
improved sanitation since 1990, the world is likely to miss the U.N.
target by a billion people, she said.
“Access to clean water and
adequate sanitation are a prerequisite for lifting people out of
poverty,” she said.
Eliasson said it was time to end “turf
battles” and bring together governments, the private sector,
universities and others to tackle the problem.
He called for a
higher percentage of development aid to be given to improving water and
“If the world is to thrive, let alone to survive on
a planet of 6 billion people heading to over 9 billion by 2050,” UNEP’s
Steiner said, “we need to get collectively smarter and more intelligent
about how we manage waste, including waste water.”