Three-quarters of Ethiopia’s 71 million people do not have access to clean water, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday. Four out of five live without proper sanitation, it added.
Speaking on World Water Day, Bjorn Ljungqvist, UNICEF’s representative in Ethiopia, said the country faced enormous challenges if it was to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Ljungqvist said Ethiopia must provide clean water for 3.6 million people, and toilets for 4.5 million, every year if it is to reach the targets.
The seventh MDG states that by 2015, the number of people in the world without access to safe water – around 1.1 billion people - should be halved.
"UNICEF firmly believes that improvements on water supply, sanitation and hygiene will dramatically improve the lives of children," Ljungqvist said.
"These deprivations cost many lives, and account for at least 1.6 million preventable child deaths each year."
Ethiopian athlete Berhane Adere, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, said hundreds of children were dying each day from diarrhoea and other dirty-water-related illnesses.
She told officials in Addis Ababa, where World Water Day was being celebrated, that clean water could also help get girls into school.
"One of my main aims as UNICEF goodwill ambassador for girls’ education is to improve school attendance among girls in Ethiopia," she said at the occasion, where an International Decade for Action under the theme ‘Water for Life’ was launched.
She added that girls often collect water for their families, so clean water sources close to their homes will allow more time in school.
Ethiopian president Girma Woldegiorgis said that water management in the country could boost food production and end hunger. "With the frequent droughts and unreliability, the obvious way for Ethiopia to increase its food production is to develop irrigation schemes," he said.
"In areas where water is scarce and rains are erratic, rainwater harvesting is being widely implemented to supply farmers with this important commodity," Girma explained.
According to UNICEF, 21 percent of children in developing countries are severely water deprived. The World Health Organisation estimates that 20 litres per day of safe water is needed for a child to drink, wash and cook.
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