Tuesday, 22 March 2011

350,000 walkers for water gather across the globe

Press release to mark World Water Day 2011!

Over 350,000 people across the world will take action on the water and sanitation crisis this today in The World Walks for Water. People will walk a symbolic 6km in São Paulo, New Delhi, Cape Town, Lagos, Kampala, Ouagadougou and hundreds of other locations in solidarity with the millions of people who have to walk 6km everyday just to collect water for their basic needs.

Walking around the world

The walks target politicians, demanding that they solve the crisis which kills 4000 children every day. A staggering 50,000 people in total will be walking in Uganda, one of the countries most severely affected by the crisis. Walkers in Uganda are calling upon their newly elected politicians to keep promises made in the election campaign on providing safe water and sanitation to constituents.

A vicious cycle

Doreen Kabasindi Wandera, the Executive Director of the Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET) described living with the water and sanitation crisis:

“Uganda has a population of over 33 million people. Nearly 50% of this population does not have easy access to clean water. In a typical Ugandan village, women and children start water journeys as early as 6.00 am and walk for as long as 10 kilometres to access safe water for domestic use.”

Serena O’Sullivan, a coordinator of the World Walks for Water, pointed to the problems this crisis causes in the developing world:

“A lack of access to safe, clean water and sanitation locks people in to a vicious cycle of disease, poverty and under-development. Children are kept from going to school and gaining an education and women are denied economic equality because of the time and energy spent gathering water.”

She added that the crisis has huge effects on economies as well: “An estimated 5% of developing countries’ GDP is lost to illnesses and deaths caused by dirty water and a lack of sanitation. Amazingly, research last year showed inadequate sanitation costs India US$ 53.8 billion, which is equivalent to 6.4 percent of India’s GDP in 2006. The madness must stop –investment in water and sanitation makes sense economically and socially.”

Keeping politicians to their promises

This action comes less than two months before leaders attend a crucial United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Istanbul in May 2011. Participants in the World Walks for Water event will send a clear message to politicians attending the conference that they cannot ignore the water and sanitation crisis any longer. They will demand that promises made as part of the Millennium Development Goals to halve the proportion of people without access to sanitation and water by 2015 must be kept.

Serena O’Sullivan insisted that water and sanitation must be one of the top political priorities: “The water and sanitation crisis must become a political and funding priority as it is such a key step towards ending poverty. We want all people living in LDCs to have access to water and sanitation by 2020.”

Doreen Kabasindi Wandera added that “The increased work load for women who are already burdened with both reproductive and productive roles cannot be ignored any longer.”


Notes for editors:

1. The World Walks for Water is organized by the following organisations:

  • End Water Poverty – A global coalition of over 185 organisations campaigning to end the water and sanitation crisis.
  • Freshwater Action Network (FAN) – A major network of civil society organisations implementing and influencing water and sanitation policy and practice.
  • The Water Supply and Sanitation Council (WSSCC) – A global multi-stakeholder partnership organization that works to improve the lives of poor people.
  • Wash United – A coalition of civil society organisations, United Nation agencies, governments and sport stars promoting safe drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for all people, everywhere.

2. World Water Day is an international initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de

Janeiro. It has since been observed every year on the 22nd March. On this day member nations implement UN recommendations and concrete activities regarding the world’s water resources.

3. The UN Conference for Least Developed Countries will take place in Istanbul, Turkey on 9th -13th May 2011. Representatives from all the LDCs will evaluate progress on development goals and set new goals accordingly. The conference will also seek to reaffirm the global commitment for the UN to address the needs of the LDCs and mobilize international support.

Please access http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldwalksforwater/ for photographs. Original copies available on request.

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