People are walking in over 60 countries from Bangladesh to Benin, Nigeria to Norway and Mozambique to Malaysia. They are walking in solidarity with the millions of people – overwhelmingly women and children - who walk great distances each day to collect water for their basic needs and the billions who have no safe place to go to the toilet.
Walking around the world
Walkers will be calling on governments to put an end to the water and sanitation crisis that kills one child under five every twenty seconds, 4,000 every day. They are walking to demand that politicians take action to tackle preventable diarrhoeal diseases that are the biggest killer of children in Africa, taking more young lives than HIV/AIDs, malaria and measles combined.
Details of some of the walks include:
- In Belgium, an incredible 21,270 school children will be walking a combined total of 133,151km on World Water Day, that’s over a third of the distance from the Earth to the moon!
- The entire Cirque de Soleil cast are planning a walk through Las Vegas in their costumes.
- 30 energetic walkers in London are currently training to walk the 20 miles from one side of the city to the other.
- Over 10,000 people will walk in Nigeria whilst 40,000 are expected to walk in Madagascar, both countries directly affected directly by the water and sanitation crisis.
- In Kannungu in Uganda, walkers are meeting with the Minister of Water and Environment, and officials from the Ministry of Health to tell them it’s time for action.
At crisis point
Edith Veromaminiaina, Research Officer at WaterAid in Madagascar, described the extent of the crisis:
“70% of the Malagasy people live in rural areas, where the access to drinking water is less than 34%. In many places, children set off on their walk to collect water late at night and don’t arrive home until the next morning. They have a sleepless night and walk very far but still only draw dirty water. This is why we are taking part in The World Walks for Water and Sanitation.”
Jennifer Williams, coordinator of the World Walks for Water and Sanitation campaign added, “Unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation mean children are missing school and are dying needlessly from disease caused by contaminated water. Ending this crisis would increase school attendance, help break the poverty cycle and, most importantly, save lives.”
Demanding that world leaders take action
This High-Level Meeting, organised by the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, is a huge opportunity for real change but it won’t work unless Development and Finance Ministers give it the attention it deserves.
Participants in the World Walks for Water and Sanitation event will send a clear message to politicians that they cannot ignore the water and sanitation crisis any longer. They will demand that leaders commit to attending this meeting and prepare to make strong commitments for action.
Mubu Kalaluka, Project Manager at ROCS in Zambia, insisted that water and sanitation must be a political priority. "In Zambia, the key messages for the Government will be that the status quo is not acceptable and the Government needs to do more to ensure access to water and sanitation."
Jon Lane, Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) stresses that it is important that governments understand that sanitation and water are clever investments. “Investing in sanitation, one of the most off-track Millennium Development Goals, generates a 1 to 9 return. It is difficult to imagine any business person passing on the chance to make such a profit; yet this is just what is happening today.”
1. The World Walks for Water is organized by the following organisations:
· End Water Poverty is a global coalition of over 175 organisations campaigning to end the water and sanitation crisis.
· Freshwater Action Network (FAN) is a major network of civil society organisations implementing and influencing water and sanitation policy and practice.
· WASH Advocacy Initiative is a nonprofit advocacy effort in Washington DC entirely dedicated to helping solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge.
· WASH United is 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.
· WaterAid is an NGO dedicated to helping people escape the stranglehold of poverty and disease caused by living without safe water and sanitation.
· The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council is a global multi-stakeholder partnership organisation that works to improve the lives of poor people.
· The World Toilet Organisation communicates the need for better toilet standards in both the developed and developing economies of the world and provides a service platform for all toilet associations, related organisations and committed individuals to facilitate an exchange of ideas relating to health and cultural issues.
· The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) is a growing alliance that brings together trade unions, INGOs, the women’s and youth movements, community and faith groups and others to call for action from world leaders in the global North and South to meet their promises to end poverty and inequality.