Notice to Readers: World Water Day --- March 22, 2005
World Water Day, March 22, 2005, marks the start of the Water for Life Decade, 2005--2015, a new United Nations International Decade for Action (1). The decade-long effort will improve the chances of achieving international water-related goals, including that of the United Nations Millennium Declaration: by 2015, to reduce by 50% the proportion of persons without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
An estimated 1.1 billion persons lack access to an improved water source*, and 2.6 billion persons lack access to adequate sanitation (2). Waterborne diseases account for approximately 4 billion episodes of illness and 2.2 million deaths every year, disproportionately affecting young children (3). Safe water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene education can substantially reduce morbidity and mortality from diarrheal diseases (4).
The Safe Water System (SWS) program uses simple, inexpensive technologies to empower families to treat and safely store drinking water in their homes (http://www.cdc.gov/safewater). Promotion of hand washing with soap, an intervention proven to reduce diarrhea (5), is an integral component of SWS projects. SWS programs operate in 19 countries and were a critical tool in responding to contamination of water sources in Indonesia, India, and Myanmar after the December 2004 tsunamis. Safe Water Systems for the Developing World: A Handbook for Implementing Household-Based Water Treatment and Safe Storage Projects is a guide for program managers, technical staff, and other personnel in organizations involved in water and sanitation projects (6). The guide is available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. CDC, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, and other public and private partners are members of the International Network to Promote Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (http://www.who.int/household_water/en). Additional information about World Water Day is available at http://www.worldwaterday.org.
- World Health Organization. Celebrating water for life: the International Decade for Action 2005--2015. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2005. Available at http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/2005advocguide/en/index.html.
- World Health Organization. Meeting the MDG drinking-water and sanitation target: a mid-term assessment of progress. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2004. Available at http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/monitoring/jmp2004/en.
- Prüss A, Kay D, Fewtrell L, Bartram J. Estimating the burden of disease from water, sanitation, and hygiene at a global level. Environ Health Perspect 2002;110:537--42.
- World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund. Global water supply and sanitation assessment 2000 report. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2000. Available at http://www.who.int/docstore/water_sanitation_health/globassessment/globaltoc.htm.
- Curtis V, Cairncross S. Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review. Lancet Infect Dis 2003;3:275--81.
- CDC. Safe water systems for the developing world: a handbook for implementing household-based water treatment and safe storage projects. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2001. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/safewater/manual/1_toc.htm.
* Defined as water supply via a household connection, public standpipe, borehole well, protected dug well, protected spring, or rainwater collection.
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