World Water Day Calls for Immediate Solutions to Persistent Problems

March 22, 2001

Today is World Water Day – an international initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 of each year as the World Day for Water by adopting a resolution that year.

The theme for World Water Day 2001 is "Water and Health." For this reason, and for the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) is the lead agency for the day.

In a report released to coincide with the observance, WHO notes that more than one billion people drink unsafe water and 2.4 billion – 40% of the human race – are without adequate sanitation, and 3.4 million people, mostly children, die every year of water-related diseases (more than one million from malaria alone).

But the picture is neither gloomy nor hopeless. "Clearly, a problem of this magnitude cannot be solved overnight, but simple, inexpensive measures, both individual and collective, are available that will provide clean water for millions and millions of people in developing countries – now, not in 10 or 20 years," said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of WHO. "We do not have the luxury of waiting around for large infrastructure investments to provide water supplies and basic sanitation services for all who need them. It makes no sense, and it is not acceptable, to ignore the immediate priorities of the most needy."

Optimistic but realistic, the WHO report, entitled "Water for Health: Taking Charge", strongly urges several basic measures, including purifying water (chlorination and sodis), and improving hygiene, as immediate means of improving people's water supply in developing countries.

The annual observance is a unique occasion to remind everybody of the unseen contribution water makes to health, and how it can reduce disease. Practical efforts can help us to make an impact as well as to increase worldwide awareness of both problems and solutions. To make a difference our tasks include turning words into commitment and action.

World Water Day is celebrated by individuals and organizations worldwide. WHO is putting its efforts behind ensuring awareness of the day, providing information to assist celebration on a local level and providing a route to learn what others are doing. Celebration is not confined to the day, but is done throughout the year.

Source: World Health Organization

Image by Burnham RNG, courtesy twentytwo & brand.