AGENDA ITEM: Accessing the water: A vital right for all children in Africa


United Nations International Children’s Fund, or widely known as UNICEF was established by United Nations General Assembly in the aftermath of World War II. The initial objective of this body was to help provide relief and support to children living in countries devastated by war.

Along with the development progress, UNICEF has shifted its mandate to not only provide assistance and help for children living in countries devastated by war but as well as to ensure the rights of all children are fulfilled. The committee has played an important role in promoting the Convention on the Rights of Children, which now has become one of the most ratified conventions in the world. UNICEF has also widely known by its development programs that engaging not only government but as well as NGO, private sectors and related stakeholders with the use of media and role model in campaigning their programs.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes, and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.



Water is life. But when water is unsafe and sanitation nonexistent, water can kill. Children under age 5 are, on average, 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal diseases associated with poor water, sanitation and hygiene than from violence in conflict.

UNICEF works in more than 100 countries to provide safe water and sanitation to the world’s most vulnerable communities. Whether by delivering safe water after a disaster or promoting safe hygiene practices in schools and communities, UNICEF is on the ground helping children in need. to basic drinking water services such as piped water into the home or a protected well. Yet climate change threatens to undo much of this progress. By 2040, 1 in 4 children — 600 million children — will live in areas of extremely high water stress and thousands will be made sick by polluted water. The poorest, most disadvantaged children will suffer the most.

Children who drink unsafe water become weak and susceptible to waterborne diseases, one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of 5. Unsafe water and poor sanitation can lead to malnutrition or make it worse. “No matter how much food a malnourished child eats, he or she will not get better if the water they are drinking is not safe,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programs.

In 2018, UNICEF invested over $1 billion to reach the most vulnerable children and families around the world with WASH and continued to lead WASH coordination in humanitarian emergencies in 19 countries. In South Sudan, where 5.1 million people live without safe water or sanitation facilities, UNICEF and partners are rehabilitating water treatment plants.

Unsafe water worsens the already devastating effects of malnutrition. Children die every day from diseases caused by the water they drink.

Unsafe water and poor sanitation can spawn diseases that prey on children, especially when children are already weak from lack of food. Disease and diarrhea also take advantage of malnutrition, making children even weaker and more susceptible to illness.

Children die every day from diseases caused by the water they drink. Cholera spreads in food and water that has been contaminated with human waste. So toilets, which help prevent the contamination of water, are critical to fighting disease. Safe water is also essential in treating those who are suffering from disease.

Those driven from their homes are confronted with poor sanitation, malnourishment, and disease. They are often forced to rely on surface water, and do not have access to toilets. Also, they are too often unable to reach hospitals and health centers.

Amid conflict and famine, stressed healthcare systems are unable to manage an outbreak of infectious disease. Diseases that arise and spread with lack of clean water can overwhelm healthcare systems that are already not only damaged, in need of trained staff, or lacking supplies—but may also have inadequate water and sanitation.

UNICEF plays a vital role in preventing disease by providing water and sanitation in areas suffering from famine and crisis. UNICEF teams are deployed — often in harrowing conditions — to mobilize water trucks and set up storage tanks, filters, handwashing stations and toilets, and conduct educational activities to teach people how to keep safe from disease.

This work is vital, particularly to people in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen and other areas caught up in conflict and famine.

UNICEF teams are deployed — often in harrowing conditions — to mobilize water trucks and set up storage tanks, filters, handwashing stations and toilets, and conduct educational activities to teach people how to keep safe from disease.

In areas of conflict, famine and drought around the world, UNICEF responds. Interventions in acute disasters are rapid and limited; in complex situations, they are comprehensive and long-term. UNICEF is fighting famine by providing safe water to more than 2.5 million people in famine-affected areas. UNICEF is the lead agency in the world for the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies, and UNICEF also coordinates multi-agency efforts in this area. In emergency responses last year, UNICEF helped provide clean water for 18 million people and improved sanitation to 4 million.

West and Central Africa is the only region with an increasing number of people who practice open defecation – one of the most unsanitary hygiene practices where people use the bush, stream, local river or outside area as a toilet. Progress toward increasing access to improved sanitation has been very limited in the region.

Sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene in health centres and schools also remains a challenge. In the region, less than 50 per cent of schools have access to water and less than 40 per cent have access to adequate sanitation. Water, sanitation and hygiene services in healthcare facilities are also limited.

In communities across the region, more than a third of all people still do not have access to safe water, and millions drink untreated and potentially contaminated water that can give rise to diarrhoea, a major child killer, and cholera.

Women and young girls are primarily responsible for collecting water in most households without drinking water on their premises. This means that a lot of their time is taken away from other important activities such as going to school.

The heavy burden of conflicts, epidemic risk, chronic malnutrition, drought and floods in West and Central Africa are main reasons why millions of affected people need emergency water and sanitation support.

Climate change, rapid population growth, weak governance and gender inequalities all add to the vulnerabilities that millions of children and families experience on a daily basis.

Somalia — where, since November 2016, 766,000 people displaced by drought have left home in search of food and water — is also enduring an outbreak of cholera. There have been more than 77,000 cases. The drought is exacerbating the nutrition crisis, with a risk of famine in the latter half of 2017.

And in South Sudan, since June 2016, more than 19,000 have contracted cholera. There, almost half the water points have been damaged or destroyed — sometimes intentionally.

“In far too many cases, water and sanitation systems have been attacked, damaged or left in disrepair to the point of collapse,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene.

In northeast Nigeria, destruction of most of the water and sanitation infrastructure has compounded the repercussions of insurrection, displacement and malnutrition. Basic water services are unavailable to more than 3.5 million people.

In South Sudan, UNICEF has helped around 207,000 people gain access to sanitation and 610,000 to safe water. In areas affected by cholera, UNICEF has dug 22 boreholes to bring water to more than 210,000 people.

In Somalia, 1.66 million people have gained temporary access to safe water, and more than 890,000 have also been given hygiene kits—buckets full of household supplies, including soap, detergent, toothbrushes, toothpaste and towels.

In northeast Nigeria, UNICEF has worked with partners, at times risking lives, to bring safe water to about 845,000 people.

UNICEF not only intervenes at the height of an emergency but also takes part in in emergency preparedness planning and supports reconstruction efforts when a crisis has abated.

Severe drought in Somalia, following the failure of consecutive rains, caused this woman to leave her home and live in a temporary shelter near Ainabo. The drought and other blows have left some communities with few or no resources. Prices for water and food have risen, and thousands of people are on the move in search of food and water, with a consequent increase in waterborne diseases.

Governments are planning for approaching changes in water availability and demand. Risks from changes in climate need to be integrated into policies and services, and investments made to protect high-risk populations. Businesses can help by supporting efforts within their communities to prevent contamination and depletion of safe water sources. Communities can prepare for the future by exploring ways to diversify water sources and increase the availability of safely stored water.


Every child should live in a predictable, safe and clean environment. This is how we make it happen in West and Central Africa.


Safe drinking water is the foundation of health and development. UNICEF supports countries to increase access to water and manage water sources in the poorest and most vulnerable communities.


Investing in latrines and ending open defecation is more than just about health. It is also about providing people with dignity and safety. UNICEF partners with governments and others in community-led initiatives to put a stop to open defecation. This is done by changing social behaviour and building basic and well-managed sanitation systems in poor communities.


People in crisis need access to WASH services to prevent loss of life to disease outbreaks. UNICEF supports countries to provide a coordinated response to water, sanitation and hygiene in humanitarian settings.


Because they are still growing, children are at greatest risk of injury, disability and death caused by the impacts of climate change. UNICEF works with partners to build climate-resilient and risk-sensitive social services that protect children from the worst impacts of climate change.

Protecting children from changing water risks: Community, sub-national, national and global action The following are some practical steps that can help us to understand the risks facing children, inform policy and planning, set technical standards and develop resilient and climate-smart water, sanitation and hygiene programmes at the global, national, sub-national and local levels.

As climate change continues to have an impact on children’s access to safe water and sanitation, communities will need to adapt their coping strategies accordingly; they will need to build toilets and water services that are resilient in the face of climate disasters and encourage individuals to change their water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) behaviours and practices. It is therefore vital that we protect children and their families from the challenges of climate change and make sure that children everywhere are able to live in safe and sustainable environments. To do this, it will be essential to: Invest in good analysis and apply robust technical standards to the design of water and sanitation systems. This is a critical first step to help make sure that water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities can withstand the increasing incidence of drought and also survive the potential physical damage of floods, landslides and extreme weather. Diversify sources of drinking water and increase storage capacity. Communities are vulnerable when they rely on a single source of drinking water and do not have storage or reserves to act as a buffer in times of emergency. Groundwater sources can be complemented, when feasible, with rainwater, springs and properly treated surface water. Rainwater tanks, solar-energy-fed water tanks, small multi-purpose dams, including sand dams, and artificial groundwater recharge are all examples of climate resilient options that can provide storage and buffer capacity if primary water sources fail. In areas prone to flooding and extreme weather, reinforce safe sanitation behaviours as a deterrent to open defecation and work with local markets to establish sanitation solutions that are resilient in times of emergency. In communities where open defecation is the norm, behaviour change programmes need to focus on eliminating the practice and on encouraging communities to construct and maintain latrines resistant to climate change. Simple measures that can be discussed with communities include: avoiding areas where water stagnates after intense rain and raising and sealing latrines to protect them from rising flood waters. Sanitation system managers will need to understand the market for goods and services to determine if there are existing products adapted to the local context that could be scaled up for wider use.

Current Situation

Four years ago, the world met its global target for safe drinking water, which it had set as part of the Millennium Development Goals. Yet today, 663 million people still don’t have access to clean water.

NEARLY 1,000 CHILDREN die every day from diarrheal diseases linked to the lack of safe water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.

10 COUNTRIES account for two-thirds of the global population without access to safe water.

  • China (108 million)
  • India (99 million)
  • Nigeria (63 million)
  • Ethiopia (43 million)
  • Indonesia (39 million)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (37 million)
  • Bangladesh (26 million)
  • Tanzania (22 million)
  • Kenya (16 million)
  • Pakistan (16 million)

71% OF THE BURDEN  of fetching drinking water is borne by women and girls, keeping them away from work and school.

Without safe water, families already living under intensely dangerous conditions are at further risk of disease. And with hospitals also succumbing to shelling, healthcare is not always available for those falling sick. 


How can Unicef provide clean water more effectively to African Counties?

How can “WASH” be promoted in Africa?

What are hygiene promotion strategies?

How inadequate water sources should be managed in Africa?

How can water saving programmes be promoted?

How can the effects of climate change be minimised in the continent?

How to readapt the women and girls of Africa into school and work life?

How to manage contamination due to polluted water in African Counties?