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UNICEF and WHO Call on Nations to Accelerate Action to Ensure Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All

The United Nations Water Conference has kicked off, marking the first conference in nearly 50 years. As the event takes place, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have called on nations to take action to ensure that safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) become a reality for everyone.

According to reports, a staggering 2 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water while almost half of the world's population – 3.6 billion people – use sanitation services that leave human waste untreated. Millions of families and children do not have adequate WASH services, including soap for handwashing, with devastating consequences, often leading to preventable deaths.

Unsafe water and poor sanitation cause at least 1.4 million deaths annually, with many of them being children. Cholera is spreading in countries where it has not broken out in decades. The lack of proper hygiene practices in half of all health care facilities is especially critical.

Without adequate WASH services, individuals fall ill, children miss out on education, and entire communities can be displaced by water scarcity. Conversely, access to safe water and sanitation can bring about numerous benefits for individuals and society at large.

To achieve universal access to safely managed WASH services by 2030, UNICEF and WHO call on governments to increase political commitment to WASH services and develop strategies to strengthen governance and institutions required to deliver these services.

The organizations also urge governments to develop costed funding and financing strategies that recognize WASH as a public good and invest in building a stronger, gender-balanced workforce with stronger skills in the WASH sector.

Investments and decisive action in water, sanitation, and hygiene can transform communities and improve public health. UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments, private sector organizations, multilateral partners, and civil society organizations to join hands and act now to provide a lifetime opportunity to enable safe water, sanitation, and hygiene for all.

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