International charities join forces to put water high on agenda of Johannesburg world summit

Two UK-based international charities have announced that they are joining forces to put water and sanitation high on the agenda of the world summit on sustainable development which will take place in twelve months time in Johannesburg, ten years on from the historical 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

Tearfund, an evangelical Christian relief and development charity, and WaterAid, dedicated to providing safe domestic water to the world’s poorest people, are launching their new campaign, Water Matters, and are calling on people to sign a petition that will be presented to the UK Prime Minister ahead of the world summit. The petition will call on the UK Government to:

  • urge all UN member governments to agree on an action plan for meeting the target to halve the number of people without access to drinking water by 2015, and ensure that each country has national policies for managing water resources in place by 2005;
  • promote and secure an international agreement to halve the number of people without adequate sanitation by 2015; and
  • lead by example, by increasing the UK’s official development assistance to the agreed UN target of 0.7% of GNP, prioritising water issues within that increase, and then urge other countries to follow suit.

“It is a chilling fact that a child dies every 15 seconds from water related diseases and by 2025 two out of every three people will be living with water shortages,” said Joanne Green of Tearfund. “To prevent a world crisis we must stop acting like water is an infinite resource and start managing it properly. We must also make sure the world’s poor have access to clean water and sanitation and that governments invest sufficiently to achieve this.”

One billion people currently lack access to safe water, and 2.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation, says WaterAid. “The number of people that die every year from water-related diseases is the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing every day, mostly full of children,” said Stephen Turner of WaterAid, calling on his fellow country-men to act. “These deaths do not make the news and the world just accepts them. Now is the time to tell our government that the UK public do care about unnecessary deaths in the developing world, and that sorting out the world’s water resources should take priority. We need to tell them in as loud a voice as possible that water matters.”

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