UNICEF and Clinton launch Tsunami Water and Sanitation Fund

Former US president Bill Clinton and UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy announced a joint initiative to bring safe drinking water and sanitation to families affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami that hit countries around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004.

The Tsunami Water and Sanitation Fund, launched on 10 January 2005, is a partner project of the Clinton Foundation and UNICEF, and will strengthen UNICEF’s efforts to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases in tsunami-ravaged areas.

“The tsunami has shown us how water can take lives, this initiative will demonstrate how water can save lives,” Bellamy said at a press conference at UNICEF House in New York.

With water supply systems contaminated and in many cases destroyed by the floodwaters, millions of people lack safe water and are at risk of diseases like cholera and diarrhea, Bellamy said. Children, who make up at least one-third of the overall population in the worst-affected countries, are particularly vulnerable to waterborne diseases.

The fund will enable UNICEF to continue and expand its provision of safe water, water purification tablets and household water kits, containing water containers, soap and buckets, to millions of affected people. It will finance the construction of emergency latrines and the rehabilitation of urban and rural water supply systems, with a priority for hospitals, health centres and schools, as well as provide equipment to construct basic sanitation facilities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says access to safe water and sanitation remains critical, particularly in Aceh, Indonesia and Ampara and Kalmunai in Sri Lanka, where sanitation infrastructure remains inadequate. The organisation is continuing to provide technical support to affected countries, while coordinating the public health response with other UN organizations and NGOs.

Among the huge global response to the tragedy, UK NGO Oxfam has sent an aid flight carrying 27 tonnes of water and sanitation equipment, including pipes, pumps and tanks, to Indonesia.

Spokesperson Sam Barratt said: “This equipment will help provide clean water and stop the spread of disease. This is just the start of a long programme to help the people of Aceh to rebuild their lives.”

Water and sanitation engineers from Swiss NGO Medair are repairing wells contaminated by seawater and digging emergency latrines along the east coast of Sri Lanka. Water quality testing and purification is also taking place in camps to maintain a potable supply.

Generous contributions from the water industry include GE’s donation of two mobile water treatment units and the deployment of over 50 technical staff to work in cooperation with the Indonesian government and relief agencies.

Skilled personnel and package water treatment plant equipment from Biwater in the UK are also on the way to northern Sumatra in Indonesia after a request from the Medan City Water Company. River water up to a few kilometres inland is still saline and the relief team will need to dig wells to extract raw water.

Zenon of Canada is sending its Homespring water filtration units to provide clean, safe water to victims of the disaster in India and Sri Lanka in a combined initiative with partners Eureka Forbes of India and NGO World Vision.

“We are committed to helping find water treatment solutions to the relief efforts in the region,” said Andrew Benedek, chairman and CEO of Zenon.

ITT Industries is preparing 60 portable water treatment units for delivery to the disaster area.

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