June 20, 2003

55 Children in Mozambique die each day from unsafe water, says UNICEF

Unsafe water and poor sanitation is killing almost 55 children every day in Mozambique, a country plagued by one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on June, 20. Cholera - which thrives where filthy water stagnates - is still endemic in parts of the country, and the threat of the disease looms over the most vulnerable children, UNICEF said. Over the past nine months, 12,433 people were treated and 109 people died from the disease.

According to UNICEF, of every 1,000 children born in Mozambique, 246 die within their first five years, with 13 per cent of these deaths directly attributable to a lack of access to clean water, proper sanitation and poor hygiene practices. "This translates into 55 children under five years of age dying every day from diarrhoea. Thousands more are at risk because of cholera, infections caused by dirty water, and inadequate sanitation conditions if conditions are not improved and work is not speeded up," UNICEF warned.

A survey conducted in November 2002 showed that 25 per cent of households surveyed were spending more than an hour every day to reach their water source. Efforts to obtain fresh water place enormous strains on family members, particularly women and children. "These chores fall heavily on children, particularly girls, preventing them from attending school. Furthermore, many schools have no latrines. The lack of privacy spells a powerful deterrent for parents to keep their daughters out school," UNICEF said.

In rural areas, only 26 per cent of the population can get clean water, while 29 per cent have access to latrines. UNICEF has responded by providing the Government's public works department with funds and chlorine for emergency water treatment, and has implemented massive hygiene promotion campaigns. (United Nations, New York)

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