KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 23 March 2012 – Years of civil war have limited progress in improving health and sanitation services throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Today, half the population of 66 million still has no access to clean water sources, and one out of every five children under age 5 suffers from persistent diarrhoea.
Since March 2011, the country has also faced a deadly cholera epidemic: In the past 12 months, more than 22,000 cases have been reported, and more than 500 people have been killed. In the past three months alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) has registered more than 5,600 cases. In response to the emergency, UNICEF and its partners are supporting health centres dedicated to the care of cholera-affected patients.
World Water Day, commemorated each year on 22 March, focuses attention on the importance of freshwater to sustainable dev. World Water Day 2012 emphasizes the importance of water to global food security.
NEW YORK, USA, 21 March – UNICEF and the World Health Organization recently announced that the world had met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well ahead of the 2015 deadline.
In the lead-up to World Water Day on 22 March, UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke spoke with Murat Sahin, UNICEF advisor on the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools initiative, and Alexander Schratz, the Executive Director of Fit for School, a Philippines-based NGO, about how much progress has been made and what this means for children.
ILIGAN, Philippines, 16 March 2012 – Ten-year-old Joy Crizelle lives with her grandfather, sister, two aunts and uncles, and a nephew in a small one-room hut at an evacuation centre in Barangay Mandulog, in Iligan. Their village was one of the worst affected by the flash floods that followed Tropical Storm Washi in December.
“We were asleep in our house when the flood came,” Joy said. “We had to leave immediately. My grandfather brought blankets for me and my sister, but we left everything else behind. I was very scared. It was dark and the water was rising, and I could hear people crying out for help.”
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines, 20 March 2012 – Twelve-year-old Hannah Monsalan lives in Mandulog, one of the villages worst-hit by the flash floods that swept through northern Mindanao in December, following Tropical Storm Washi. The equivalent of one month’s rain fell overnight, swelling the Mandulog river to a destructive torrent, which crushed hundreds of families’ homes.
Hannah’s own small home was picked up by the swirling floodwaters and smashed into a large coconut tree. She survived by clinging to a small tree until she could be rescued. “I was swimming and I was screaming. And then I could no longer find my mother,” she said. “My hair got stuck in a pile of wood, and I was suddenly under water. I thought it was the end for me. Then I swam for safety.”
Her mother did not make it.
And in the wake of the disaster, her entire community was left vulnerable, surrounded by stagnant water and threatened by waterborne diseases. Many families were without shelter, and many children were burdened by their memories of the floods.
MA’AN, Jordan, 8 March 2012 – On a cold February day, Syrian refugee children and their parents gathered at the Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) Centre, a UNICEF partner, in the southern Jordanian town of Ma’an.
NAUKOT, Pakistan, 15 March 2012 – On a lonely roadside in Naukot, Sindh Province, is a small collection of shabby tents. Many of them are makeshift constructions, plastic sheets covered in clothing, barely large enough to accommodate an adult standing upright. But for 10-year-old Laxmi and her family, one of these tents is home.
Last summer, torrential monsoon rains struck this region of Pakistan, destroying the small hut where her family lived. They were left with just a few personal belongings and the rope beds that constitute their only furniture. Since that day, Laxmi, her parents and four siblings have lived in this tent.