Amref Health Africa observes World Water Day 2016

(Photo: Amref Health Africa)


Amref Health Africa calls for increased focus and investment on access to clean water for people in marginalized communities


Nairobi, Kenya , March 22, 2016  – Today,  Amref Health Africa joins the global community in observing World Water Day, notably the first following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in November 2015. The launch of the new global goals has renewed hope for millions of African women and children spend 40 billion collective hours walking and collecting water. Access to clean and safe water is central to basic human survival, as well as overall economic development, food security and nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, disease prevention, and industry and human settlement. 


This year’s theme “Water and Jobs” reminds us of the critical role water plays in the livelihoods of millions of people across Africa. Limited access to clean water causes major development challenges, particularly for women and young girls, who are the primary water carriers in more than 70% of households in Africa without water.  As a result, they miss out on vital activities that can provide a path out of poverty, such as receiving an education or earning an income.


In rural Africa, women spend 26% of their time collecting water, as they walk at least five miles to the nearest water source. In the dry season when water becomes scarcer, this time doubles and impacts the amount of time they have to contribute to their families and communities at large.


Lack of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is one of the greatest obstacles to poverty alleviation and economic growth. The World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) estimates that the lack of WASH can reduce a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2 to 7% annually.


Boosting water and sanitation investments in hospitals and clinics in low income countries is essential to reduce maternal and newborn deaths. Although clean water plays a key role in promoting health, 42% of health facilities in Africa do not have access to safe water. Many women in developing countries give birth at home, often without access to clean water and toilets, exposing themselves and their babies to infections. Clean water is essential to prevent sepsis or cord infections, and limit transmission of diseases. Every minute a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of safe water and an unclean environment. Notably, 15% of all maternal deaths are caused by infections in the six weeks after childbirth mainly due to unhygienic conditions during home deliveries and in institutions.


Over the last 60 years, Amref Health Africa has responded to this need by working with local experts and communities on sustainable solutions for increased access to safe water. We are increasing community usage of technologically appropriate and improved water supply services using the appropriate infrastructure in underserved rural, peri-urban and urban communities in over 10 countries. Our focus is on schools and healthcare facilities.


Water quality is a key component of our work. We support water source protection at village, school and health facility levels to prevent contamination. We also build the capacity of local government officials and community health volunteers to monitor water quality using field test kits, government water quality testing laboratories and Amref Health Africa laboratories. In order to realize optimal outcomes, Amref Health Africa is intensifying programme integration to ensure WASH is integrated with HIV, malaria, diagnostics, maternal health and child health. We also lobby for increased investments in safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation through policy, research and targeted campaigns.


As we mark this important day, Amref Health Africa calls on development partners, governments, civil society, private sector to make a commitment and systematically increase investments geared towards the provision of safe water in Africa, focused on women and children living in marginalized rural and urban communities. This is the surest way of delivering lasting health change in Africa.


About Amref Health Africa (@AmrefUSA) Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and with more than 55 years of experience, Amref Health Africa is the leading African public health organization. Recipients of both the Bill and Melinda Gates Award for Global Health and the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, Amref Health Africa partners with communities to improve health. Amref Health Africa tackles some of the most critical health challenges facing the continent: maternal and child care, HIV, TB and malaria, clean water and sanitation, and surgical and clinical outreach.

Women and children are disproportionately affected by the lack of safe water and sanitation.

  • Women and children walk on average 3.5 miles each day to get what is often untreated water. This commute - 15 hours per week - prevents them from attending class and/or pursuing income-producing activities.
  • Lack of adequate sanitation facilities at schools results in lower levels of attendance among girls in particular, perpetuating cycles of gender inequality and poverty.


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Amref Health Africa
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New York, NY 10036

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