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Safe water - the first step out of poverty

No matter where you live, safe drinking water and sanitation are critical: from cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu to Ebola treatment centres in Sierra Leone and remote villages in Timor-Leste.

Thursday March 19, 2015

Photo: Conor Ashleigh
Red Cross volunteer Januario Kobus demonstrates hand-washing at a tap stand recently installed in a village in Timor-Leste. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Conor Ashleigh

On World Water Day, 22 March, aid agencies around the world raise awareness of the value of clean water to health, sustainable development, environment and women and girls.  

Right now in Vanuatu, Cyclone Pam has destroyed water supplies across most of the country. Red Cross emergency teams are providing clean water, water filtration equipment and water purification tablets. They are also working to restore sanitation facilities in an effort to prevent water-borne disease epidemics.  

On Thursday 26 March, two Red Cross aid workers will speak at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne about how clean water saves lives in Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste.

Veteran aid worker Bob Handby recently returned from Sierra Leone, where he was helping to set up an Ebola treatment centre. There, hand washing with chlorine was a crucial factor in containing the spread of Ebola.  

Providing safe water in remote villages is a massive challenge in Timor-Leste, where most water projects fail within 12 months of installation. Red Cross projects have proven far more sustainable, and aid worker Stuart Bryan will explain why community involvement in planning and maintenance is the key.  

One in 10 people worldwide does not have access to safe drinking water, and a child dies every 20 seconds from diseases caused by poor sanitation and hygiene. There can be no more immediate development priority.  

Attend our free World Water Day event in Melbourne on 26 March.