Main Navigation

World Water Day 2009

Sunday March 22, 2009

As water restrictions continue in nearly all capital cities, Red Cross is urging Australians on World Water Day to think of the millions of people around the world who survive on only 10 litres a day.

Bob Handby, veteran Red Cross Aid worker believes Australians are incredibly fortunate and often don't know it.

'Having no or poor access to clean water and sanitation kills something like four million people a year, and a child every 15 seconds' said Mr Handby.

'People in Australia who are asked to limit their own water use to 155 or 140 litres per day may not be aware of how lucky we really are' he continued.

In the past ten years the number of children killed by diarrhoea exceeded the total number of people lost to armed conflict since World War II.

However, the simple act of washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrhoeal disease by one-third. More than half of all illnesses and deaths among young children are caused by germs that get into their mouths through food, water or dirty hands.

Red Cross sent Mr Handby to Myanmar (Burma) last year as part of a disaster response team providing water for tens of thousands of people stranded after Cyclone Nargis struck.

The Disaster Response team water module can provide 5,000 litres of clean drinking water per hour, and is designed to be portable enough to fit in a small boat or vehicle -- important when trying to access areas hit hard by cyclones and floods.

'The speed of the response in Myanmar was crucial, because people had not had access to clean water for some weeks and many of the roads had been destroyed' said Mr Handby.

'We managed to get our water unit onto the back of a small boat to follow the river systems in the hardest hit areas and provide water to the villages that way.'

'When you see people in those situations who are desperately in need of something so simple, it really brings home how fortunate we are here in Australia, water restrictions or not' he continued.

The Red Cross Disaster Response team water module has assisted people in Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vietnam since it's inception in late 2007.

World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.


Six: the average number of kilometres that many women and children in Africa and Asia walk every day to collect water.

Ten: the number of litres of water the average person in the developing world uses every day (the average person in Europe uses 135 litres of water a day, Melbourne currently has a water restriction target of 155 litres per person per day).

Every fifteen seconds: one child dies from a disease caused by lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

Fifty per cent: the number of hospital beds in the developing world which are occupied by victims of unsafe water and sanitation.

Over one million: the number of children killed every year by diarrhoea through dehydration and malnutrition. About one in every 200 children who contract diarrhoea will die from it.

Four million: the number of people who die every year from water-related diseases.

One billion plus: the number of people around the world who lack a basic water supply.

Two point six billion (including 980 million children): the number of people who lack access to proper sanitation facilities - this is about 41 per cent of the world's population.

Source: IFRC, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and Oxfam.