World Water Week 2011: Andris Piebalgs reaffirms the EU's fight for water and sanitation for the poorest
As World Water Week (21 - 29 August) gets under way, Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs reaffirms the EU's commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goal pledge of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.
Commissioner Piebalgs said: "There is a saying that "when the well is dry, we know the value of water". I think we have realised the value of water long before our well has run dry. We already know just how important it is. It's something most of us take for granted here in Europe but it is time to turn the tide and make sure it now becomes a basic human right for everyone.
Today in the world, some 1.2 billion people - nearly a fifth of the world's population – still fight to have access to safe drinking water.
Progress in this respect has been made. Of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), access to water is one of those that is most likely to be met; though sanitation remains off track. EU aid is making a vital difference - since 2004, more than 32 million people have gained access to improved water supply and 9.5 million to sanitation facilities thanks to support from the European Commission.
Between 2002 and 2008, aid from the EU as a whole to the water and sanitation sector almost tripled and thanks to the European Commission more than 30 countries now benefit from major projects that we're running in this area.
Yet so much more still needs to be done. In the next minute, three more children will have died from drinking dirty water - that's the equivalent of 4,000 every day. Women and girls are particularly affected and miss out on opportunities to work and go to school. This is unacceptable in this day and age.
Last year, at the MDG Summit in New York, I launched the Millennium Development Goal initiative, which will provide an extra €1 billion for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to help them meet the most off-track Millennium Development Goals. Water and sanitation is one of the four MDGs being specifically targeted by the initiative, which just shows how much of a priority this is for us."
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