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World Water Day Dirty water kills more children than war now is the time to act

20 March 2015

Boy with clean water pouring over him
  • 3.5 million people die needlessly each year due to unsafe water, inadequate toilets and poor hygiene
  • In parts of Asia and Africa the average distance walked to collect water is 3.5 miles
  • Until April 3 the government will match all donations to the British Red Cross Clean Start Appeal to deliver safe water to thousands
  • Dirty water kills more children than war and is the most common cause of disease in the world today.


    Over a third of the world’s population – a staggering 2.5 billion people - do not have access to adequate sanitation. As a direct consequence of this diarrhoeal diseases remain the second largest killer in the developing world - claiming 2 million lives every year. 


    Funding for sanitation projects is lagging behind and this World Water Day the British Red Cross says it’s time to get the balance right.


    Though water is often seen as a more immediate need, diarrhoeal diseases cannot be reduced without greater development of sanitation services. And it is imperative to work with communities on a local level so they have ownership over their own health and resilience.


    Glynnis Brooks, Head of  Health and WASH Technical Advisory Unit at the British Red Cross said:


    “Rather than just build toilets, programs need to build demand for them through  community engagement and behaviour change efforts that address people’s beliefs are critical because it’s not just about providing toilets but educating communities about safe hygiene practices.



    “Across the world National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies are using their strong ties with communities to promote sanitation because safe water and improved sanitation is a human right.”


    This World Water Day we are urging the public to support the British Red Cross Clean Start Appeal, so we can bring clean water to 380,000 people in Kenya and Bangladesh.


    The funding will go to help communities Kenya where the Ministry of Health estimates 80% of hospital attendance is due to preventable diseases. The knock on effects of this include children missing out on school and families spending what little money they have on medicines.


    Clean Start is just one of the ways the Red Cross is putting into action its Global Water and Sanitation Initiative 2005-2025 which, by the end of this year, will have reached 15 million people with water and sanitation services and more than 6.5million people with hygiene promotion activities.


    We are asking the public to bring a bag of unwanted items to their nearest Red Cross shop or donate by visiting The average bag will raise £25 and this amount will be matched by the UK government until April 3rd.


    Until toilets are provided to every person in the world no amount of water supply or health services will keep people from succumbing to illness.

    For interviews, case studies, photos and video footage please contact Lucy Keating on or 0207 877 7557

    Out of hours 07711 376 277



    Notes to editors:

    For more information about the Clean Start appeal go to, to donate to Clean Start click here

    How the Clean Start appeal works.


    The sale of donated goods between 4 January and 3 April 2015 will help provide safe water for people in Kenya and Bangladesh through the Clean Start Appeal.


    For every pound we make from the sale of donated goods, the government will give another pound up to a maximum of £5 million. Goods must be sold by 18 April 2015; any sales after this time cannot be matched by the government but will be used for our work to help people in crisis. 

    Under Gift Aid we can claim an extra 25p of tax for every £1 donated. Gift Aid income cannot be matched. For more information please visit


    UK Aid Match was set up by the UK government's Department for International Development

    (DFID) to give a boost to public support for charities working in the developing world. It doubles public donations to appeals run by British international development charities, in

    recognition of both the public’s generosity and the wide range of causes they support.

    Fast Facts

    Currently an estimated 2.5 billion people, over one-third of the world’s population, do not have access to basic sanitation. Half of them are forced to practice open defecation.


    Sanitation receives only 27% of the total pool of global funding for water and sanitation.


    3.5 million people die needlessly each year from disease such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid.


    By December 2015 the Red Cross Movement will have reached 15 million people with safe water and improved sanitation services.


    The Clean Start Appeal will help 400,000 of the most vulnerable people living in Kenya and Bangladesh