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World Water Day: 20 years of commitment

19-03-2004 News Release 04/37

Armed conflict deprives millions of people of drinking water. When water reserves are contaminated, damaged or destroyed, the results can be disastrous as thirst and disease add to the misery of war. For the ICRC, helping war victims obtain access to drinking water is a top priority. This is especially relevant on World Water Day, 22 March.

Providing water and sanitation in conflict zones around the world has been an official ICRC priority since its Water and Habitat Unit was set up 20 years ago this year. In 2003, the organization supplied some 19 million people with water. It ran 367 water and habitat projects in over 36 countries. Other activities ranged from making water safe to drink by setting up pumps and water-treatment systems to ensuring proper sewage disposal in towns and villages affected by armed conflict, and holding health/hygiene education sessions. The ICRC also repaired and in some cases built health-care facilities, centres housing internally displaced people, and places of detention. In all, some 85 expatriate engineers and 370 national engineers and technicians took part in these projects.

In 2003, ICRC engineers and technicians dealt with acute emergencies in Iraq and Liberia. In Iraq, the ICRC was able to provide the resident population of the major cities with at least the minimum quantities of water they required. In Liberia, where the ICRC maintained its presence despite heavy fighting in June and July, water was delivered by truck to the resident and displaced populations in Monrovia.

In Afghanistan, the ICRC restored the electricity supply that powers the main water source for 400,000 inhabitants of Kabul. In the Russian Federation, the ICRC continued to run a chlorinated-water filling station serving 40,000 people living in Grozny, and provided technical support for the city water board to upgrade the network. The ICRC kept up hygiene and sanitation standards as well as living conditions in temporary accommodation for displaced people in Chechnya. The same programme was implemented in Georgia. In Ivory Coast , more than 1.5 million people enjoy a continuous supply of safe drinking water thanks to the ICRC’s expanding operation there.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, ++41 22 730 29 30