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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3832

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (19:36): I bring to the House today an issue that I think is very important—the importance of clean water and sanitation ensuring safety and that the Millennium Development Goals are met. Water is the very lifeblood. Without it, there is no life. It is a basic human need; however, access to clean and abundant water remains a dream for millions of people around the world.

World Water Day is tomorrow, 22 March, and there will be badges available for all members to wear tomorrow. It is to raise awareness that the lack of clean water and sanitation is the biggest cause of death and disease in developing countries. We also recently celebrated World Plumbing Day, on 11 March, and there was a private member's motion in this parliament recognising the importance of plumbing for the health and safety of our communities.

There is cause for celebration. We have just achieved the Millennium Development Goal target for drinking water. Around two billion people have gained access to clean drinking water since 1990. There are 884 million people around the world who still have no clean drinking water and 2.5 billion people have nowhere to go to the toilet. While access to water has increased, sanitation has not received the same priority. Progress on sanitation has been much slower, and we are behind in meeting that Millennium Development Goal.

Access to water and sanitation saves lives. Diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children in Africa. It is the second most common death amongst all children under five. It kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, so it is an issue that really needs to be addressed. Ninety per cent of cases of diarrhoea are due to poor water quality and sanitation. Water is one of our most precious, simple needs yet it is so powerful. Clean water and sanitation can transform lives and bring dignity to and empower so many people and communities.

Access to clean water and sanitation promotes gender equity and empowers women and girls. Girls miss school because they spend hours every day fetching water for their families and, with the onset of puberty, unisex toilets and lack of menstrual hygiene facilities in schools deter attendance. Water provides a safe and hygienic environment for childbirth and postnatal care to increase chances of survival for mothers and newborns. Not all children born in the world will live. It is a devastating and tragic fact that so many lives are still taken by preventable disease because of the lack of access to the most basic of resources—clean water.

Aid programs focused on clinical response will be of questionable benefit if the medicines are taken with water contaminated by human faeces. We need to prioritise water and sanitation in aid budgets. Across the OECD over the last 10 years, aid to help the HIV-AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by nearly 500 per cent while aid for water and sanitation has increased by only 79 per cent. Given the impact that increasing money spent on clean water and sanitation can have, there is no argument that more needs to be invested in clean water and sanitation. For every dollar invested in water and sanitation, on average, eight dollars are returned in better health and increased productivity.

World Water Day is the time to bring to the attention of the government and all of us in this parliament the need to focus our aid budget on these areas, on these life-saving measures. A report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF showed that more people in the Pacific are at risk from sanitation related disease now than in 1990. Poor rural communities in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and other countries in our region still lack access to clean water and toilets, which makes them vulnerable to cholera outbreaks. I call on all members of this parliament to join together with me in this campaign. (Time expired)