UNICEF and Unilever today announced a partnership to improve access to safe water in countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The partnership will focus first on four countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
The new agreement includes financial investment as well as strategic engagement with government and civil society. It aims to implement innovative community and school-based programmes to promote sustainable management of safe water and also to improve hygiene and hand washing practices.
‘The business case for greater investment in safe drinking water is clear,’ said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. ‘Just looking at the impact of safe water and positive hygiene practices on child health and nutrition, it’s easy to see how this is an investment that can hugely improve and save the lives of children – and there is no greater return on investment than that.’
Bruno Witvoet, President Unilever Africa, said: ‘At Unilever we want our brands to make a difference to the lives of the people of Africa, but the scale of challenges such as providing safe water go far beyond what any organisation, public or private can do alone. This partnership will draw on the joint expertise, resources and networks of both UNICEF and Unilever, to magnify our efforts so we improve the quality of life for ordinary people and help Africa meet the Sustainable Development Goals.’
In Kenya, one-in-three people lack access to safe drinking water, while in Nigeria at least 150,000 children below five years of age die every year as a result of diarrhoea, and 70 million people lack access to improved water sources. In Côte d’Ivoire, 90% of schools and healthcare centres lack access to improved water supplies. In Ghana, over two million people use water from unsafe sources.
Despite unfavorable conditions, the potential to improve the situation for children is real. Due to the achievements realised through the Millennium Development Goals, an additional 47,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa now have access to safe drinking water every day, an increase of 20% compared to 25 years ago. The Unilever-UNICEF partnership seeks to demonstrate scalable water management models that deliver results and drives further investment in this critical area for the continent.
UNICEF and Unilever began collaborating in 2012 under a global partnership to address the sanitation crisis.