European Union External Action

Water is life… every drop counts... cherish it!

22/03/2019 - 17:57

Water is not to be taken for granted. 2.1 billion people across the globe lack access to drinking water. On World Water Day, we remember how much access to sufficient, safe, drinkable, physically accessible and affordable water is a precondition for a decent life. The fundamental human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation apply to every human being and are fully recognised and backed by the EU.

safe drinking water, water diplomacy, water as a human right, world water day

Yet, 340,000 children under five die annually from unsafe drinking water and due to poor sanitation.

child drinking water, world water day


And, in some parts of the world, many women and children still have to walk kilometres in inhumane conditions to access drinking water sources.


Rising tensions and conflicts because of access and utilisation of water, increasing threats of water scarcity and poor water quality, have the potential to affect peace and security in several regions. Promoting transboundary water cooperation at all levels is the most efficient means to ensure peace and dialogue. This is why the EU decided to step up its engagement on water diplomacy last year. This new approach towards our policies on water, tackling the growing challenges of climate change and taking into account EU's global commitments to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the European Consensus on Development was of utmost importance to frame EU's action among the different multilateral initiatives.

The focus on access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene is in line with the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6. Over the last decade the EU has spent more than €2.5 billion on water and sanitation in 62 countries, mainly in the African, Caribbean, Pacific countries as well as in our neighborhood. In many of these countries, such projects were implemented thanks to the strong cooperation with UN partners like UNICEF, UNESCO and UNECE - and international financing institutions such as the World Bank.


Afikepo: Let them develop to their full potential...

Thumbiko Harawa is a Standard 6 student at the Msani Full Primary School, Nkhata Bay in Malawi. Thumbiko is just one of many young people who is benefiting from an EU-supported water sanitation project called Afikepo which is working with 20 schools in the Nkata Bay area. The meaning of Afikepo is 'Let them develop to their full potential.'

water sanitation


"Sanitation is much improved" says the deputy district education manager. Amongst other things the project has improved hand-washing facilities, installed clean water drinking points, and the students have learned about germs and the importance of washing hands. "All this has played a part in reducing cholera outbreaks", he says proudly.

In all, the EU has helped provide clean water and sanitation to over 1 million Malawians, also specifically targeting children in schools. The EU has invested a total of EUR 39 million in Water & Sanitation projects in Malawi. Thousands of children now have access to safe water and hand-washing facilities. 


Si te hace sonreir, cuidala! If it makes you smile, cherish it!

PISASH is an EU-supported project aimed to expand and improve the water services in Nicaragua and to generate a new scenario where systems are managed with quality, efficiency and in a sustainable manner, so that the population can fully exercise their human right to drinking water and sanitation.


Water in the pipeline

Construction workers dig pits for a water pipeline for drinking water in Monrovia. The development of the water and sanitation access has been funded by donors such as the EU and the World Bank.