At least 25,000 of the poorest rural residents in Djibouti will, for the first time, be able to access clean drinking water close to their homes through a new partnership.

At least 25,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable rural residents in Djibouti will, for the first time, be able to access clean drinking water close to their homes through a partnership between the European Union (EU), UNICEF and Djibouti’s Ministry of Agriculture. The step will help contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the quantifiable targets to address issues such as poverty, health and environmental sustainability.

Through the partnership, which was celebrated recently in the capital Djibouti, the EU will provide UNICEF with funds toward their water and sanitation program with the Ministry of Agriculture. UNICEF will provide technical expertise and contribute additional financing, while the Minister of Agriculture will be the main implementing partner.

“The two-year water supply project targeting rural districts is very significant since people living in 45 villages and their 40,000 heads of cattle will have access to clean drinking water,” says the EU Representative in Djibouti, Joaquin Gonzalez. Access to clean drinking water is one of the eight MDGs, and has a positive impact on the other development goals, including fighting poverty and lowering child mortality.

“The water supply program will help to improve the living conditions of many children and women, and to the achievement of priority indicators in line with the Millennium Development Goal related to water and sanitation,” says Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF Representative in Djibouti.

Globally, an estimated 1.5 million children continue to die every year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

In the Republic of Djibouti, access to safe drinking water is a daily challenge for the majority of the population living in rural areas. In recent years, a number of experts have underscored the problem of water scarcity and the importance of providing access to life-saving water in this semi-desert country in the horn of Africa.

Most of the available water supply comes primarily from ground water resources, which are difficult to access and of poor quality. An estimated nearly 50 percent of people in rural areas do not have access to a protected source of drinking water.

Recurrent drought and a shortage of rain also have had a dramatic impact on the life and well-being of children and their families – with women in particular often walking 18 miles a day to get safe drinking water. Limited access to water also constitutes a serious risk in terms of the hygiene and health of women and children.

The EU and UNICEF partnership program aims to install water facilities and strengthen community participation in maintaining the water infrastructure.