800 schoolbags line the steps of St Paul’s in moving tribute to daily child deaths

Posted On: 
24th January 2019

WaterAid placed 800 children’s schoolbags on the famous steps of St Paul’s Cathedral as a stark reminder of the number of young children’s lives lost every single day due to dirty water and poor sanitation.

Each of the Cathedral’s 24 entrance steps represented one hour – and the 33 children younger than five who die every hour – a whole class that never even made it to school, all for the lack of something as basic as clean water.
Credit: 
PA Images

Each of the Cathedral’s 24 entrance steps represented one hour – and the 33 children younger than five who die every hour – a whole class that never even made it to school, all for the lack of something as basic as clean water. On the front row were the names of real children whose lives were tragically cut short by diarrhoeal diseases linked to dirty water and poor sanitation.

Actor Dougray Scott joined WaterAid’s thought-provoking tribute, asking the British public to support the international charity’s ‘Water Effect’ appeal to help raise £1.5 million to get clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to more than 20 health centres around the world, helping give children the best start in life.

WaterAid Ambassador Dougray Scott, (Mission Impossible II, My Week with Marilyn, The Woman in White) said:

“The sea of bags lining the steps of St Paul’s is a stark reminder of the sheer numbers of young children who won’t live long enough to make it to their first day at school because they lack something as basic as clean water. It’s a dreadful thought for any parent; and this tragic waste of life is entirely preventable.

“Through my work with WaterAid, I have seen the incredible difference clean water and decent toilets makes, particularly for children. Clean water close to home helps keep children healthy and in school, giving them the education they deserve so they can reach their potential. By supporting ‘The Water Effect’ appeal, we can all help build a brighter future for children around the world.”

One in nine people around the world lack access to clean water close to home, while one in three have no decent sanitation. Together, clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene transform people’s health and create a powerful ripple effect, enabling children to go to school and their parents to earn a better living. That’s the water effect.

Haja, 31, from Tombohuaun in the Sierra Leonean jungle, has lost two young children to diarrhoea caused by the dirty water the family drank from a natural spring. She said:

“I realised after the death of my children that the water is not good to drink. I look to the future and hope that such things won’t happen again.”

WaterAid worked in Haja’s village as featured in its Untapped Christmas appeal to bring clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene and continues to work with the most marginalised communities in some of the poorest places in the world.

During the Untapped appeal, UK aid from the British people matched donations pound for pound so WaterAid can now also help transform the lives of almost 95,000 more people living in poor, rural areas of Mozambique and Sierra Leone.

The project will not only deliver improved infrastructure; it is also working to empower community members and civil society groups to claim their rights and to hold duty bearers accountable for the quantity, quality and effectiveness of services. It will also strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene governance structures and systems to bring about systemic change that will ensure sustainability of services over time. 

Marcus Missen, Director of Fundraising and Communications at WaterAid, said:

“Every single day, around 800 children under the age of five die because they are denied access to clean water and decent toilets. Many more will miss school because they have to spend hours collecting water or are sick from drinking dirty water. But it doesn’t have to be this way. WaterAid is working towards a world where everyone everywhere has clean water and decent sanitation, and all of us can help make this a reality.”

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