Our Priorities

Safe drinking water is vital for children. The water children drink influences their health, physical development and mental capacities. Children who are deprived of safe drinking water may develop debilitating, painful and even fatal conditions later in life.

Arsenic is present in the groundwater in many parts of China. Drinking water contaminated by arsenic can cause mental impairments, precancerous growths on the skin, cancer of the kidney and lungs, and diseases of the blood vessels.

Fluoride is also naturally occurring in underground water sources in China. Among the problems caused by fluoride-tainted water are staining and pitting of teeth, painful stiffness in joints, changes in bone structure and hardening of ligaments.

Other chemical and biological impurities, such as lead and sewage, also contaminate parts of China's water supply and pose risks to some children. Because their immune systems are less developed than those of adults, children are especially vulnerable to harm from these pollutants in drinking water.

Ensuring access to clean water for all children

UNICEF works with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water Resources and other partners to help guarantee access to clean water for all children.

We pilot a program called Water Safety Plan, which assists water treatment plants to analyze risks of contamination, and to develop plans for managing the risks and preventing pollutants from reaching end users.

We also participate in efforts to identify water sources contaminated by arsenic and fluoride, including surveys to map the location of arsenic- and fluoride-tainted water, and the development of water testing kits that measure arsenic levels.

In addition, we collaborate on a geographic information system for mapping and analyzing data about arsenic in water. We support training local related professionals across China in the use and management of this system. Data produced by this system informs government policies and regulations relating to clean water provision planning.

To raise awareness among children and their families about the risks of arsenic, fluoride and other pollutants, we collaborate on campaigns in both communities and schools.

Making a difference

UNICEF's work to facilitate identification of contaminated water sources has helped increase government support for expanded water-source testing, and for providing alternative sources of safe drinking water for affected communities. These measures include construction of new wells.

With UNICEF's support, relevant authorities are now monitoring, managing and analyzing data relating to clean water more efficiently. This information is contributing to research and to government decision making about water-supply and environmental management.

You can help promote clean drinking water in China. Take action by learning more about the importance of clean water for children's health, safety and development. Or find out how you can support UNICEF's work today.

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