World Health Day was conceptualised in 1950 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to commemorate its day of founding and to draw attention to a global health issue every 7th April.  This year, the WHO has dedicated World Health Day to the subject of food safety, specifically referring to the food and water-borne illnesses that infect over 582 million people each year and kill over 2 million.

While the motto for this year’s World Health Day – “From Farm to Plate, make food safe.” – may evoke for us images of a farmers market and globalised farm production, here at Bread and Water for Africa UK, we are reminded of the communities across Africa that still have limited food security and clean water access. Most children under five years of age in the countries we work in have already suffered from a water-borne illness. Resources analyst Erik Peterson, of the Center for Strategic and International

Studies in Washington, DC reported in 2009 that of the “four billion cases of diarrhoea disease per year, resulting in about one or two million deaths, some ninety per cent [of deaths]….are tragically, in children under the age of five.”

In Sierra Leone alone, Bread and Water for Africa UK has helped to provide thousands of individuals with water wells that ensure clean water for villages and their clinics. However, when the 2012 cholera epidemic struck, nearly four hundred individuals died from the disease due to the high communicability of cholera in poorer, over-crowded communities and the inadequate sanitation practices that allowed for it to spread. It is not enough for only a few communities to have clean water access; it is critical to make clean water accessible to ALL so that drinking water remains untainted and so that communities can maintain sanitation standards that prevent the spread of these water-borne diseases.

This World Health Day, we also cannot help but take a moment to recognize the harrowing toll of Ebola on our partners in Sierra Leone, and on all families living in the affected countries. We hope that the lessons we have learned regarding the importance of healthcare infrastructure and investments in local clinics and doctors will survive this terrible epidemic and that the rebuilding process can gain headway by this time next year.