Don't take clean drinking water for granted this World Water Day

March 22 is World Water Day - reaffirming that the quality of life directly depends on water quality

TORONTO, March 16 /CNW/ - Water is a necessity for life, yet about 1 billion people worldwide rely on unsafe drinking water and 2.6 billion people live without appropriate sanitation. Lack of basic sanitation and unsafe drinking water is the catalyst for disease and unnecessary blindness.

World Water Day, celebrated annually on March 22, was designated by the United Nations in 1992 to focus attention on the world's water crisis and to implement solutions to address it.

These staggering facts about water sanitation have been behind Operation Eyesight Universal's objective to drill water wells and build latrines in the developing world as a means to prevent blindness and improve people's quality of life.

Operation Eyesight is taking action. In 2007, Operation Eyesight began its Narok District well project in Kenya, where to date 33 wells have been drilled and 18 more wells will be needed to ensure people have access to clean water. Accessible water not only helps to eradicate Trachoma, a disease of the eye caused by bacterial infection, but enables girls to attend school whom beforehand had to walk kilometers each day to fetch water for their families.

Operation Eyesight follows the World Health Organization's SAFE strategy to treat and prevent Trachoma. SAFE is a broad-based development strategy that includes surgery to treat trichiasis, the late stage of the disease, antibiotics to eliminate infection, face washing and hygiene training, and environmental change including wells and latrines.

"Past efforts to deal with Trachoma focused on controlling the disease with antibiotics and treating the painful trichiasis with lid surgery, only to see it return again and again," says Dr. Boateng Wiafe, Regional Director for Africa. "We now know the only way to permanently defeat this disease is to make sure people have access to sanitation and clean water."

While Operation Eyesight's main goal is to eradicate Trachoma, access to clean water also plays a major significance in helping to reduce infant mortality, malaria, upper respiratory tract infections, diarrheal diseases, skin diseases and malnutrition.

Villages with a safe source of drinking water have the potential to prosper, as adults who are healthy are able to be productive and rise out of poverty. Women have more time and energy to tend to their crops and care for their children.

Operation Eyesight is a Canadian international development organization dedicated to preventing and treating blindness throughout the world for more than 40 years - primarily in south Asia and Africa. We help local medical professionals provide comprehensive, sustainable eye care and community development for the people of the world who can least afford it. Since 1963, Operation Eyesight has provided blindness prevention services and community development for more than 35 million people. For more information on how you can help with clean water, visit www.operationeyesight.com.

SOURCE OPERATION EYESIGHT UNIVERSAL

For further information: For further information: Lindsay O'Connor, Head of International Media, oconnor@operationeyesight.com, Toll Free: 1-800-585-8265, Office: (416) 438-7280, Cell: (647) 404-4469; Daniela Mandolfo, Media/Public Relations Assistant, mandolfod@operationeyesight.com, Toll Free: 1-800-585-8265, Office: (416) 438-7280

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OPERATION EYESIGHT UNIVERSAL

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