The United Nations launched a renewed effort to promote clean water and sanitation around the world to combat disease, poverty and gender inequality and improve general well-being, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said Thursday. One day before World Water Day, the announcement urged member states and civic organizations to act swiftly to provide basic sanitation for the 2.5 billion people worldwide still without toilets. The lack of clean water and sanitation leads to diarrhea, dehydration and cholera, killing 3,000 children every day. A lack of water is directly correlated to maternal deaths. “Here’s a silent disaster, which needs to have attention,” Eliasson said. “I am determined to energize action that will lead to results.” He called special attention to the problem of open defecation, which affects more than 1 billion people, saying the practice is unhygienic and dangerous, especially for women and girls who often risk being raped by being in the open. The lack of sanitation has a big toll on girls, who often drop out of school to take care of sick children or stay away from school during their menstrual cycles. The launch aims to reenergize efforts toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set in 2000. The development programme aims to reach certain goals by 2015 in eight areas, including sanitation and clean water.