Well ahead of the 2015 deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a new UN report announced that the MDG target to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water has been met. The report “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, 2012 Update,” a joint effort by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), finds that by the end of 2010, 89% of the world’s population had access to improved drinking water sources, a percentage that is expected to increase to 92% by 2015. In concrete figures, it means that between 1990 and 2010 over 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources.
Reactions following the launch of the report were joyful. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “a great achievement for the people of the world;” while UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, called it especially good news for children as having access to safe drinking water is saving their lives. WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, supported Mr. Lake’s position, noting that “providing sustainable access to improved drinking water sources is one of the most important things we can do to reduce disease.”
Although reaching this goal is indeed a great achievement, the report underlines that the “job is far from finished.” Many people around the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, continue to face constraints in accessing safe drinking water. In fact, the report notes that more than 780 million people are still without access to improved sources of drinking water. The report also cautions that information on drinking water safety and reliability is not available for global monitoring.
The other part of MDG 7C – to halve the number of people without access to sanitation – is unlikely to be met by 2015. Although 1.8 billion people gained access to improved sanitation facilities between 1990 and 2010, 2.5 billion people still lack access to such facilities, the report explains.
The report further considers equity concerns in access to water and sanitation by looking beyond averages. It examines water and sanitation use in least developed countries (LDCs) and by wealth quintiles. It also analyzes the gender burden in collecting water. In this regard, the report notes that global averages mask disparities in the way water and sanitation services are distributed – not only among countries, but also between urban and rural areas, and between the poorest and richest fifths of the population. Moreover, the report finds that in many of the LDCs, most people have not benefited from investment in water and sanitation: “one in four people continue to practise open defecation, while one in ten people use surface water for drinking and household use.”
The report underlines that continued efforts are needed to reduce these urban-rural disparities and inequities; to promote global monitoring of drinking water quality; to bring sanitation “on track;” and to reach universal coverage.
To access the report, click here.
To read the official press release, click here.