UN Reports that Billions Lack Safe Water and Proper Sanitation
UN Photo/Victoria Hazou
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The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) released the first global assessment of “safely managed” drinking water and sanitation services.

The report urges countries to do more to meet these basic needs.

12 July 2017: Approximately 2.1 billion people lack access to safe and readily available water at home, and 4.5 billion do not have safely managed sanitation, according to the report, title ‘Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and Sustainable Development Goal Baselines.’ The report, an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), is the first global assessment of “safely managed” drinking water and sanitation services. It urges countries to do more to meet these basic needs.

The publication indicates that improving hygiene is crucial for implementing SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), which calls for ending open defecation and achieving universal access to basic services by 2030. However, as many as 90 countries may not meet these goals and too many people still lack access, particularly in rural areas. Approximately 263 million people spend over 30 minutes per trip collecting water from sources outside the home; 159 million still drink untreated water from surface water sources; and 892 million people defecate in the open, according to the report.

The report describes circumstances that may prevent the international community from meeting the SDGs. It finds that due to population growth, open defecation is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania. While good hygiene is one of the easiest and most successful ways to prevent disease transmission, access to water and soap for handwashing ranges from 15% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa to 76% in western Asia and northern Africa. Additionally, large gaps remain between services in urban and rural areas. In countries experiencing conflict, children are four times less likely to use basic water services, and two times less likely to use basic sanitation services than in other countries.

The WHO Director-General said that “These are some of the most basic requirements for human health, and all countries have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can access them.”

Speaking on the report, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “these are some of the most basic requirements for human health, and all countries have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can access them.” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said that “as we improve these services in the most disadvantaged communities and for the most disadvantaged children today, we give them a fairer chance at a better tomorrow.”

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene monitors country, regional and global progress, particularly on SDG targets related to universal and equitable access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, including SDG target 6.1 (access to safe water and sanitation) and SDG target 6.2 (access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene and end to open defecation). The JMP also contributes data on basic water, sanitation and hygiene for SDG target 1.4 (economic resources and access to basic services) and SDG target 4.a (education facilities). [WHO/UNICEF Joint Press Release] [UN Press Release] [Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and SDG Baselines]

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