WHO and UNICEF Estimate Progress in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
UN Photo/Martine Perret
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Ahead of the UN General Assembly’s first quadrennial review of progress on the SDGs, the World Health Organization and the UN Children’s Fund are reporting achievements in water, sanitation and hygiene for the 2000-2017 period, focusing on inequalities within and between countries.

The two agencies collaborate on the Joint Monitoring Programme, which monitors progress on WASH worldwide.

SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) contains targets on drinking water (SDG target 6.1) and sanitation services (SDG target 6.2).

20 June 2019: In preparation for the UN General Assembly’s first high-level review of progress on the 2030 Agenda, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are reporting on achievements in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for the 2000-2017 period, focusing on inequalities within and between countries. SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) contains targets on drinking water (SDG target 6.1) and sanitation services (SDG target 6.2).

UNICEF and WHO collaborate on the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), which monitors progress on WASH worldwide. The JMP report titled, ‘Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities,’ presents data by country and region, as well as globally. The JMP website presents the full datasets used to derive the estimates for each country.

The report shows that some countries, such as Viet Nam, have made great progress toward closing service provision gaps within the country. However, the data shows that globally, it is still rural communities and those in the least developed countries (LDCs) that lack basic services.

In 39 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, open defecation has increased.

On drinking water, the population using safely managed services increased from 61% to 71% worldwide, and from 25% to 35% in LDCs. In the time period reviewed, out of every ten people who lacked access to safe drinking water, eight lived in rural areas, and nearly half lived in LDCs.

On sanitation, the population using safely managed services increased from 28% to 45% globally, and sanitation services in rural areas increased from 22% to 43%. Over the reporting period, open defecation rates decreased from 21% to 9% globally, and from 7% to 2% in East and Southeast Asia. Viet Nam reduced national rates of open defecation from 18% to 3%, and also significantly increased parity of service coverage between urban and rural areas, and between the richest and poorest wealth quintiles in urban areas.

Despite these markers of progress, WHO and UNICEF emphasize that the numbers of people lacking WASH access are still high: around 2.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, 4.2 billion lack safe sanitation services, and three billion lack basic handwashing facilities. Quality of services also varies among different locations, and in 39 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, open defecation has increased.

Kelly Ann Naylor, UNICEF, urged governments to invest in poor and rural communities to bridge economic and geographic divides, and deliver “this essential human right.” Maria Neira, WHO, emphasized that providing WASH services will help wipe out diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid, and “is cost-effective and good for society in so many ways.”

The report notes that in September 2019, the UNGA will hold an ‘SDG Summit,’ a meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the level of heads of state and government, to review overall progress on the 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs. [Publication: Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities] [UN-Water Press Release] [JMP Press Release]

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