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UN report: 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to sanitation

Water Clean drinking water (Photo: Barefoot Photographers/flickr)

The world has made little progress on sanitation and drinking water, leaving 2.4 billion people without access to improved sanitation facilities. According to a new report, released Tuesday by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the lack of access to sanitation threatens to expose the world’s poorest to preventable health risks. One in three people on the planet, or 2.4 billion, still use unimproved sanitation facilities and one in eight people (946 million) defecate in the open. The report tracks access to drinking water and sanitation against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Although 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation facilities since 1990, the MDG target for sanitation will be missed by almost 700 million people. Moreover, one in ten (663 million) people still lack improved drinking water sources, including 159 million who depend on surface water. Eight out of ten people still without improved drinking water sources live in rural areas. Worldwide, 2.6 billion people have gained access to an improved drinking water source since 1990 but the WHO underlines that ‘improved sources’ are not necessarily safe. At least 1.8 billion people use drinking water that is contaminated with faeces. “Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases,” said Dr. Maria Neira, Director of WHO's Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Some 842 000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hand hygiene. And the practice of open defecation is also related to a higher risk of stunting, or chronic malnutrition, which affects 161 million children across the globe, leaving them with irreversible physical and cognitive damage. “To benefit human health it is vital to further accelerate progress on sanitation, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” says Dr Neira. (ab)

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The Original Report

Agriculture at a Crossroads
The original version of the full report, five regional reports and the Synthesis Report in English, with a feature that allows you to make comments and/or add important information.


Donors of globalagriculture Heidehof Stiftung
English versionDeutsche VersionDeutsche Version