2.5 Billion Lack Access to Proper Sanitation Facilities, Say UNICEF and WHO
In recognition of the 2008 Year of Sanitation, the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation recently released a report titled, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation – special focus on sanitation. The report shows signs of progress, particularly with safe drinking coverage, yet portrays a grim picture of global sanitation access. According to the data, 87 percent of the world's population has access to improved drinking water sources. This percentage is expected to rise to 90 percent by 2015. The report notes, however, an urban-rural disparity in drinking water coverage, as eight out of ten people without access to safe water sources live in rural areas.
The report also states that the world is far from achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) sanitation target. "At current trends, the world will fall short of the Millennium sanitation target by more than 700 million people. Without dramatic improvements, much will be lost," said Ann Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. Currently, 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation facilities and almost 1.2 billion practice open defecation. Stagnant progress not only threatens the sanitation target, but also MDG four, aimed at reducing child mortality. In a press release WHO explained, "Poor sanitation threatens children's survival as a faecally-contaminated environment is directly linked to diarrhoeal disease, one of the biggest killers of infants under the age of five." The new report also highlights the crucial role clean water and sanitation plays in economic and social development.