Photo: The world has met the MDG target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water. Credit: UNICEF-WHO
Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access
to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells,
according to a joint report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization
Halving the number of people without access to clean
drinking water is one of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include ending
extreme poverty, reducing child and maternal mortality rates, fighting diseases
and establishing a global partnership for development.
“Today we recognize a great achievement for the people of
the world,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
said upon the release of the report, entitled ‘Progress on Drinking Water and
Sanitation 2012’ and produced by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for
Water Supply and Sanitation.
“This is one of the first MDG targets to be met. The
successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament
to all who see the MDGs not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the
lives of millions of the poorest people.”
At the end of 2010, some 89 per cent of the world’s population,
or 6.1 billion people, used improved drinking water sources, according to the
report. That figure is one per cent more than the 88 per cent stated in the MDG
The report estimates that by 2015, some 92 per cent of the
global population will have access to improved drinking water.
“For children this is especially good news,” said UNICEF
Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Every day more than 3,000 children die from
diarrhoeal diseases. Achieving this goal will go a long way to saving children’s
Mr. Lake cautioned that victory can not yet be declared
because at least 11 per cent of the world’s population – 783 million people –
are still without access to safe drinking water, and billions live without
“The numbers are still staggering,” he said, “But the
progress announced today is proof that MDG targets can be met with the will,
the effort and the funds,” he added.
The report shows that the world is still far from meeting
the MDG target for sanitation, and is unlikely to do so by 2015. Only 63 per
cent of the world population has access to improved sanitation, a figure
projected to increase to only 67 per cent by 2015, well below the 75 per cent
target in the MDGs. Currently 2.5 billion people still lack improved
UNICEF and WHO also cautioned that since the measurement of
water quality is not possible globally, progress towards the MDG target of safe
drinking water is measured through gathering data on the use of improved
drinking water sources. Significant work must be done to ensure that improved
sources of water are and remain safe, the two agencies stressed.
“Better water, sanitation and hygiene are key to improving
human health and development,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “Today,
even with this exciting new progress, almost 10 per cent of all diseases are
still linked to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.”
The global figures also mask massive disparities between
regions and countries, and within countries, the two agencies emphasized.
Only 61 per cent of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa have
access to improved water supply sources, compared with 90 per cent or more in
Latin America and the Caribbean, northern Africa, and large parts of Asia. Over
40 per cent of all people globally who lack access to drinking water live in
The report also confirms that in cases where water supplies
are not readily accessible, the burden of carrying water falls
disproportionately on women and girls.
“We have reached an important target, but we cannot stop
here,” said Mr. Ban. “Our next step must be to target the most difficult to
reach, the poorest and the most disadvantaged people across the world. The
United Nations General Assembly has recognized drinking water and sanitation as
human rights. That means we must ensure that every person has access.”
Meanwhile, Lenny Kravitz, the Grammy award-winning
singer-songwriter, record producer and actor, has thrown his support behind the
global effort by UNICEF and its partners to help save and improve the lives of
millions of children and their families around the world by providing them with
access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
“I was born in New York City and have always taken access to
clean water as a given,” said Mr. Kravitz. “No child should die of diarrhoea
from drinking dirty water. That thousands of children under the age of five
continue to die every day because they lack clean water and basic sanitation is
Mr. Kravitz will be appearing in public service
announcements and on Twitter and Facebook with a message that all children can
– and must – have access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
The musician, who recently released the album ‘Black and
White America,’ is joining forces with UNICEF to help mark World Water Day on
22 March and will send a global message of the importance of investing in
children and providing them with clean water and sanitation.
Source: UN News Centre
News Tracker: past stories on this issue
reports improved access to safe drinking water, but poorest still lagging