A new report finds 2.5 billion people, more than a third of the world's population, do not have access to good sanitation facilities and nearly one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. The report, jointly produced by the World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund, presents a mixed report on how well nations are doing toward meeting the Millennium Developing Goal of improving water and sanitation by 2015. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
The report says bad water and sanitation are a major cause of disease and death. It says 10 percent of the global burden of disease could be improved or eliminated by improving water and sanitation.
WHO coordinator for water, sanitation and health, Jamie Bartram, says many people, especially in wealthy countries, have good water piped into their homes. But he notes nearly half of the world's population still has to collect water from distant or unsafe sources and over a third of the world's households still lack even a simple latrine.
"Women in sub-Saharan Africa have to walk perhaps more than 30 minutes more than once every day to come back carrying on their heads or on their hips or in their hands a bucket or two buckets of water-barely sufficient to provide for the minimum needs for their families," said Bartram. "That is a burden and a drudge which those individuals, their communities, their countries can do without."
Although many people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, continue to struggle to find safe water, the report says progress is being made. It says 87 percent of the world's population has access to good water sources, suggesting the world is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal drinking-water target by 2015.
But, the report says the world is not on track to meet the sanitation target. At current rates, it says the total population in 2015 without improved facilities to dispose of human waste safely would be 2.4 billion people, most in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Clarissa Brocklehurst is chief of UNICEF's water and environmental sanitation program. She says water and sanitation are absolutely key to child survival and development.
She says about 5,000 children die every day from simple diarrheal disease and almost 90 percent of those deaths are caused by inadequate water and sanitation.
"So, we know that if we are going to combat child mortality, we have to do something about water and sanitation. And, this is why water and sanitation is a very important part of UNICEF programming," she added. "We know, for instance, that as well as killing children outright, frequent bouts of diarrhea also weaken children, lead to under-nutrition which is also a contributor to child mortality and that it can also compromise children's ability to learn which makes their education that much more difficult."
The report acknowledges sub-Saharan Africa is the region progressing most slowly. However, it says one of the best performing countries is Angola.
It also notes seven of 10 countries that have made the most rapid progress and are on track to meet the drinking water targets are in sub-Saharan Africa.