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UN Report Finds Majority in Asia Living Without Clean Water, Sanitation


Declaring "dirty water is a bigger killer than bullets" worldwide, the United Nations Development Program is calling for a global action plan for the more than one billion people with no access to clean water and sanitation.

The United Nations is sounding the alarm - with more than a billion people without clean water and half of the developing world without basic sanitation.

In its annual human development report, released Thursday, the U.N. Development Program says old policies have failed and it is time for new national strategies and international aid to address the issue.

The U.N. agency estimates that deaths from diarrhea - usually caused by drinking foul water - is six times higher than people dying in armed conflict each year. Nearly two million children alone die annually because of water related diseases.

Most of the people without clean water live in Asia. U.N.D.P's Shoji Nishimoto is the assistant administrator for development policy.

"Asia houses the largest number of people living below the poverty line. So, in an aggregate sense, the problem of water and sanitation is biggest in Asia-Pacific zone," he said.

There is some good news. Developing economic giants, India and China, are making progress in bringing clean water to the more than two billion people who live within their borders.

Nishimoto hopes that trend will spread to the rest of the region.

"The largest reduction in the poor people, in terms of number not the share, happened in India and China. So there is a great hope that the improvement even in this area is likely to take place more in Asia-Pacific."

The United Nations is also calling for clean water to be affordable regardless of income. The annual report notes the poor - who usually are not serviced by public utilities - pay significantly more for water. For example, the average person in Manila pays six times the rate the typical New Yorker spends for a cubic meter of water.

The report ranks 177 nations in terms of prospects for human development - based on factors such as life expectancy, education, and real income.

Nepal ranked 138th. East Timor ranked 142nd. Japan is the highest ranked Asian nation - in 7th place overall. That is one spot ahead of the United States and one behind Canada.