July 17, 2008
WHO/UNICEF figures reveal poor progress in sanitation
Modest progress on water - but sanitation in Africa worsens
Young girl using unsanitary latrine in slum
Credit: WaterAid / Abir Abdullah
Data from 2006 reported today reveals modest progress on providing safe water to the world's poor is overshadowed by lack of progress on sanitation.
The WHO & UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress in Drinking-water and Sanitation: special focus on sanitation, published today shows 2.5 billion people, nearly 40% of the world's population, still lack access to improved sanitation - in other words, a safe and dignified place to go to the toilet.
Poor access to water and sanitation accounts for 10 percent of the global disease burden, it is seriously short-sighted not to give more time, attention, and resources to these basic health needs.
Access to sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa is in fact declining,with only 31% of people able to access a toilet - 6% less than reported in 2006.
Lack of sanitation is holding back progress on the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include targets to boost enrollment in education and reduce infant mortality. Recent evidence points to sanitation and hygiene as the greatest contributing factors in child deaths worldwide.
Last week's G8 meeting in Japan failed to tackle the crisis. References to sanitation and water in the G8 Communique offered no new action, raising questions about the accountability of G8 leaders to the needs of the poor.
The international medical journal The Lancet recently highlighted the G8's disappointing neglect of sanitation and water:
"Poor access to water and sanitation accounts for 10% of the global disease burden, it is seriously short-sighted not to give more time, attention,and resources to these basic health needs."
Global health and the G8—is power just too sweet to share? (PDF 92.08KB)
Without serious political attention to sanitation, progress across all the MDGs will be thwarted. WaterAid, part of the End Water Poverty campaign, is calling on governments to address this crisis when the UN meets in September.
WaterAid America President and CEO Patricia Dandonoli commented:
"While it's very encouraging to see the progress being made in terms of access to safe water, sanitation is clearly the MDG 'orphan'. As the WHO/UNICEF report makes clear, improved sanitation saves lives and the international community should renew their commitment to improving access to sanitation at the UN meeting this September in New York."
The WHO/UNICEF report assesses global progress towards the Millennium Development Goal targets to halve the proportions of people without access to safe water and sanitation by 2015.
Service levels have failed to keep pace with population growth.
To access the full report please visit the Joint Monitoring Programme's website