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Sunday December 05, 2021

More than 2 billion people lack drinking water at home around world

July 15, 2017

Islamabad: Some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 6 in 10, or 4.4 billion, lack safely managed sanitation, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef.

The alarming facts were shared in the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report, ‘Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and Sustainable Development Goal Baselines,’ which presents the first global assessment of “safely managed” drinking water and sanitation services. The overriding conclusion is that too many people still lack access, particularly in rural areas.

JMP, World Health Organisation and Unicef’s Joint Monitoring Programme for water supply, sanitation and hygiene, is the official United Nations mechanism tasked with monitoring country, regional and global progress, and especially towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets relating to universal and equitable access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

The report says that billions of people have gained access to basic drinking water and sanitation services since 2000, but these services do not necessarily provide safe water and sanitation. Many homes, healthcare facilities and schools also still lack soap and water for handwashing.  This puts the health of all people – but especially young children – at risk for diseases, such as diarrhoea.

The report finds that in 2015, 29 per cent of the global population (2.1 billion people) lacked safely managed drinking water services – meaning water at home, available, and safe. 61 per cent of the global population (4.5 billion people) lacked safely managed sanitation services – meaning use of a toilet or latrine that leads to treatment or safe disposal of excreta. Data on handwashing were too few to make a global estimate, but in sub-Saharan Africa, 15 per cent of the population had access to a handwashing facility with soap and water.

The 2.1 billion people without safely managed drinking water services includes 1.3 billion people with basic services, meaning an improved water source located within 30 minutes; 263 million people with limited services, or an improved water source requiring more than 30 minutes to collect water; 423 million people taking water from unprotected wells and springs, and 159 million people collecting untreated surface water from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

The 4.5 billion people without safely managed sanitation services includes 2.1 billion people with basic services, meaning an improved sanitation facility which is not shared; 600 million people with limited services, or an improved sanitation facility which is shared; 856 million people using unprotected latrines or bucket toilets, and 892 million people practicing open defecation.

Every year, 361 000 children under 5 years die due to diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.

The key findings of the report reflect that many countries lack data on the quality of water and sanitation services. The report includes estimates for 96 countries on safely managed drinking water and 84 countries on safely managed sanitation.

It says that in countries experiencing conflict or unrest, children are 4 times less likely to use basic water services, and 2 times less likely to use basic sanitation services than children in other countries. Besides that, there are big gaps in service between urban and rural areas. Two out of three people with safely managed drinking water and three out of five people with safely managed sanitation services live in urban areas.

“Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centres,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “These are some of the most basic requirements for human health, and all countries have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can access them.”

In 90 countries, progress towards basic sanitation is too slow, meaning they will not reach universal coverage by 2030. Of the 4.4 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services. This includes 600 million people who share a toilet or latrine with other households, and 892 million people – mostly in rural areas – who defecate in the open. Due to population growth, open defecation is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

“Safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene are critical to the health of every child and every community – and thus are essential to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “As we improve these services in the most disadvantaged communities and for the most disadvantaged children today, we give them a fairer chance at a better tomorrow.”