The world has met the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well in advance of the MDG 2015 deadline, according to a report issued by two UN agencies Tuesday.
More than 88 percent of the globe's population has already access to safe drinking water. [unep.org]
The UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of safe water for 88 percent of the globe's population already has been surpassed, but improved sanitation for 75 percent of the world will not be achieved, said a Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) report released by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
"For children this is especially good news," said UNICEF Executive Director AnthonyLake. "Every day more than 3,000 children die from diarrheal diseases. Achieving this goal will go along way to saving children's lives."
Lake warned in a statement accompanying the report that victory could not yet be declared as at least 11 percent of the world's population -- 783 million people -- are still without access to safe drinking water, and billions without sanitation facilities.
"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."
The report said that at the end of 2010 almost 6.1 billion people, 89 percent, had improved drinking water while only 63 percent had improved sanitation. By 2015 the statistics were expected to read 92 percent with safe drinking water but only 67 percent with improved sanitation.
Goal C" of MDG No. 7, Ensure environmental sustainability, was to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
The safe water goal is one of the first MDGs to be achieved of the eight MDGs established at the turn of the century as targets to be reached by 2015, the JMP pointed out.
The report said that since 1990, drinking water coverage in the developing world has increased by 16 percentage points with the greatest improvements in China and India while sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest drinking water coverage of any region.
It said that the greatest disparity was between urban and rural coverage.
"An estimated 96 percent of the urban population globally used an improved water supply source in 2010, compared to 81 percent of the rural population," the report said. "This means that 653 million rural dwellers lacked improved sources of drinking water. Similarly, 80 percent of the world's urban population had piped water connections, compared to only 29 percent of people in rural areas."
"Since 1990, more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a forward to the 60-page glossy report. "This achievement is a testament to the commitment of government leaders, public and private sector entities, communities and individuals who saw the target not as a dream, but as a vital step towards improving health and well-being."
While acknowledging the results reported as a "tremendous achievement," the report said "a great deal of work remains."
"First, huge disparities exist. While coverage of improved water supply sources is 90 percent or more in Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Africa and large parts of Asia, it is only 61 percent in sub-Saharan Africa," the report said. "Coverage in the developing world overall stands at 86 percent, but it is only 63 percent in countries designated as 'least developed.'"
"Second, complete information about drinking water safety is not available for global monitoring," it said. "Systematically testing the microbial and chemical quality of water at the national level in all countries is prohibitively expensive and logistically complicated."
It explained, a proxy indicator was then agreed on that measures the proportion of the population using "improved" drinking water sources, defined as those that, by the nature of their construction, are protected from outside contamination, " particularly fecal matter."
"However, some of these sources may not be adequately maintained and therefore may not actually provide 'safe' drinking water. As a result, it is likely that the number of people using safe water supplies has been over-estimated," the report said.
"Finally, more than 780 million people remain unserved," it said. "Although the MDG drinking water target has been met, it only calls for halving the proportion of people without safe drinking water. More than one tenth of the global population still relied on unimproved drinking water sources in 2010."
As for sanitation, the report said, "More than half of the 2.5 billion people without improved sanitation live in India or China. "
Southern Asia at 41 percent and sub-Saharan Africa at 30 percent struggle with low coverage. But the report said the two regions differ significantly
"In sub-Saharan Africa, 45 percent of the population uses either shared or unimproved facilities, and an estimated 25 percent practice open defecation," it said. "In Southern Asia, the proportion of the population using shared or unimproved facilities is much lower, and open defecation is the highest of any region."
"Although the number of people resorting to open defecation in Southern Asia has decreased by 110 million people since 1990, it is still practiced by 41 percent of the region's population, representing 692 million people," said the report.
It said that open defecation, still practiced in 19 countries, was largely a rural practice. Nearly 60 percent of those still using open defecation live in India.