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Water, sanitation, housing focus of UN development commission's annual session

Water, sanitation, housing focus of UN development commission's annual session

Borge Brende briefs journalists
With more than half of the hospital beds in the world filled with people afflicted by water-related illnesses, and 3 million to 4 million people dying each year from waterborne diseases, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) will turn the spotlight of its annual session on water, sanitation and human settlements, the meeting's chairman said today.

CSD Chairman Børge Brende of Norway told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York that the cost of the diseases represented an economic loss of $16 billion a year, clearly demonstrating the link between the Commission's water target in its thematic cluster and the health target in its crosscutting issues.

Other crosscutting issues include poverty eradication, reducing unsustainable consumption and production, protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development, maintaining sustainability in a globalizing world, African and other regional initiatives, gender equality and education.

More than 80 government ministers, as well as the heads of relevant UN agencies and civil society groups would attend the CSD's 12th session, Mr. Brende said. On Monday Secretary-General Kofi Annan will open the high-level segment, with such participants as Crown Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands, who has been strongly committed to expanding access to safe water worldwide.

Estimates of safe water supplies suggest that 50 per cent of developing countries are not yet poised to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the number of people lacking access to safe drinking water by 2015, he said. Meeting that target would mean providing access for an additional 1.6 billion people over the next 11 years.

Another 2 billion people need to have improved sanitation by 2015 to meet the MDG, at an additional cost of $63 million per year, or a total of $11 billion.

The human settlement target aimed to improve living conditions for at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, said Mr. Brende, the Norwegian Minister of the Environment.