UNICEF report shows progress on access to water and sanitation, but problems remain

28 September 2006

Although more than 1.2 billion people have gained access to safe drinking water since 1990, at least four of every 10 people still lack basic sanitation, contributing to the deaths from diarrhoea of about 1.5 million children under the age of five each year, according to a report released today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Although more than 1.2 billion people have gained access to safe drinking water since 1990, at least four of every 10 people still lack basic sanitation, contributing to the deaths from diarrhoea of about 1.5 million children under the age of five each year, according to a report released today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Progress for Children: A Report Card on Water and Sanitation contains mixed conclusions on the advances made towards one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that which calls for halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

It found that global coverage of safe drinking water increased from 78 per cent to 83 per cent between 1990 and 2004, and that Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as South Asia, are on schedule to achieve the MDG well ahead of schedule.

Global access to basic sanitation has risen from 49 per cent in 1990 to 59 per cent today, with South Asia more than doubling its numbers during the period. In East Asia and the Pacific, the proportion jumped from 30 per cent to over 50 per cent.

Yet some 1.5 million children under the age of five die from diarrhoea each year because they still do not have safe drinking water or basic sanitation.

The report found that those deaths could be reduced by more than a third with improved sanitation, while better hygiene practices could cut the death rate by another third.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said at the launch in New York that, “despite commendable progress,” 425 million children lack access to a better water supply and more than 980 million do not have access to adequate sanitation.

“Clean water and sanitation are vital pre-requisites for improved nutrition, reductions in child and maternal mortality and the fight against disease,” she said.

Another benefit of clean water and sanitation is the improvement in school attendance rates and academic performance, as children are no longer deterred from classes by the need to fetch and carry water for their families.

 

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