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Measuring progress on sanitation

Jul 21, 2008

Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, a new report jointly prepared by UNICEF and WHO says that the world is not on track to meet the MDG sanitation target by 2015. The report, however, indicates a positive trend with more people now having access to improved drinking water sources.

Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation - Special Focus on Sanitation

Publisher: UNICEF and WHO, 2008

This report issued by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Drinking-water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) comes halfway through the International Year of Sanitation. 

The importance of sanitation is indisputable as it is a crucial stepping stone to better health. It is also fundamental to gender equity as it protects women’s dignity. Investments in sanitation protect investments made in other sectors, such as education and health, and bring measurable economic returns.

The data in this report show that the world is not on track to meet the MDG sanitation target, and 2.5 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation, including 1.2 billion who have no facilities at all.

The report highlights disparities within national borders, particularly between rural and urban dwellers.  Worldwide, there are four times as many people in rural areas – approximately 746 million – without improved water sources, compared to some 137 million urban dwellers.

Poor sanitation threatens children's survival as a  faecally-contaminated environment is directly linked to diarroheal disease, one of the biggest killers of infants under the age of five.  A clean environment is very difficult to ensure if open defecation is practiced, even by a minority of the population.

The message is clear: we need to greatly accelerate progress in sanitation, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

But the news is not all bad.

The report assesses - for the first time ever - global, regional and country progress using an innovative "ladder" concept.

This shows sanitation practices in greater detail, enabling experts to highlight trends in using improved, shared and unimproved sanitation facilities and the trend in open defecation. 

Similarly, the 'drinking water ladder' shows the percentage of the world population that uses water piped into a dwelling, plot or yard; other improved water sources such as hand pumps, and unimproved sources.

At present 87 per cent of the world population has access to improved drinking water sources, with current trends suggesting that more than 90 per cent will do so by 2015.

Source : UNICEF
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