The newly released joint report of two UN agencies indicates that one third of the global population still lacks access to clean water and appropriate sanitation.
The report jointly released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF is the result of the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. This program was set up in 1990 and has since looked at global, regional and national policies concerning water and sanitation.
For citizens of the developed world, toilets might be a thing we don’t give much thought to. Taken for granted as it is, there is a staggering one third of the world’s population who still have no access to toilets or proper sanitation.
What could be so important about these toilets? Well, not having access to one means everything that normally ends up in a thoroughly designed sanitation system and purifying installation otherwise ends up polluting water sources so much needed for life support.
In turn, the health safety of billions of people is put at risk, with higher infection and diseases risk looming. Children are a particular risk group. Improper sanitation or not having access to toilets results in malnutrition due to water source pollution, as well as stunting, both physically and mentally. 161 million children are reported to be the victims of improper sanitation on a yearly basis.
Dr. Maria Neirda, Director of the Public Health Department at WHO commented:
“Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases”.
To alleviate and find solutions to mitigate this dire situation, the UN established a list of Millennium Development Goals in 2000. Initially, the time-frame for achieving the ambitious goals set up through these guidelines was 2015. A new set is envisaging the efforts needed to continue the hard work already established through the 2015 MDGs.
Among these, access to proper sanitation and clean drinking water featured high on the priority list. Since 1990, 2.1 billion people did see the result of these efforts, but there are yet another 2.4 billion people who need urgent assistance. The majority find themselves in the rural poor areas.
The joint UNICEF and WHO report states that India is the worst faring country in terms of toilet usage. Even if there are toilets installed, men in particular still prefer the outdoors to relieve themselves.
Worryingly, 640 million Indian citizens are continuing this practice amongst a growing population that currently counts 1.26 billion citizens.
In terms of clean drinking water access, an estimated 663 million people pertaining to the world’s poorest still lacks any access. Against this dire background, they are either walking for miles only to return home with a few liters of water, or are at the mercy of water mafias which charge even a full day’s payment for one cup of water.
Other options include drinking water from broken pipes or stagnant ponds and risking infections with deadly waterborne bacteria.
The situation is dire. But, as some analysts stated, the evidence comprised in the Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment report developed by UNICEF and WHO should not be harshly judged.
The MDGs were ambitious by themselves, and progress has been registered both in terms of sanitation access and water access. Just not to the ambitious levels set out in the 2015 MDGs.
A new post-2015 framework that will oversee the efforts to bring sanitation access and water access is already underway with approximately 30 billion dollars already pledged to support initiatives.
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