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Report indicates goal likely to be achieved ahead of 2015 target date, but problems persist
UNICEF and the World Health Organization released a report showing that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of improving access to safe drinking water will likely be achieved ahead of the 2015 target date.
“The good news is that almost 1.8 billion more people now have access to drinking water compared to the start of the 1990s,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF associate director and water and sanitation chief. “The bad news is that the poorest and most marginalized are being left behind.”
The report, “Drinking Water Equity, Safety and Sustainability,” by the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, says that between 1990 and 2008, the proportion of the world’s population with access to improved drinking water sources increased from 77% to 87%, meaning the world will soon meet the MDG target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. However, the report stresses that even though good progress has been made, at the current rate 672 million people will still not be using improved drinking water sources in 2015. According to the report, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia and Southeast Asia are not on track to meet the target.
The report found that the richest 20% in Sub-Saharan African countries are more than twice as likely to use an improved drinking water source as the poorest 20%. In addition, poor people in rural areas have the lowest access to safe drinking water, with the greatest burden in collecting water falling to women and girls.
Globally, more than eight out of ten persons without an improved drinking water source live in rural areas. However, the proportion of the rural population in developing regions using piped drinking water on premises was still only 31% in 2008, up from 21% in 1990. In urban areas it went from 71% to 73% during the same period. This proves, says the report, that investment in water and sanitation is not being optimized—almost two-thirds of total official development assistance for drinking water and sanitation goes to the development of large urban systems.
The report says that even when there is access to water, it is often not safe for drinking. Water quality surveys show that many improved drinking water sources—such as piped supplies, boreholes and protected wells—do not conform to WHO guidelines. On average, half of all protected dug wells may be contaminated, along with one-third of protected springs and boreholes.