|The lost children|
|Data briefs: Progress and disparity|
Billions still lack clean water and sanitation
Despite the fact that every year nearly 2 million children die from diarrhoeal and other water-related diseases, the world remains unable to get clean water and adequate sanitation to those who most desperately need them. Some slight improvements have been made over the past decade: Globally, water supply coverage is up from 78% in 1990 to 82% in 1999. More than 800 million people gained access to clean water. And sanitation coverage is up from 54% in 1990 to 59% in 1999.
However, in absolute terms, the increases have not kept pace with the need: More than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water and approximately 2.5 billion people more than one third of the worlds population have no sanitary means of excreta disposal.
In the 16 most populous developing countries representing 80% of all the worlds people sanitation coverage remains a greater challenge than access to water. In China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and India alike, less than half of the population has access to adequate sanitation facilities. Even when coverage rises, as it has in Bangladesh (from 37% in 1990 to 53% in 1999) and Pakistan (from 34% to 59% over the same period), large numbers of people remain at risk from the lack of safe excreta disposal.
Of the nearly 2 million children who die from diarrhoeal and other water-related diseases, almost all are under the age of five.
Millions also suffer from parasitic worm infections that stem from the presence of human excreta and solid wastes in the environment and cause anaemia, malnutrition and sometimes death.
Along with disease and fatalities, there are other, more subtle hardships, including the squalor of life in communities that lack clean water and adequate sanitation facilities and the time burden, which falls disproportionately on girls at the expense of their schooling and on women at the expense of their own health and child-care tasks.
Access to clean water is generally improving around the world, but some countries still lag: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Viet Nam, for instance, access levels are all below 60%.
And in some countries, such as Bangladesh, arsenic contamination is rendering the available water presumed to be clean and safe dangerously unsafe.
Reaching people in rural areas is still the greatest challenge. More than a quarter (29%) of the worlds rural population lacks access to clean water and nearly two thirds (64%) lacks access to sanitation facilities.
And in urban areas, high population growth rates are outpacing increases in both water and sanitation coverage.
The world will not meet the 1990 World Summit goal of universal access to safe water and sanitation by the year 2000, but that task, vastly compounded by burgeoning urban populations, remains as urgent today as it was a decade ago.