Two billion people lack safe drinking water, more than twice lack safe sanitation

17 July 2017

NEW YORK, 17 July 2017 – Some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe drinking water at home; and 6 in 10, or 4.4 billion people lack safely managed sanitation, according to a new report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report, Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and Sustainable Development Goal Baselines, released last week, presents the first global assessment of “safely managed” drinking water and sanitation services, particularly in rural areas.

“Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centres,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “These are some of the most basic requirements for human health, and all countries have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can access them.”

Billions of people globally have gained access to basic drinking water and sanitation services since 2000, but these do not necessarily provide safe water and sanitation. Many homes, healthcare facilities and schools still lack soap and water for handwashing; putting people’s health – especially young children – at risk for diseases, such as diarrhoea. As a result, every year 361,000 children under 5 years old die due to diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.

In the Philippines, 91% of the country’s estimated 100.7 million population have access to at least basic water services; but access is highly inequitable across the country, with regional basic water services access ranging from 62% to 100%. Around 99% of the one-fifth wealthiest households are more likely to have access to basic water services; while only 80% of the poorest quintile do.

Around 6 million Filipinos also still practice open defecation, and some 20 million lack access to basic sanitation facilities. While over 75 million Filipinos have basic sanitation service at the national level, there are significant inequalities, particularly with regional coverage ranging only from 22% to 86%.

“Safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities are essential to health and wellness in the communities. Safe water and sanitation is especially linked to young children’s nutrition and ability to stay healthy and focused in school. Diseases caused by unsafe or unhygienic practices decrease children’s chances to successful school completion and healthy growth,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander. “In rural areas where poverty is high, inequalities are aggravated by this cycle of and link between the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and poor health and low productivity.”
Significant inequalities persist

To decrease global inequalities, the new Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015 call for an end to open defecation, achieving universal access to basic services by 2030. Of 2.1 billion people globally who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not have even a basic drinking water service. This includes 263 million people who have to spend over 30 minutes per trip collecting water from sources outside the home, and 159 million who still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams or lakes. 

In 90 countries, progress towards basic sanitation is too slow, meaning they will not reach universal coverage by 2030. Of the 4.4 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services. This includes 600 million people who share a toilet or latrine with other households, and 892 million people – mostly in rural areas – who defecate in the open. Due to population growth, open defecation is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

Good hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease. For the first time, the SDGs are monitoring the percentage of people who have facilities to wash their hands at home with soap and water.  According to the new report, access to water and soap for handwashing varies immensely in the 70 countries with available data, from 15 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa to 76 per cent in western Asia and northern Africa.

The Department of Health has prioritized ending open defecation across the Philippines by 2022 as articulated in the current Administration’s  ‘12 Legacies for Health’ agenda. To this end, UNICEF continues to work with the DOH to accelerate the government’s Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program. “UNICEF actively works with national and local governments and NGO partners on the phased approach to rural sanitation (PHATS), focusing on demonstrating the effectiveness of using community-based approaches with LGUs to advocate for ZOD and help them determine and plan their action plans,” Sylwander added.

UNICEF’s advocacy and community outreach work supports the strengthening of local governance and capacity-building for WASH planning and strategic budgeting to ensure sustainability.


About the JMP

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene is the official United Nations mechanism tasked with monitoring country, regional and global progress, and especially towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets relating to universal and equitable access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. Thanks to the globally supported household surveys, JMP analysis helps draw connections between use of basic water and sanitation facilities and quality of life, and serves as an authoritative reference to make policy decisions and resource allocations, especially at the international level.

The Report

  • The full report is available for download here.
  • The JMP Website: It includes data visualizations, the full report (free to download) and more.  

Media contacts

Zafrin Chowdhury
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 867 8366
Marge Francia
Advocacy & Communication Specialist
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 858 9447


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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