Progress for Children Homepage

Regional trends towards the MDG water target.

Four developing regions – Middle East/North Africa, South Asia, East Asia/Pacific and Latin America/Caribbean – are on track to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015. West/Central Africa, Eastern/Southern Africa and CEE/CIS will need to step up progress to meet the target.

Safe water

Safe water

In assessing progress, four developing regions – East Asia/Pacific, Middle East/North Africa, South Asia and Latin America/Caribbean – are on track to meet their MDG targets for safe water. But the current progress rates in sub-Saharan Africa and in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) will leave those regions short.

The remarkable progress in South Asia and Latin America/Caribbean has placed them on the verge of achieving their drinking-water goals 10 years early. In both regions, the number of people without access shrank between 1990 and 2004 – in South Asia from 326 million to 222 million and in Latin America/Caribbean from 74 million to 50 million.

Although West/Central Africa’s drinking-water coverage improved from 49 per cent in 1990 to 55 per cent in 2004, it needs to reach a far target of 75 per cent by 2015. The total number of people in the region without access to improved drinking-water sources actually increased over the 1990–2004 period.

In Eastern/Southern Africa, the situation for access to drinking water is similar, as the region improved coverage from 48 per cent in 1990 to 56 per cent in 2004 but faces a target of 74 per cent. In CEE/CIS, meanwhile, coverage has stagnated at 91 per cent; its 2015 goal is 96 per cent.

Sub-Saharan Africa represents about 11 per cent of the world population, but almost a third of all people without access to safe drinking water live here. High fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa translate to 54 million children under five without access to an improved drinking-water source, or about 40 per cent of the world’s more than 125 million young children without access. The comparable numbers are negligible in the industrialized world and 3 million in CEE/CIS.