WHO: 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and more than twice as many lack safe sanitation

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), across the world, an estimated three in ten people – or 2.1 billion people – lack access to safe drinking water that is readily available at their homes, and six in ten, or 4.5 billion, lack safely managed sanitation.

The numbers were released in their Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report, Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and Sustainable Development Goal baselines, which presented the very first global assessment of “safely managed” drinking water and sanitation systems, and it’s central, overriding conclusion was that too many people still lack access, especially in rural areas.

Since 2000, billions have gained access to basic drinking water and sanitation services, though the services do not necessarily offer safe drinking water and sanitation. Moreover, many homes, healthcare facilities and schools also lack soap and water for handwashing – putting the health of many at risk. Consequently, more than 361,000 children under the age of five die every year due to the poor sanitation and contaminated water.

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

“Safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene are critical to the health of every child and every community – and thus are essential to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable societies,” Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, said. “As we improve these services in the most disadvantaged communities and for the most disadvantaged children today, we give them a fairer chance at a better tomorrow.”