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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene


Though the world met the MDG target for drinking-water, 768 million people do not use an improved source of drinking-water.

In developing regions, 87% of the population uses an improved source of drinking-water while 2.5 billion people, or almost one third of the population, do not use improved sanitation. Within the developing world (without counting India and China) in 2011,  870 million people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, but there is a 12% increase of population using unimproved facilities in this region for the same 21-year period. 

Worldwide, 1 billion people practise open defecation, a decline of 244 million since 1990. With only 47% of the rural population using improved sanitation, rural areas lag far behind urban areas where the rate is 80%. Seven out of ten people without improved sanitation live in rural areas. Some 2.4 billion people – one-third of the world’s population – will remain without access to improved sanitation in 2015.

Access to safe water and adequate sanitation services has proven to be one of the most efficient ways of improving human health. The World Health Organization has estimated the economic costs avoided, and returns gained, by various levels of investment in water supply and sanitation services: every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation yields gains of $4 to $12, depending on the type of intervention.

Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation services is vital to human health but has other important benefits ranging from the easily identifiable and quantifiable (costs avoided, time saved) to the more intangible (convenience, well-being, dignity, privacy and safety). On 28 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. It also acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. 


Source: Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, 2013 Update; World Water Assessment Programme, 2009


Last update:06 Feb 2014