Billions of people lack safe water, proper sanitation facilities

UNITED NATIONS -- A newly released report of the United Nations agencies has warned that billions of people around the world lack safe water and proper sanitation facilities.

"Some three in 10 people around the world lack access to safe and readily available water at home, and almost six in 10 to safely managed sanitation," according to a joint report of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) released Wednesday.

The report is titled Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and Sustainable Development Goal Baselines.

Many homes, healthcare facilities and schools also lack soap and water for handwashing, putting the health of all people, especially young children, at risk for deadly diseases, said the report.

"Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centers," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a news release, announcing the findings and noting that those living in rural areas are the worst affected.

As a result of lack of these basic services, millions fall ill to diseases, such as diarrhea, which claims the lives of 361,000 children under the age of five every year, said the report.

"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," underscored Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UNICEF.

However, findings in the report revealed that access to water and soap for handwashing varies immensely in the 70 countries with available data, from 15 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa to 76 percent in western Asia and northern Africa.

These significant inequalities also put the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 6 on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all at risk.

Backed by the data, the two UN agencies also warned that in as many as 90 countries around the world, progress towards basic sanitation is too slow, "meaning they will not reach universal coverage by 2030."

According to the report, of the 2.1 billion people 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.

Furthermore, of the 4.5 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services, including nearly 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. (Xinhua/PNA)

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