Some 2.4 billion people, one-third of the world’s population will remain without access to improved sanitation in 2015, according to a joint WHO/UNICEF report just released.
The report, entitled Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water 2013 Update, warns that, at the current rate of progress, the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of the 1990 population without sanitation would be missed by eight percent – or half a billion people.
While UNICEF and WHO announced last year that the MDG drinking water target had been met and surpassed by 2010, the challenge to improve sanitation and reach those in need has led to a consolidated call for action to accelerate progress.
“There is an urgent need to ensure all the necessary pieces are in place – political commitment, funding, leadership – so the world can accelerate progress and reach the Millennium Development Goal sanitation target. The world can turn around and transform the lives of millions that still do not have access to basic sanitation. The rewards would be immense for health, ending poverty at its source, and well-being,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment.
The report echoes the urgent call to action by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson for the world community to combine efforts and end open defecation by 2025. With less than three years to go to reach the MDG deadline WHO and UNICEF call for a final push to meet the sanitation target.
“This is an emergency no less horrifying than a massive earthquake or tsunami. Every day hundreds of children are dying; every day thousands of parents mourn their sons and daughters. We can and must act in the face of this colossal daily human tragedy,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme.