2.5bn live with poor sanitation

More than 2.5bn people around the world do not have access to proper sanitation, according to a joint report from the World Health Organisation and United Nations children's fund UNICEF.

Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation - Special Focus on Sanitation says nearly 1.2bn do not have access to any toilet facilities at all.

The report has been published as part of a programme monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals target on drinking water and sanitation.

Under this target, the UN aims to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation - a target that could be missed, the WHO and UNICEF warned.

"At current trends, the world will fall short of the Millennium sanitation target by more than 700m people," said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director.

However, the report also shows that the number of people who lack access to clean drinking water has fallen below one billion for the first time since records started in 1990.

Eighty-seven per cent of the world's population has access to improved drinking water sources, and current trends suggest more than 90% will do so by 2015, according to the report.

People in rural areas are also more likely to suffer from poor sanitation - about 746m compared to 137m urban dwellers.

"We have today a full menu of low-cost technical options for the provision of sanitation in most settings," said WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan.

"More and more governments are determined to improve health by bringing water and sanitation to their poorest populations.

"If we want to break the stranglehold of poverty, and reap the multiple benefits for health, we must address water and sanitation."

Other good news is that significant improvements in access to safe drinking water have been made in many southern African countries.

According to the report, countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target for drinking water.

Kate Martin



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