A Millennium Development Goal success

The world has met the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the achievement was ‘a great one for the people of the world.’

A report by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the MDG has been met well in advance of the MDG 2015 deadline.

Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells. Improved drinking water sources are those that are designed to be protected from outside contamination, particularly faecal matter, the report said.  

Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012, by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, says at the end of 2010, 89 per cent of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, used improved drinking water sources. This is one per cent more than the 88 per cent MDG target.

It is estimated that by 2015, 92 per cent of the global population will have access to improved drinking water. 

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake says the meeting of the MDG was good news especially for children. “Every day more than 3,000 children die from diarrhoeal diseases. Achieving this target will go a long way to saving children’s lives,” he said.

However, he warned that victory could not yet be declared as at least 11 per cent of the world’s population 783 million people are still without access to safe drinking water, and billions without sanitation facilities. 

“The numbers are still staggering. But the progress announced today is proof that MDG targets can be met with the will, the effort and the funds,” said Lakes.

Ban Ki-Moon highlighted that the successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the MDGs not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people.

The report highlights, however, that the world is still far from meeting the part of the MDG target for sanitation, and is unlikely to do so by 2015. Only 63 per cent of the world now has improved sanitation access.

WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan says providing sustainable access to improved drinking water sources was critical to the reduction of diseases. “..this achievement today is only the beginning. We must continue to ensure this access remains safe. Otherwise our gains will be in vain.” 

The report highlights the immense challenges that remain and that only 61 per cent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to improved water supply sources compared with 90 per cent or more in Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Africa, and large parts of Asia.

Over 40 per cent of all people globally who lack access to drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa.