Over two billion people gained access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2010 according to a report released today by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). That means world governments have hit the target set out by Millennium Development Goal #7, to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, five years ahead of the 2015 deadline for the MDGs.
“This is one of the first MDG targets to be met. 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.” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
At the end of 2010, 89% of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, were able to access safe water sources, according to the report Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation. That’s 1% more than the 88% goal set by world leaders at the UN’s Millennium Summit in 2000.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that “providing sustainable access to improved drinking water sources is one of the most important things we can do to reduce disease.”
“But this achievement today is only the beginning,” she said. “We must continue to ensure this access remains safe. Otherwise our gains will be in vain.”
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said “for children this is especially good news. Every day more than 3,000 children die from diarrheal diseases,” he said in a statement. “Achieving this goal will go a long way to saving children’s lives.”
As the Associated Press noted:
The report highlights the disparities between regions and countries, and within countries.
Only 61 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to safe drinking water sources compared with 90 percent or more in Latin America and the Caribbean, northern Africa, and large parts of Asia, the report said.
UNICEF and WHO called for greater attention to water and sanitation needs in rural areas across the globe where millions of poor people still have no access.
The report said the world is still far from meeting the U.N. goal of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation.
Only 63 percent of the world now has basic sanitation and the figure will increase to just 67 percent by 2015, well below the 75 percent required to reach the target, the report said.
“The numbers are still staggering,” Lake said, “But the progress announced today is proof that MDG targets can be met with the will, the effort and the funds,” he added.
Photo credit: DFID via flickr