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[afro-nets] World Facing "Silent Emergency"

  • Subject: [afro-nets] World Facing "Silent Emergency"
  • From: Claudio Schuftan <claudio@hcmc.netnam.vn>
  • Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 15:28:04 +0700
  • User-agent: Internet Messaging Program (IMP) 3.1

World Facing "Silent Emergency" As Billions Struggle Without
Clean Water Or Basic Sanitation, Say WHO AND UNICEF

New report warns that vicious cycle of ill-health and poverty
could defeat human development efforts, with children the first
to suffer

[you can download the report as Adobe PDF file (36 pp. 1.9 MB) at:
http://www.unicef.org/publications/who_unicef_watsan_midterm_rev.pdf ]

New York/Geneva - More than 2.6 billion people - over 40 per
cent of the world's population - do not have access to basic
sanitation, and more than one billion people still use unsafe
sources of drinking water, warns a report released today by the
World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

Entitled "Meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) drink-
ing water and sanitation target - A mid-term assessment of pro-
gress", the report details the progress of individual countries,
regions, and the world as a whole between the MDG baseline year
of 1990 and the half-way mark of 2002. It makes two significant
predictions on reaching the 2015 goals, based on progress to

The global sanitation target will be missed by half a billion
people - most of them in rural Africa and Asia - allowing waste
and disease to spread, killing millions of children and leaving
millions more on the brink of survival.

The severe human and economic toll of missing the sanitation
target could be prevented by closing the gap between urban and
rural populations and by providing simple hygiene education, say

The agencies warned that a global trend towards urbanization is
marginalising the rural poor and putting huge strain on basic
services in cities. As a result, families living in rural vil-
lages and urban slums are being trapped in a cycle of ill-health
and poverty. Children are always the first to suffer from the
burden of disease caused by dirty water and poor hygiene, while
the wider impact of unhygienic environments drags back economic
progress and erodes good governance.

"Around the world millions of children are being born into a si-
lent emergency of simple needs," says Carol Bellamy, UNICEF's
Executive Director. "The growing disparity between the haves and
the have-nots in terms of access to basic services is killing
around 4000 children every day and underlies many more of the 10
million child deaths each year. We have to act now to close this
gap or the death toll will certainly rise."

"Water and sanitation are among the most important determinants
of public health. Wherever people achieve reliable access to
safe drinking-water and adequate sanitation they have won a ma-
jor battle against a wide range of diseases," says WHO Director-
General Dr Lee Jong-wook.

Developing regions of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, are
most at risk. But the report also highlights some worrying
trends in the industrialised regions, where coverage figures for
clean water and basic sanitation facilities are estimated to
have decreased by 2 per cent between 1990 and 2002. In the for-
mer Soviet Union, only 83 per cent of people had access to ade-
quate sanitation facilities. With economic and population pres-
sures growing, these percentages could decrease.

The consequences of inaction today are severe, according to WHO
and UNICEF. Diarrhoeal disease currently takes the lives of 1.8
million people each year - most of them children under five -
with millions more left permanently debilitated. Over 40 billion
work hours are lost in Africa to the need to fetch drinking wa-
ter. And many children, particularly girls, are prevented from
going to school for want of latrines, squandering their intel-
lectual and economic potential.

Reversing this trend and moving towards universal coverage for
water and sanitation will take more than money, said Bellamy and
Lee. National policies based on the principle of "some for all"
rather than "all for some" have been the key to improvements in
many countries. And at the local level, resources have to be re-
targeted to include the poorest communities, with local govern-
ment and the private sector co-operating to bring affordable so-

"To meet the 2015 targets, countries need to create the politi-
cal will and resources to serve a billion new urban dwellers,
and reduce by almost 1 billion the number of rural dwellers
without access to adequate sanitation facilities. Otherwise we
risk leaving millions, if not billions, out of the development
process," says Dr Lee.

WHO and UNICEF say the report, which is the first in a series
looking at progress in water and sanitation coverage, should be
a wake-up call to all global leaders. Every country still has
work to do to eliminate disparities in basic services and the
data shows clearly how that can be done before the MDG deadline
of 2015.

There are also some very encouraging signs. Great gains in water
and sanitation coverage have been made against considerable odds
in many countries. This progress came as a direct result of po-
litical prioritisation and a drive to find locally effective so-

"This report is important because it proves that significant im-
provements are possible in a short space of time, even in the
poorest countries." says Ms Bellamy. "By identifying trends now,
and committing to course corrections, we have a real opportunity
to ensure that by 2015 these basic essentials of life are avail-
able to all."


Progress towards the drinking water goal:

The world appears on target to reach the MDG drinking water goal
of reducing the number of people without access to an improved
drinking water source to 800 million by 2015. Over the past 12
years, WHO and UNICEF estimate that an additional 1.1 billion
people have gained access to an improved source of drinking wa-
ter - bringing global coverage rates up to 83 per cent, from 77
per cent in 1990.

South Asia shows the greatest gains in drinking water coverage,
increasing from 71 per cent to 84 per cent. Great progress has
been made in India and China. But Asia still accounts for two-
thirds (675 million) of the people worldwide whose drinking wa-
ter still comes from unsafe sources like rivers, ponds, and ven-

Sub-Saharan Africa has shown patchier progress. While countries
such as Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi and Tan-
zania have all increased drinking water coverage by over 50 per
cent, the region's overall drinking water coverage has increased
by only nine percentage points since 1990 - to 58 per cent -
leaving 288 million people still with no choice but to rely on
water that could leave them sick or dead.

In addition to the encouraging progress made by individual coun-
tries across the globe, much of the new coverage in developing
countries has come from water piped directly into homes. Roughly
half of the world's population now drinks piped water. WHO and
UNICEF stress that substantive economic benefits will result
from this increase: piped water into the home is associated with
the greatest improvements in household health, and frees women
and girls from the burden of water carrying, giving them greater
time for work, family and school.

Progress toward the sanitation goal:

While more than 1 billion people have gained access to basic
sanitation services, population growth has outstripped our ef-
forts, translating the numerical gains into much smaller gains
in proportional terms. In 1990, 49 per cent of world had access
to basic sanitation facilities. Today, that figure has increased
by only nine percentage points, leaving us way behind schedule
for the 2015 MDG target (75 per cent coverage). If this trend
continues, the world will miss its sanitation pledge by over 500
million people.

Eastern Asia shows the greatest increase in coverage, from 24 to
45 per cent, fuelled primarily by gains in China. But Asia is
still home to three out of the four people worldwide who don't
have use of even a simple improved latrine. Over half of all
people living without improved sanitation live in India (735
million) and China (725 million).

Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, has the lowest percentage of peo-
ple with access to basic sanitation facilities - 36 per cent, an
increase of just four per cent since 1990. In the developing
world as a whole, only 49% of people had access to adequate
sanitation facilities, while in the world's developed regions,
98% of people did.

Worldwide, Benin, India, Madagascar and Myanmar made especially
rapid progress towards the sanitation target. But only two out
of the world's nine developing regions - Eastern Asia and South-
eastern Asia - are on track to meet the sanitation goal, with
north Africa and Latin America very close behind.