2.3 Billion People Lack Basic Sanitation, Undermining Health Progress

Date: 13th July 2017

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Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF released the Joint Monitoring Programme Progress Report for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP), tracking access to drinking water and sanitation against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

According to the report, 2.3 billion people, are still without basic sanitation facilities – including 892 million people who defecate in the open.

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of people practicing open defecation declined from 1229 million to 892 million, an average decrease of 22 million people per year. All SDG regions saw a drop in the number of people practicing open defecation, except for sub-Saharan Africa, where high population growth led to an increase in open defecation from 204 to 220 million, and in Oceania), where open defecation increased from 1 to 1.3 million.

“Much progress has been made on improving sanitation and hygiene conditions around the world,” says Chris Williams, Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. “However, there is still an urgent global sanitation crisis leaving 2.3 billion people without any form of sanitation. We simply cannot wait to take action. It is time that politicians and decision-makers in the health sector recognize the importance of sanitation and hygiene, which are critical enablers of health, social and economic development in the poorest and most marginalized corners of the world.”

Other key findings from the report include the following:

  • 68 per cent of the global population (5.0 billion people) used at least a basic sanitation service.
  • 71 per cent of the global population (5.2 billion people) used a safely managed drinking water service; that is, one located on premises, available when needed and free from contamination.
  • In least-developed countries, 27 per cent of the population had basic handwashing facilities with soap and water, while 26 per cent had handwashing facilities lacking soap or water. The remaining 47 per cent had no facility.

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene has been producing estimates of national, regional and global progress since 1990. The JMP service ‘ladders’ enable benchmarking and comparison of progress across countries at different stages of development. The updated water and sanitation ladders build on established indicators and introduce new rungs with additional criteria relating to service levels. A third ladder has also been introduced for hygiene.

The JMP will continue to monitor all rungs on each ladder, with a particular focus on those that relate to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) global targets and indicators, including ending open defecation; achieving universal access to ‘basic services’; and progress towards ‘safely managed services.’

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