Today, 900 million people worldwide still live without access to clean water, another 2.5 billion lack decent sanitation and 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases. The gravest concern is for those living in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.
Because they are basics for living, clean water and sanitation have been identified as key factors in achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
While the MDG target of a safe drinking water supply will be met by a majority of countires by 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that several countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania are projected to miss their country targets.
MDG sanitation progress rates lag even further behind. At the moment, only 62% of the world’s population use improved sanitation facilities, compared to 54% in 1990. To reach the 2015 target level of 77% sanitation coverage, an additional 173 million people need to gain access to sanitation facilities per year. This translates to an additional 500,000 people per day.
If current rates of progress continue, the water MDG will not be met in sub-Saharan Africa until 2035. The sanitation MDG will not be met until 2108 – almost one hundred years behind schedule.
Elsewhere, in order to reach its water and sanitation MDGs by 2015, countries in South Asia will need to provide sanitation coverage for 43 million people a year compared to the current rate of 25 million a year.
How are our neighbours faring?
Currently in the South East Asia and Pacific regions, around 100 million people lack clean water (that's 5 times Australia's population) whilst 185 million go without sanitation (8 times our population). Of the 22 developing countries in our region, 80,000 children under the age of 5 die every year from diarrhoea-type illnesses.
Put plainly, that's 1 child dying every 7 minutes. In our backyard.
Inadequate water supplies and non-existent sanitation systems represent a humanitarian crisis that's keeping too many millions of people in poverty indefinitely. Programs such as World Vision’s Water Health Life are indeed yielding promising results in developing communities, and we will continue to reach for all the solutions we can find.