Inequality in Access to Safe Water Worry UNICEF, WHO

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Ugo Aliogo with agency report

A new report on inequalities in access to water, sanitation and hygiene by released by United Nation Children Education Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that more than half of the world don’t have access to safe sanitation services.

According to a statement on the WHO website, the billions of people in the world are continuing to suffer from poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The report also noted that some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, “4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities.”

The report known as the Joint Monitoring Programme report, “Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities,” revealed that while significant progress had been made toward achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene, there are huge gaps in the quality of services provided.
The Associate Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF, Kelly Ann Naylor, said mere access is not enough, adding that if the water isn’t clean, safe to drink or is far away, “and if toilet access is unsafe or limited, then we’re not delivering for the world’s children.”

He also explained that children and their families in poor and rural communities are most at risk of being left behind, while calling on governments must invest in their communities, “if we are going to bridge these economic and geographic divides and deliver this essential human right.”

The report further remarked that 1.8 billion people have gained access to basic drinking water services since 2000, adding that there are vast inequalities in the accessibility, availability and quality of these services.

“It is estimated that 1 in 10 people (785 million) still lack basic services, including the 144 million who drink untreated surface water. The data shows that 8 in 10 people living in rural areas lacked access to these services and in one in four countries with estimates for different wealth groups, coverage of basic services among the richest was at least twice as high as among the poorest,” he noted.

The WHO Director of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health, said Dr. Maria Neira said countries must double their efforts on sanitation or we would not reach universal access by 2030.

She added: “If countries fail to step up efforts on sanitation, safe water and hygiene, we will continue to live with diseases that should have been long ago consigned to the history books: diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and neglected tropical diseases including trachoma, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis. Investing in water, sanitation and hygiene is cost-effective and good for society in so many ways. It is an essential foundation for good health.”

According to the report: “2.1 billion people have gained access to basic sanitation services since 2000 but in many parts of the world the wastes produced are not safely managed. It also reveals that 2 billion people still lack basic sanitation, among whom 7 out of 10 live in rural areas and one third live in the Least Developed Countries.

“Since 2000, the proportion of the population practicing open defecation has been halved, from 21 per cent to 9 per cent, and 23 countries have achieved near elimination, meaning less than 1 per cent of the population is practicing open defecation. Yet, 673 million people still practice open defecation, and they are increasingly concentrated in ‘high burden’ countries.

“Worse, in 39 countries, the number of people practicing open defecation actually increased, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa where many countries have experienced strong population growth over this period.”