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Water

A recipe for good health: safe water and sanitation

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Also available in: Français中文 Drinking water from a pump in Mali (credit: Curt Carnemark).

On the eve of World Water Day (March 22), there is some good public health news that is unrelated to medical care for the “sick,” but to a critical investment that makes people healthier and more productive, and promises a higher quality of life, particularly among the poor.

The 2012 UNICEF/World Health Organization report, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, says that at the end of 2010, 89% of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, had access to improved drinking water. This means that the related Millennium Development Goal (MDG) has been met well ahead of the 2015 deadline. The report also predicts that by 2015, 92% of people will have access to better drinking water.

But, the not-so-good news is that only 63% of the world has improved sanitation access, a figure projected to increase only to 67% by 2015, well below the 75% MDG aim. Currently 2.5 billion people lack improved sanitation.  The report also highlights the fact that the global figures mask big disparities between regions and countries, and within countries (e.g., only 61% of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to safe water).