New statistics reveal scale of challenge ahead to bring water and toilets to all by 2030

Posted On: 
13th July 2017

Figures released today reveal the scale of the challenge ahead to bring universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, the international development organisation WaterAid said.

WaterAid analysis has found that at the current rate of progress, some countries including Kenya, Myanmar and Nigeria will never reach a day when everyone has at least a basic toilet because changes in demographics, including rapid urbanisation, are outpacing how quickly the country is providing sanitation to its people.

The same gloomy outlook applies for delivering access to water for all in Pakistan and Papua New Guinea, when current rates of progress toward at least a community supply of clean water – known as a ‘basic’ supply – are examined.

Worldwide, the latest statistics show that 844 million people do not have access to clean water. This number has risen from the previous 663 million figure, largely because the 264 million who have to spend over half an hour in their round-trip to collect clean water are now deemed to only have a “limited” water service.

And 2.3 billion still do not have a decent toilet – around one in three of the world’s population.

World leaders in 2015 committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including Goal 6, which aims to make sure by 2030 that every household in the world has its own tap and toilet delivering safe water and safe sanitation – a standard known as “safely managed”. This is a new level of ambition, building on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals.

WaterAid’s analysis of figures released today by the Joint Monitoring Programme --  a body set up by Unicef and the World Health Organization to collate data on water and sanitation coverage -- shows Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Niger will only deliver a community source of clean water within a 30-minute round trip to everyone by 2112, 2118 and 2119 respectively – a standard known as a “basic” service. Currently there is no data available to show how many are currently enjoying a household level, or “safely managed,” service in those countries.

And the picture for sanitation is even worse with projections showing that on the current rate of progress everyone in Uganda will have basic sanitation services by 2342 and Ghana will take 400 years. In other countries such as Kenya, the provision of sanitation is failing to keep up with demographic changes, meaning that the day will never come when the whole population has even basic sanitation services.

Earlier definitions of access to clean water required only that a person would be deemed to have clean water if they had access to a water source that was built to protect the water from contamination, such as a pump or a covered well. With this new set of definitions, the United Nations has set the vision higher - for every household to have its own water source available when needed, and which is regularly tested to make sure it is safe. Toilets will need to be private and part of a system that makes sure they are regularly emptied, as with an effective sewage system or latrine emptying scheme.

WaterAid is fully behind the vision and ambition of the United Nations to ensure that everyone achieves the human right of safe water and toilets. However, WaterAid cautions that achieving this standard of coverage will require a revolution in approach from decision-makers at grassroots level right through national governments and up to international organisations such as the United Nations and World Bank.

WaterAid Chief Executive Tim Wainwright said:

“The fact that so many of the world’s population still have to exist without access to the essentials of life – clean water and a decent toilet – is shameful. There is clear consensus on the transformative power of those services – we know for example that for every £1 spent, there is a £4 boost to the economy.

“We know that women leave more fulfilling and productive lives when they are freed from the daily burden of fetching water that will make their families sick and then nursing their children back to health. We know that children are more able to concentrate on their lessons when they can get a clean drink of water and go to the toilet. We know that if people are able to wash their hands, they help stop the spread of germs in their community.

“If the world galvanised to make sure that no one ever had to worry about where to get a drink, or go to the toilet or wash their hands, we could save the lives of so many of the 289,000 children under five who now die each year from diarrhoea linked to dirty water or lack of sanitation.

“The United Nation’s vision of working taps, toilets and handbasins for every household by 2030 is absolutely the right goal because it will truly transform lives. But we have only another 13 years to get there which means that all of us, across government, civil society, water and sanitation companies and in every community are working with passion, grit, generosity and vision to bring this historic moment to pass.”