Date Published: 27 August 2012
UNICEF comments on progress providing safe drinking water for everyone
According to the international child welfare organization UNICEF, the most difficult part of the challenge of providing drinking water to millions is still ahead. World Water Week has just started and despite considerable progress over the last 20 years, completing the task of bringing access to improved drinking water to people still in need of it looks extremely challenging.
" There have been outstanding gains in every region of the world," said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF's water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.
" However, the job is not done until every single person every day can get sufficient drinking water from a reliable source - and unfortunately the most difficult part is ahead."
Wijesekera cited a report, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012, released earlier this year by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, which says that between 1990 and 2010 more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved sources of drinking water such as piped supplies, or protected wells. The report says the world reached the Millennium Development Goal on drinking water in 2010, five years ahead of schedule, but that 783 million people are still without access.
According to the report, those still without access are the hardest to reach, being largely the poorest people in urban slums or deep rural areas. UNICEF has stated that when water is not available on premises and has to be collected, women and girls are much more likely to be the main water carriers for families, walking an average of over 3.5 miles per day in some regions.
Poorer countries lag behind wealthier countries: Only 11% of the population in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) use piped water supplies compared with over 50% of the global population.
Within countries, there is also disparity of access in rural areas compared to urban areas. Overall, 80% of the world's urban population has piped water connections, compared with less than 30% of people in rural areas. The rural-urban divide is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa where the gap is 29%. In Least Developed Countries (LDCs) 97% of rural dwellers do not have access to piped water.
The principles of "The Human Right to Water" endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2010 state that drinking water should be affordable, reliable, safe, accessible and available in a sufficient quantity to meet basic needs. UNICEF has projected that in 2015 when the Millennium Development Goals are due, 605 million people will still not have this basic human right.