NEW YORK – Nearly 750 million people — half in sub-Saharan Africa and half in Asia — still lack access to clean drinking water, a new report released by WHO and UNICEF has concluded.
While the figures are grim, there has been a considerable amount of progress over the past two decades in working toward universal access to basic drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.
Since 1990, 2.3 billion people have gained access to improved sources of drinking water. The percentage of people defecating in the open dropped 21 percent from 1.3 billion people in 1990 to 1 billion in 2012.
The availability of clean water is a matter of life or death, particularly for vulnerable children.
Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease, according to Water.org. And that’s actually a marked improvement compared to recent years. Five years ago, 1,656 more children died each day from such diseases as dysentery, dehydration, cholera and diarrhea.
Still, diarrhea –- which is both preventable and treatable — remains the second leading cause of death among children under 5, according to WHO.
The issue isn’t just a lack of resources, but also a lack of awareness.
However, the report also offered up some bolstering news with regard to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
Fifty-six countries have already halved the proportion of the population that lacks access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.