Billions of people will lack access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in 2030

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Billions of people around the world will be unable to access safely managed household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services in 2030 unless the rate of progress quadruples, according to a new report from WHO and UNICEF.

The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report – Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000 - 2020 – presents estimates on household access to safely managed drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services over the past five years, and assesses progress toward achieving the sixth sustainable development goal (SDG) to ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030’. For the first time, the report also presents emerging national data on menstrual health.

In 2020, around 1 in 4 people lacked safely managed drinking water in their homes and nearly half the world’s population lacked safely managed sanitation. COVID-19 has highlighted the urgent need to ensure everyone can access good hand hygiene. At the onset of the pandemic, 3 in 10 people worldwide could not wash their hands with soap and water within their homes.

“Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, yet millions of people across the world lack access to a reliable, safe supply of water,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Investment in water, sanitation and hygiene must be a global priority if we are to end this pandemic and build more resilient health systems.”

Some progress reported, but not enough

The report notes some progress towards achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. Between 2016 and 2020, the global population with safely managed drinking water at home increased from 70 per cent to 74 per cent; safely managed sanitation services grew from 47 per cent to 54 per cent; and handwashing facilities with soap and water increased from 67 per cent to 71 per cent.

In 2020, for the first time, more people used improved on-site sanitation, such as pit latrines and septic tanks, which can effectively contain and treat waste, rather than sewer connections. There is need for governments to ensure adequate support for safely managed on-site sanitation, including faecal sludge management.

Urgent need for investment

The report makes clear that, if current trends persist, billions of children and families will be left without critical, life-saving WASH services, stating that by 2030:

  • Only 81 per cent of the world’s population will have access to safe drinking water at home, leaving 1.6 billion without;
  • Only 67 per cent will have safe sanitation services, leaving 2.8 billion without;
  • And only 78 per cent will have basic handwashing facilities, leaving 1.9 billion without.