As the historic United Nations Water Conference commences today – the first in nearly 50 years – the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) call on all nations to radically accelerate action to make water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) a reality for all.
The numbers are staggering – around the world, 2 billion people lack safe drinking water and 3.6 billion people – almost half the world’s population – use sanitation services that leave human waste untreated.
Millions of children and families do not have adequate WASH services, including soap to wash their hands. The consequences can often be deadly.
Each year at least 1.4 million people – many of them children – die from preventable causes linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation. Right now, for example, cholera is spreading in countries that have not had outbreaks in decades.
Half of all health care facilities – where proper hygiene practices are especially critical – lack water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizing solution.
The social and economic consequences of inadequate water and sanitation services are also devastating. Without these critical services, people fall ill, children miss out on learning – especially girls – and entire communities can be displaced by water scarcity.
At the same time, the benefits of access to safe water and sanitation, for individuals and societies alike, are beyond measure. These services are key to healthy development in children and for sustaining well-being as adults. They also offer a pathway to broader social and economic progress by supporting community health and productivity.
From solutions to actions
All of us have the right to safe water, proper sanitation and hygiene, yet so many go without. Collectively, the world needs to at least quadruple the current rates of progress in order to achieve universal access to safely managed WASH services by 2030. Progress needs to be even faster in fragile contexts and the poorest countries, to protect people’s health and futures.
Fortunately, we have viable solutions and an historic opportunity to turn them into action.
We urge governments to take the following actions with support from UN agencies, multilateral partners, the private sector and civil society organizations:
Government leadership to drive change:
The world needs to at least quadruple the current rates of progress in order to achieve universal access to safely managed WASH services by 2030
Funding and financing:
Invest in people and institutions:
Data and evidence for decision-making:
Encourage WASH innovation and experimentation:
Investments and decisive action in water, sanitation and hygiene can be transformative. The key to unlocking universal WASH access is right there – now we just have to seize it.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO).