[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Water 'wake-up call' given by UN
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC correspondent in Geneva

Woman with container on head     PA
Some 4,000 children die daily from illnesses caused by unclean water
The UN says the world faces a silent emergency because of the continued lack of clean water and sanitation.

A new report reveals that more than 40% of the world's population does not have even the most basic sanitation.

More than one billion people have no access to clean water sources, the document adds.

The report was prepared by the UN's children's fund, Unicef, and the World Health Organisation to assess progress towards reaching millennium goals.

A key development goal is to cut by half the number of people without clean water and sanitation by the year 2015.

We have to act now to close this gap or the death toll will certainly rise
Carol Bellamy, Unicef
Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
The report makes depressing reading.

If things continue as they are, half a billion people will still have no sanitation 11 years from now.

And while the world is on target to meet the clean drinking water goals, population growth will probably outstrip the improvements.

This would leave 2.4 billion people drinking unsafe water in 2015.

The report also says:

  • 1.8m people die each year from diarrhoeal disease
  • Over 40 billion work hours are lost in Africa to the need to fetch drinking water
  • There has been progress - an estimated 1.1bn people now have better access to water than 12 years ago.

Political will

Unicef points out that it is the young who suffer most from continuing shortages.

"Around the world millions of children are being born into a silent emergency of simple needs," says Carol Bellamy, Unicef's executive director.

Click below for a statistical view of the world's water

"The growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots in terms of access to basic services is killing around 4,000 children every day and underlies many more of the 10 million child deaths each year. We have to act now to close this gap or the death toll will certainly rise."

Rural regions in Africa and Asia are worst affected, but the global trend towards urbanisation is also putting more of a strain on water services in cities.

Unicef and the WHO want this report to be a wake-up call to world leaders.

Achieving clean water and sanitation for everyone will take more than money, they say.

A clear political commitment to the universal right to water is needed too. The report warns that the failure to act will have severe consequences.

Millions of people, mainly children, will die unnecessarily and millions more will be left out of the development process.

Water forum 'giant talking shop'
23 Mar 03  |  Science/Nature
'Real conflicts' over world's water
20 Mar 03  |  Science/Nature
UN makes water point
27 Jan 03  |  Science/Nature


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific