WHO, UNICEF Say Safe Drinking Water Access Goal Met

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is "a great achievement for the people of the world" and one of the first Millennium Development Goal targets to be achieved.

Well ahead of a 205 deadline, the world has achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people who lack sustainable access to safe drinking water, according to a March 6 report issued by UNICEF and WHO. Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources such as piped supplies and protected wells, it says.

"Today we recognize a great achievement for the people of the world. This is one of the first MDG targets to be met. The successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the MDGs not as a dream, but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

The report is "Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012," by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. It says at the end of 2010, 89 percent of the world's population used improved drinking water sources. That achieves the 88 percent MDG target. The report estimates 92 percent of the global population will have access to improved drinking water by 2015.

"For children this is especially good news," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "Every day more than 3,000 children die from diarrheal diseases. Achieving this goal will go a long way to saving children's lives."

Lake said at least 783 million people worldwide are still without access to safe drinking water and billions are without sanitation facilities. "The numbers are still staggering, but the progress announced today is proof that MDG targets can be met with the will, the effort, and the funds," he said.

The MDG target for sanitation is unlikely to be met by 2015. Only 63 percent of the world now have improved sanitation access, and the 2015 figure is projected to be 67 percent, below the 75 percent goal.

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