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Water for People

Finance & Development, June 2012, Vol. 49, No. 2

Natalie Ramírez-Djumena

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The global target for safe drinking water has been met but more than 780 million people still lack access to clean water

MDG drinking water target has been met

SINCE 1990, more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved water sources, such as piped connections and protected wells, according to a joint report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Almost 6.1 billion people—or 89 percent of the world’s population—used safe drinking water in 2010. That beats the 88 percent target for access to safe drinking water in 2015 set by the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Most improvement in drinking water

Mixed progress

These global figures mask huge differences among regions and countries. Only 61 percent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to improved drinking water sources, compared with 90 percent or more in Latin America and the Caribbean, northern Africa, and large parts of Asia. More than 40 percent of all people who lack access to safe drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa. Only 19 out of 50 countries in that region are on track to meet the target by 2015.

Sub-Saharan Afrca and the Pacific are not on track to meet the MDG drinking water target

Toward universal access

MDG sanitation target may fall short

The UNICEF-WHO report shows why the job is far from finished. More than 780 million people still have no access to safe drinking water, and the world is unlikely to meet the MDG target for access to sanitation facilities. Continued efforts are needed to reduce urban-rural disparities and inequities associated with poverty, dramatically increase coverage in sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific, promote global monitoring of drinking water quality, bring sanitation on track, and expand the MDG target toward universal coverage. ■

Prepared by Natalie Ramírez-Djumena. Text and charts based on Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, published by UNICEF and the WHO in 2012. The report is available at

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