In March 2012, the WHO and UNICEF-led Joint Monitoring Program announced the world has met the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for drinking water by halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to improved water sources (over two billion people since 1990). However, the world is still not close to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to improved sanitation. What’s more:

  • • More than 1 in 10 people (768 million) still do not have access to safe drinking water and 185 million rely on surface water to meet their daily drinking-water needs.

  • • Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has the potential to prevent at least 9.1% of the global disease burden and 6.3% of all deaths (CDC, 2013)

  • • 2.5 billion people lived without access to improved sanitation as of the end of 2011 (more than 35% of the world’s population); the vast majority live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. (WHO, 2013)

  • • 1.5 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases. Ninety percent of these deaths occur in children under 14 years old.

  • • WHO estimates that 50% of malnutrition is associated with repeated diarrhea or intestinal worm infections as a result of unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene.

  • • In developing countries, drought is ranked as the most common cause of severe food shortages, causing more deaths than any other natural disaster over the last century.

  • • Lack of access to WASH contributes to two of the three leading killers of children under five years old in the world. These diseases are pneumonia, which could be prevented by handwashing with soap; and diarrhea, which comes from drinking unsafe water and a lack of sanitation around the world. With safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene, children’s lives will be saved.

Lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene undermines sustainable progress of virtually every other developmental need, including education, economic growth, nutrition, environmental conservation, and gender equality. Investing in WASH has an immediate impact on health, education, and economic growth.