U.S. Water News Online
GENEVA -- Nearly half the world's 6 billion people still
lack sanitation even though it could easily be provided, according to
a United Nations report.
Some 18 percent of the world's population -- 1.1 billion people --
lack even a basic fixed water supply, said an 80-page study backed by
the World Health Organization and the U.N. Children's Fund.
``This is a shame and a scandal in a world of over $30 trillion of
resources,'' said Richard Jolly, chairman of the Water Supply and
Sanitation Collaborative Council, which is cosponsored by WHO. ``It
is not a question of cost but of priority.''
Bringing water and sanitation to all would cost $10 billion per
year, Jolly said.
That, he added, is ``one-tenth of what Europe spends on alcoholic
drinks each year, about the same as Europe spends on ice cream, and
half of what the United States spends each year on pet food.''
Governments have made some improvements over the past decade, but
they have scarcely kept up with population growth in the developing
world, the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment said.
Moving faster would pay big dividends in lives saved, the study
said. Safe water and sanitation could cut by up to one-third the
number of diarrhea cases -- currently at 4 billion worldwide every
year resulting in 2.2 million deaths.
The report follows the council's launch in March of a campaign,
Vision 21, that urges a move away from high-tech, high-cost projects.
It holds that responsibility should be given to individual
householders and local community organizations.
Some 500 public health, water, and sanitation experts met in Foz
do Iguacu, Brazil, Nov. 24-29 in an attempt to push the program
forward, which aims to halve the number of people without access to
hygienic sanitation and safe water by 2015.
That ``is within the world's grasp and the grasp of any country
that chooses to make the modest resources required available,'' Jolly
In all, 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to basic
sanitation, the report said. They account for 40 percent of the
Asia had the worst sanitation, with 1.77 billion people -- 52
percent -- short of adequate facilities. The figures came from
nationally representative household surveys rather than from
governments, the study said.
Africa performed by far the worst in terms of drinking water, the
report said. It estimated that 300 million people on the continent,
more than a third of the population, have no fixed supply.
Even for those who do, ``we are not talking about safe water
supply because we have no means to actually measure the safety of the
water,'' said World Health Organization official Jose Hueb.
Only 35 percent of waste water is treated in Asia, a figure that
dwindles to 14 percent in Latin America and a ``negligible''
proportion in Africa, the report said.
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