In 2000, all 189 countries in the United Nations pledged that all people on earth should have improved drinking water by 2015. Since the start of the project, two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water with Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Nepal has seen the largest improvements. By region, 645 million people in east Asia gained improved water conditions, 623 million people in China have gained access and 450 million people in southern Asia have gained access.
Over 116 countries have already met the United Nation’s goal for everyone to have improved drinking water, and 77 countries now have improved sanitation conditions. The project created in 2000 pledged that 88 percent of the earth’s population would have improved drinking water and people and government have met that goal. Of the remaining people, about 173 million rely on untreated surface water.
About 1.8 billion people are still living in countries or regions where they have access to less than 500 cubic meters of water per year, and 66 percent of the people on earth have access to less than 1,700 cubic meters per person. Approximately 2.4 billion people are still without access to an improved sanitation facility. About 14 percent of the earth’s population defecates in the open. Seven out of 10 of these people live in rural areas. People living in these areas have the highest number of deaths in children under five, the highest levels of under nutrition, and the highest levels of proverty.
With about five months left to meet those goals, the greatest successes and the greatest needs exist on the African continent. Large problems loom on the horizon in this area. Experts with UNICEF estimate that by 2030, water scarcity will displace over 350 million people. Most of those people live in Sub-Saharan Africa where 40 percent of the 183 million people have no access to improved sources of drinking water. Much of the area where people have no access to improved sources of drinking water is the urban slums. Experts estimate that over 400 million people will live in these slums over the next five years as they continue to grow annually.
In Africa, as a whole, people suffering water and sanitation related illnesses fill 70 percent of all hospital beds. Approximately 115 people die each hour from poor sanitation, poor hygiene, and contaminated water. One of the worse areas is Somalia where only 3.2 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water and only .2 percent has access to improved sanitation.
Over the next 15 years, the United Nations has set some new goals. The first goal is to eliminate open defecation in all areas of the world. Secondly, the United Nations would like all countries to work toward universal access to improved water and sanitation conditions at home, school, and in healthcare facilities. The plan also calls for the number of people without improved water and sanitation facilities at home are cut in half. Furthermore, the plan calls for at least one facility for every five households.