1 in 3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water
by World Health Organization, UN Children''s Fund
Billions of people around the world are continuing to suffer from poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene, according to a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities.
The Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities finds that, while significant progress has been made toward achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene, there are huge gaps in the quality of services provided.
“Mere access is not enough. If the water isn’t clean, isn’t safe to drink or is far away, and if toilet access is unsafe or limited, then we’re not delivering for the world’s children,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF.
“Children and their families in poor and rural communities are most at risk of being left behind. Governments must invest in their communities if we are going to bridge these economic and geographic divides and deliver this essential human right.”
The report reveals that 1.8 billion people have gained access to basic drinking water services since 2000, but there are vast inequalities in the accessibility, availability and quality of these services. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people (785 million) still lack basic services, including the 144 million who drink untreated surface water.
The data shows that 8 in 10 people living in rural areas lacked access to these services and in one in four countries with estimates for different wealth groups, coverage of basic services among the richest was at least twice as high as among the poorest.
“Countries must double their efforts on sanitation or we will not reach universal access by 2030,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.
“If countries fail to step up efforts on sanitation, safe water and hygiene, we will continue to live with diseases that should have been long ago consigned to the history books: diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and neglected tropical diseases including trachoma, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis. Investing in water, sanitation and hygiene is cost-effective and good for society in so many ways. It is an essential foundation for good health.”
The report also says that 2.1 billion people have gained access to basic sanitation services since 2000 but in many parts of the world the wastes produced are not safely managed. It also reveals that 2 billion people still lack basic sanitation, among whom 7 out of 10 live in rural areas and one third live in the Least Developed Countries.
Since 2000, the proportion of the population practicing open defecation has been halved, from 21 per cent to 9 per cent, and 23 countries have achieved near elimination, meaning less than 1 per cent of the population is practicing open defecation. Yet, 673 million people still practice open defecation, and they are increasingly concentrated in ‘high burden’ countries.
Worse, in 39 countries, the number of people practicing open defecation actually increased, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa where many countries have experienced strong population growth over this period.
Finally, the report highlights new data showing 3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home in 2017. It also shows that nearly three quarters of the population of the Least Developed Countries did not have basic handwashing facilities. Every year, 297 000 children under 5 years die due to diarrhea linked to inadequate WASH.
Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.
“Closing inequality gaps in the accessibility, quality and availability of water, sanitation and hygiene should be at the heart of government funding and planning strategies. To backtrack on investment plans for universal coverage is to undermine decades worth of progress at the expense of coming generations,” said Kelly Ann Naylor.
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600,000 Afghan children face death through malnutrition without immediate emergency funds
by Christophe Boulierac
24 May 2019
In Afghanistan, children suffering from the most serious form of malnutrition may die, unless $7 million in funding is found within weeks, UNICEF said on Friday.
Speaking in Geneva, UN Children’s Fund spokesperson Christophe Boulierac, likened the humanitarian situation in the war-torn country to “one of the worst disasters on earth”.
And he warned that increased violence and last year’s severe drought have left hundreds of thousands of under-fives, critically vulnerable across the country.
“There are two million children in the country which suffer from acute malnutrition, among them 600,000 children that suffer from severe acute malnutrition,” he said. “A child that suffers from acute severe malnutrition is a child that needs urgent treatment, otherwise he might die.”
While Afghanistan’s nutrition crisis is mirrored in many other trouble-spots around the world – from South Sudan to Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) - the UNICEF Spokesperson underlined the dangers, if funding is not found soon.
“We are the sole provider of treatment for severe acute malnutrition,” Mr. Boulierac said, noting that the number of youngsters suffering from the condition had remained “stagnant” for years. “If we don’t have money to buy this treatment, the severely acute malnourished will not get it.”
The development comes amid ongoing insecurity linked to four decades of conflict in Afghanistan, where UNICEF distributes supplies to health facilities across all 34 provinces.
According to the agency, 3.8 million children need protection and assistance this year, while nearly 289,000 people were displaced by violence in 2018. In addition, one in three children has experienced psychological distress, linked to the “constant risk” of death or injury, UNICEF believes.
Existing funding shortages have meant that fewer than one in two of the most vulnerable children received life-saving help in UN-supported health clinics across Afghanistan in 2018.
“This year in 2019, we would like to reach 60 per cent (of children) - not even 100 per cent - but we cannot,” Mr. Boulierac explained, “and it is extremely worrying. If we do not get $7 million dollars in three weeks, 1,300 facilities all over the country will not get this treatment.”
To meet Afghanistan’s essential nutrition requirements in 2019, UNICEF needs $26 million, but it has so far only received half of this amount.
“We cannot tell you how many children will die; but we can tell you that a child with severe acute malnutrition is 11 times more likely to die than their healthy peers,” he explained, noting that malnutrition reduces people’s resistance to disease.
This is a particular concern in Afghanistan, where only one in two children has been vaccinated, the UNICEF spokesperson added.
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