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780 million still lack safe water

Today’s announcement that the number of people without access to safe water has halved is welcomed by Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency serving people in more than 50 countries.

According to a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, this achievement is well in advance of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2015 deadline. In 2010, 89 per cent of the world’s population - 6.1 billion people - used improved drinking water sources, exceeding the MDG 88 per cent original target.

However, Tearfund warns that, while this is a huge success, this is no time for complacency.

Laura Taylor, Tearfund’s Head of Public Policy, said, ‘We must not forget that nearly 800 million people still don’t have clean safe water and 2.5 billion live without toilets. There are still huge disparities across and within countries.’

Every 20 seconds a child under five dies in the developing world from a preventable illness caused by unclean water or lack of basic sanitation. Latrines, uncontaminated water supply and simple hand washing can stop these diseases spreading and destroying communities.

Diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children in Sub-Saharan Africa. 61 per cent of the population have access to improved water sources compared to 90 per cent in other parts of the developing world.

Working alongside other NGOs, Tearfund helps to run one of the few health centres in Motot, South Sudan. It offers immunisation, and helps parents understand that a change of hygiene habits can prevent diarrhoea and stop babies getting sick.

Laura Taylor adds, ‘Despite these huge strides forward, the pressure to make sanitation a worldwide priority must continue. Next month’s high level meeting on Sanitation and Water for all in Washington is a vital opportunity for Ministers to take the lead. By the next target date in 2015, we believe that only 67 per cent of the world will have improved sanitation access, which is well below the 75 per cent target MDG.

‘Additional support needs to be channelled to the countries that need it most. Sanitation continues to be ignored and it remains one of development’s biggest taboos.’