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Last update: May 2013

Progress on Sanitation and Drinking - Water - 2013 Update

Progress on Sanitation and Drinking - Water - 2013 Update [Eng]


Current status and trends


Though it is unlikely that the world will meet the MDG sanitation target by 2015, 1.9 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990. Globally, 64 per cent of the population use improved sanitation facilities.

Encouraging progress is being made in sanitation, but the world remains off track to meet the MDG sanitation target of 75%. There are three more years to go to give a final push to meeting the MDG Sanitation target. This requires providing around 1 billion people with access to sanitation - a daunting task that can only be accomplished through the concerted efforts of many.


If current trends continue, the world will not meet the MDG sanitation target


Trends in global sanitation coverage 1990-2011


An estimated 2.5 billion people are still without improved sanitation and 71% of those live in rural areas.


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               Urban-rural disparities in sanitation have decreased



          Sanitation coverage trends by urban and rural areas, 1990-2011


In sub-Saharan Africa, 48 per cent of the population use either shared or unimproved facilities, and an estimated 26 per cent practise open defecation. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest proportion of people using some sort of unimproved sanitation of any region (these are facilities that fall short of being Ďimprovedí and are either unimproved, shared or public).


In Southern Asia, the proportion of the population using shared or unimproved facilities is much lower, but open defecation is the highest of any region. Almost one third of the 2.5 billion people without improved sanitation live in India.


Sanitation coverage is improving in almost every developing region


        Sanitation coverage trends by developing region, 1990-2011


In urban areas, eight out of ten people use an improved sanitation facility, compared to less than half of the rural population. However, the number of people without improved sanitation in urban areas has grown by 196 million since 1990 to 728 million people, during a time of enormous urban population growth.

A great deal of progress has been made in rural areas since 1990: 707 million rural dwellers have gained access to improved sanitation. In rural areas, 1.8 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, representing 71 per cent of the global total of those unserved.


                     Open defecation is largely a rural practise


        Population practising open defecation by urban and rural areas, 1990-2011 (millions)


Although the number of people resorting to open defection globally has decreased by 244 million since 1990, open defection is still practised by 1 billion people, 15 per cent of the global population. 


Open defecation is defined as defecation in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces. The majority of those practising open defecation (934 million) live in rural areas. About 218 million fewer rural dwellers were practising open defecation in 2010 than in 1990.


Although the number of people resorting to open defecation in Southern Asia has decreased by 90 million people since 1990, it is still practised by 41 per cent of the regionís population - 681 million people. Open defecation is highest in rural areas of Southern Asia, where it is practised by 54 per cent of the population. India is home to 615 million people who practise open defecation, 59 percent of the global total.

In the 48 countries designated as the least developed by the United Nations (LDCs), much of the population has not benefited from investment in sanitation. In those countries, only 36 per cent of the population uses improved sanitation, and 1 in 4 people practises open defecation.


Improvements in sanitation are strongly correlated with wealth. An analysis of data from 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (representing 84 per cent of the regionís population) shows significant differences between the poorest and richest fifths of the population in both rural and urban areas. Over 90 per cent of the richest quintile in urban areas use improved sanitation. However, in the poorest rural quintile , open defecation is practised by over 60 per cent of households.


In sub-Saharan Africa, access to sanitation is highly correlated with wealth and residence in urban areas


Sub-Saharan Africa: Sanitation coverage by wealth quintiles and urban or rural areas, based on population-weighted averages from 35 countries (per cent)
Source: MICS and DHS surveys from 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 2004-2009.


Trend data from three countries in Southern Asia (India, Bangladesh and Nepal) show that sanitation coverage in the two poorest quintiles has shown little change between 1995 and 2008; 4 out of 5 people in these two quintiles practise open defecation.


The poorest 40 per cent of the population in Southern Asia have barely benefited from improvements in sanitation


Southern Asia: Sanitation coverage trends by wealth quintiles, based on population-weighted averages from three countries, 1995-2008.
Source: India: National Family Health Survey 1993, 1999, 2006; Bangladesh: DHS 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2007; Nepal: DHS 1996, 2001, 2006.