It’s Getting Better: Access to Water Edition

Big News On the Global Development Front: Unicef and the WHO announced that humanity has achieved the Millennium Development Goal of cutting half the number of people around the world who do not have access to clean water. From UNICEF:

The report reveals that, at the end of 2010, 89 per cent of the world’s population used improved drinking water sources, meeting the target. By 2015, an estimated 92 per cent of the global population will have access to improved drinking water.

“Today, we recognize a great achievement for the people of the world,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “This is one of the first MDG targets to be met. The successful efforts to provide greater access to drinking water are a testament to all who see the MDGs not as a dream but as a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people.”

This is great news. It really is. But it should also be put into some context. The “world” met the MDG largely because of the economic boom in the two largest countries: China and India. The number of people who still lack access to clean drinking water is still staggeringly high: 780 million people around the world. About 40% of people in sub-saharan Africa still lack access to water.

This is not to dismiss humanity’s achievement in the slightest, but it does mean that we can’t be too self-satisfied when so many people still lack access to clean water.  Let’s take a moment to recognize this accomplishment, but then move forward with efforts to improve access to water and clean sanitation for millions of people who lack these basic human necessities.