UNDP Around the world

Water Supply and Sanitation

Water Supply and Sanitation

Globally, almost 1 billion people lack clean drinking water. 2.4 billion people have no access to hygienic sanitation facilities; 1.2 billion lack any sanitation facilities at all. Each day, an average of 5,000 children die due to water and sanitation related diseases, many easily preventable. In 2000, through the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the international community committed to halving the proportion of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation by 2015. Overall, the world is on track to meet the water MDG, but there are major gaps in many regions and countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. On current trends, the world will miss the sanitation target by a staggering 1 billion people.

Meeting the MDG water and sanitation targets is more than a health and dignity issue. The evidence is compelling that achieving the water and sanitation goals would trigger a major leap forward in human development:

  • Water and sanitation are essential to achieving all of the MDGs
  • Investment in water supply yields an average economic return of $4.4 to $1
  • Investment in sanitation yields an average economic return of $9.1 to $1
  • Human Development is more closely linked to access to water and sanitation than other development drivers UNDP has examined, including spending on health or education, and access to energy services.

The crisis in water and sanitation overwhelmingly affects the poor. Availability of water is certainly a concern for some countries. But the global water and sanitation crisis is mainly rooted in poverty, power and inequality, not in physical availability. It is, first and foremost, a crisis of governance and thus governance reform must be a key pillar of any strategic approach to addressing the crisis.

Through programmes like MDG GoAL-WaSH, CapNet, the Community Water Initiative, Every Drop Matters, Gender and Water, Human Rights Based Approach, and others, UNDP promotes and facilitates equitable access to Water and Sanitation services as a fundamental contribution to enhancing human development.

UNDP works together with government, civil society, private sector and other development partners to bring about the necessary improvements in water governance to scale up water and sanitation services for the poor. UNDP supports:

  • Coordination of country assistance by UN and other development partners
  • Incorporation of water and sanitation into national development planning
  • Governance and policy reform for enhanced water supply and sanitation access
  • Capacity building of institutions and practitioners
  • Special attention to fragile states, where water and sanitation challenges are greatest
  • Local delivery of water supply and sanitation services through community-based initiatives