Policy

Providing clean water and sanitation in developing countries

Issue

Diarrhoea kills 4,000 children every day around the world. In Africa, it is the leading killer of children under 5 years old, causing more deaths than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. But there are very simple solutions to this problem - clean drinking water, hygienic toilets and effective hand washing.

Providing people in developing countries with access to clean drinking water, effective sanitation and education on the importance of good hygiene practice are some of the most cost effective ways of achieving real results in health. It helps them beat poverty and can help to prevent around 2.4 million unnecessary deaths every year.

Actions

We will help to provide access to clean drinking water, improve access to effective sanitation and provide basic hygiene education (eg hand washing and the dangers of open defecation) for 60 million people by 2015. The majority will be people who live in rural areas as well as women and girls.

One way we will do this is by building stand pipes and pumps in and around villages. We will also build toilets and sewage systems and inform people of the benefits of good hygiene practices, to stop them getting sick and dying from preventable diseases.

We will help governments, citizens and the private sector in developing countries to manage water resources better. This will give more families, farmers and businesses access to the water they need, when they need it.

We will research methods of improving water security and management of existing water resources, as well as exploring new approaches to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene for people in developing countries.

Background

We have committed to providing clean water and sanitation in developing countries as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of targets agreed at the UN in 2000.

Target 7 of the MDGs is about environmental sustainability. Part of it is a commitment to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

The world is likely to meet the drinking water target, though much remains to be done in some regions. Progress on sanitation, however, is much slower and the MDG target is unlikely to be met by 2015.

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