The Growing Challenge:
Population growth will be concentrated in urban areas in the near future as developing countries undergo rapid urbanisation.
Urban areas will account for 83.5% of Africa’s population growth between now and 2050, while rural areas will account for 16.5% of growth in the same period. Access to safe drinking water and basic improved sanitation is failing to keep pace with this rapid growth (see charts on the right).
790 million people living in urban areas do not have access to safe sanitation.
This number is expected to increase to 898 million by 2015.
Based on current trends, the world is likely to miss the sanitation Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target by a billion people.
140 million people living in urban areas do not have access to safe, affordable water.
This figure is expected to increase to 296 million by 2015.
Drinking water coverage has remained almost unchanged since 1990, rendering progress towards the MDG water target in urban areas negligible.
Around 2.4 million deaths could be prevented annually if everyone practised appropriate hygiene and had access to improved sanitation and safe drinking water.
Inadequate WASH increases faecal-oral transmission of diseases, the most significant of which are diarrhoeal diseases, which cause around 1.6–2.5 million deaths annually. 88% of cases of diarrhoea worldwide are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene.
Over 2.2 million deaths of children per year could be prevented by access to adequate WASH.
Diarrhoea alone kills more young children each year than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. 17% of all deaths in children under five years old are attributed to diarrhoea. It is estimated that 50% of childhood malnutrition is associated with repeated diarrhoea or intestinal nematode infections as a result of inadequate WASH.
A lack of sanitation facilities in schools can affect girls’ school attendance during menstruation.
Many women in the developing world can miss up to 50 school or working days per year due to lack of proper feminine hygiene.
The value of lost working days due to there not being universal access to sanitation is estimated to be $4 billion per year.
Ill-health, caring for family members or collecting water due to inadequate WASH leads to inabilities to work or attend school, which in turn perpetuates poverty and low growth.
An estimated $7billion in economic costs result from the need for health care caused by inadequate water and sanitation.
Inadequate sanitation and safe drinking water is estimated to cost sub-Saharan Africa 5% of its GDP per year.
Approximately 200 million people are at risk of exposure to elevated concentrations of fluoride in drinking water.
This can lead to dental and sometimes skeletal fluorosis.
The challenge of keeping pace with urban growth
Population gaining access to improved sanitation compared to population growth, urban and rural, worldwide, 1990 – 2008 (click the image to enlarge)
Population gaining access to improved drinking water compared to population growth, urban and rural, world wide, 1990 – 2008 (click the image to enlarge)
Source: WHO and UNICEF (2010) Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water: 2010 Update (JMP)