New figures reveal 2.3 billion people in the world still without basic toilets

Some 650 million people are still without an ‘improved’ source of water and 2.3 billion do not have a basic, hygienic toilet, a joint monitoring program report by Unicef and WHO has revealed.


1 Jul 2015 | AU

Some 650 million people are still without an ‘improved’ source of water and 2.3 billion do not have a basic, hygienic toilet, a joint monitoring program report by Unicef and WHO has revealed.

The regular update is the last under the Millennium Development Goals, a set of UN ambitions which set out in 2000 to halve the proportion of people without access to water and sanitation, among other goals.

As these goals expire this year, the goal on water has been met overall, but with wide gaps remaining, particularly in the Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The goal on sanitation, however, has failed dramatically, again particularly in the Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa. At present rates of progress it would take 300 years for everyone in Sub-Saharan Africa to get access to a sanitary toilet.

At the last update, in 2014, 748 million people were found to not have access to an ‘improved’ water source and 2.5 billion were without basic, sanitary toilets.

For the first time, the joint monitoring report also includes analysis on hygiene behaviour alongside safe water and improved sanitation, highlighting wide variability in the presence of handwashing facilities with basic soap and water. Handwashing has been called the most cost-effective health intervention available by the World Bank, but has been poorly measured, funded or researched to date.

WaterAid Australia Chief Executive Paul Nichols said:

“Though we are glad to see overall progress, this data tells us that very little has changed for the world’s poorest people when it comes to access to water and sanitation. For our near neighbours the situation is still dire. Use of ‘improved’ sanitation facilities has remained stagnant in the Pacific, and while South East Asia achieved a significant increase in sanitation coverage it narrowly missed the target. Pleasingly there has been a decrease in open defecation practices in Cambodia and Vietnam.

“Communities without safe water and basic toilets have higher rates of illness and are held back from economic progress. Children spend long hours fetching water instead of at school, parents are less able to spend time earning incomes and hospitals fill with people suffering from preventable water-borne illnesses. The burden is disproportionally felt by women and girls, who are most often tasked with collecting water and who are most at risk of harassment and worse if they are without a safe, private place to relieve themselves.

“As the UN prepares to adopt new development goals this September, mapping out ways to eradicate extreme poverty while building a healthier more sustainable world by 2030, water and sanitation must play a key role. Without these basic human rights, no society can progress. It is possible to reach everyone, everywhere with access to clean water and basic toilets by 2030 – but it will require dedicated political will and financing to achieve this.”

Among the highlights in the Unicef-WHO findings:

• Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea and Angola have still only provided access to improved water to less than half of their population, and a further 14 countries remain with less than 60% coverage. In Papua New Guinea 81% do not have access to improved sanitation and 60% do not have access to improved water.

• For South East Asian countries like Cambodia 58% do not have access to improved sanitation and 24% do not have access to improved water. In Timor-Leste 59% do not have access to improve sanitation and 28% do not have access to improved water.

• India has more than doubled the proportion of people using improved sanitation (18 to 40%) since monitoring began in 1990 but over 560 million people in India still practice open defecation, more than half the global total of 949 million.

• Since 1990, the world’s Least Developed Countries (by UN definition) have seen an increase of over 40% in the number of people without basic toilets as their population increases, although the proportion of people defecating in the open has more than halved.

• While the UN goal on water has been met globally, much of this is due to rapid progress in India and China. Progress has been uneven from region to region, and very little has changed for the world’s poorest people.

• Nearly 700 million people in Africa alone don’t have a basic toilet, and over 200 million defecate in the open. Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation and its largest economy – has actually shown worsening trends, with decreasing access and increasing open defecation.

Next month world leaders will travel to the UN International Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss how to finance the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, ahead of their finalising and adoption in New York in September. Access to clean water, basic sanitation and good hygiene, as presently outlined in Goal 6, are critical to the creation of a healthier, more equitable world.

WaterAid has also lobbied for water- and sanitation-related indicators in goals on health, education and gender rights. Sanitation was among the most off-track in the Millennium Development Goals, a mistake that cannot be repeated.

In all goals, careful monitoring and the use of indicators on progress, including whether the poorest are being reached with basic access, whether water is safe and affordable, and whether wastewater is safely treated, will help ensure no one is left behind and governments are held accountable for their promises.

Notes to Editors

• Around 1,400 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.

• More than 650 million people are without safe water, or one in 10 in the world.

• 2.3 billion people are without adequate sanitation, or one in three in the world.

• For the full report see:

• For an interactive, embeddable map of water and sanitation around the world, including projections to 2030, see:


Kirrily Johns, WaterAid Communications Manager: 03 9001 8246 or

About WaterAid

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone, everywhere has safe water, sanitation and hygiene. The international organisation works in developing countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 21 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 18 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit: