Nations off track to bring clean water and decent toilets to all

3 min read
Hector and Jose
Image: WaterAid/ Jordi Ruiz Cirera

One child dies every two minutes from diarrhoea caused by dirty water, poor sanitation and bad hygiene - yet on current progress the world will fail to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 pledge to bring safe water and toilets to everyone, everywhere by 2030.

WaterAid has used United Nations data to predict when each country will complete the job of providing everyone with clean water close to home and a decent toilet – shockingly a significant number of people in 80 countries will still be drinking hazardous water in 2030 and those in 107 countries will still not have a decent toilet to use. It is not possible to calculate when many countries will reach the more exacting standard set by Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Each year that a nation is not able to provide clean water and decent toilets to its entire population is one year in which citizens are denied better health and greater prosperity that having access to clean water brings.

From 6-19 July, world leaders come together at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), to review the progress that has been made on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6).

  • In Papua New Guinea the percentage of the population with access to basic water and a decent toilet is decreasing. Currently only 37% of the population has access to a basic water service within half an hour’s trip from home and only 19% have a decent basic toilet
  • In the Asia Pacific region Cambodia should reach access to basic water by 2032 and toilets by 2036, and Timor-Leste to basic water by 2037 and toilets by 2088

Read our briefing about the high-level political forum on sustainable development here.

Across the world 844 million people still do not have access to clean water close to home which equates to one in nine and 2.3 billion - or 1 in 3 - people still live without adequate sanitation facilities. Without water, decent sanitation and good hygiene, other Sustainable Development Goals, including those on eradicating poverty, gender equality, education, health, reducing inequalities and nutrition, cannot be achieved.

WaterAid calls on governments, donors, financial institutions and the private sector to:

  • prioritise financing for water and sanitation
  • to integrate the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene into strategies for education, health and nutrition.

For every US$1 spent on water and sanitation, on average $4 is returned in economic benefits, according to World Bank estimates.

WaterAid Australia’s Director of Policy and Programs, Tom Muller, said:

“For nations to be years off track in meeting the human right to water and sanitation is shocking. The meeting of ministers at HLPF must result in more than just words of encouragement because we have only 12 years left to keep the promise made to those living without clean water or a decent toilet. Governments must prioritise water, sanitation and hygiene – the basic building blocks of any stable and prosperous community – ensuring proper financing is put in place to build a more sustainable country today and for future generations.

“We are at a critical juncture in the fight to get clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene to every person around the world, so that we can help end the scourge of extreme poverty and create a more sustainable future for all.

“Every day that someone lives without being able to drink clean water, use a toilet that doesn’t pollute their community or wash their hands is a day when their human rights are breached, their futures limited and children put at risk of fatal waterborne diseases.”

Using United Nations JMP data on progress made on providing clean water and a decent toilet between 2000 and 2015 and the numbers of people still waiting to receive these services as listed on, WaterAid has calculated the projected completion date for each country that currently has less than 95% access.