Clean water and sanitation are human rights. Here are the most important leaps we’ve made towards those goals.
This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.
Water is life. It grows the plants we eat, it keeps animals alive, and it hydrates us. If we go three days without it, we die. And yet, all around the world, people still lack access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, or basic hand-washing facilities in their homes.
Without access to these things, families can become locked in poverty. Hunger and malnutrition are made worse without clean water, and girls are kept out of school as they collect drinking water miles from home, which worsens gender equality. Inadequate sanitation contaminates water supplies, leading to pollution, damaged ecosystems, and disease. Millions of people die every year from preventable diseases because of unclean water; around 297,000 of those deaths are children under five. Worse, climate change is bringing more frequent droughts and floods — threatening to further compound water security threats.
That's why the United Nations has made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation by 2030. So far, there is good news: the proportion of people using safely managed drinking water increased from 61% in 2000 to 71% by 2017. In that same time period, the percentage of people with access to safely managed sanitation increased from 28% to 45%.