Further Facts


At least 1 billion people must walk three hours or more to obtain drinking water.

Child in a neighbourhood of
              Freetown, Sierra Leone

Current best estimates appear to fall between 2 and 5 million deaths per year. Most of those dying from water-related disease are small children

Groundwater can stay polluted for several thousand years.







Disaster comes in many forms.


Dirty water 'kills 1.5m children'

More than 1.5m children under five die each year because they lack access to safe water and proper sanitation, says the United Nations children's agency. In a report, Unicef says that despite some successes, a billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water from protected sources.More than 1.2 billion people have gained access to safe water since 1990.But sub-Saharan Africa remains a major area of concern, especially countries affected by conflict. A Unicef deputy-director, Vanessa Tobin, gave the example of Niger, where only 13% of the population has access to toilets of an acceptable standard, or better.



The number of poor people in Africa increased in the past decade by a third, while falling in India and China. Over 300 million people lack access to clean water and 450 million have inadequate sanitation. And nearly one African child in six dies before the age of five. Increased foreign aid is needed to tackle these problems.


Progress slowed

The UN hopes to halve the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitation by 2015. But progress has slowed due to population increases and unexpectedly high migration to urban areas, say the World Health Organisation and Unicef. The Unicef report says that children's education suffers because they have to walk long distances to fetch water, and that girls especially are deterred by the lack of separate and clean toilets in schools. Diarrhoea-related diseases in young children could be cut by more than a third in young children by improving sanitation facilities, it adds.

Education and livelihoods

443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.

11% more girls attend school when sanitation is available. (DFID)

40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa. (Cosgrove and Rijsberman 1998)

Households in rural Africa spend an average of 26% of their time fetching water, and it is generally women who are burdened with the task. (DFID)