Moral Low Ground

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World Meets U.N. Drinking Water Goal Five Years Ahead of Schedule, but 783 Million People Still Lack Access to Safe Water

The world’s nations have achieved a United Nations goal of halving the percentage of people who lack access to safe drinking water.

According to the Associated Press, the world reached the goal five years ahead of schedule. A UNICEF and World Health Organization report confirmed that more than 2 billion people have gained access to safe drinking water in the years 1990- 2010, meaning 89% of the world’s population– some 6.1 billion people– can now drink safe water. That’s 1% more than the 88% goal set by world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000.

783 million people still lack access to safe drinking water. (Photo: Bob Metcalf)

The water target was but one of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which also include halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, guaranteeing that every child in the world has an elementary school education and turning the tide against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. None of those goals have yet been satisfactorily met.

And there are still some 783 million human beings without access to safe drinking water, a situation that greatly contributes to death from diseases.

Still, the news that the world has met the safe water goal ahead of schedule was hailed as a success. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said meeting the goal will help improve the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told the AP that “providing sustainable access to improved drinking water sources is one of the most important things we can do to reduce disease.”

“But this achievement today is only the beginning,” she said in a statement. “We must continue to ensure this access remains safe. Otherwise our gains will be in vain.”

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake told the AP that the news was especially good for children.

“Every day more than 3,000 children die from diarrheal diseases. Achieving this goal will go a long way to saving children’s lives.”

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