The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday in New Delahi that an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world lack access to basic sanitation services, of which 792 million live in India. Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Public Health and the Environment, said that this was as a result of recent report including data from 94 countries to analyse challenges in water systems, sanitation and hygiene.
 
She said more than 1 billion people continue to practice open defecation, while additional 748 million people do not have ready access to an improved source of drinking water. Neira said that serious gaps in funding, especially in rural areas, were holding back progress in providing universal access to water and sanitation. “Water and sanitation are essential to human health, political commitment to ensure universal access to these vital services is at an all-time high.
“International aid for the sector is on the rise, but we continue to see major financial gaps at the country level, particularly in rural areas,” she added.
 
Poonam Singh, WHO Regional Director, said the South-East Asia region, including India was home to a bulk of those who lack access to sanitation facilities. He said there has been improvement over the past two decades, as the proportion of people with access to toilets rose from 25 per cent of the region’s population in 1990 to 45 per cent in 2012. Singh said WHO estimated that in 2012 in the South-East Asia region 123,300 diarrhoea deaths were caused by inadequate sanitation and 131,500 by inadequate hand-washing practices.

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