Business Day (Johannesburg)

8 November 2006

Africa: World's Poor Still Without Safe Water

Johannesburg — DESPITE increased wealth worldwide, more than 1-billion of the world's poor do not have access to safe water and 2,6-billion do not have adequate sanitation, says the United Nations (UN) Development Programme report.

The report, which will be released worldwide tomorrow, looks at the importance of increasing access to water for citizens and whether that has positive spinoffs to countries' economic growth.

It looks at 175 UN member countries, including the Palestinian territories. The report says 2,6-billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation.

The report highlights the correlation between productivity and access to water, saying this affected most of the world's malnourished people, who are small farmers, labourers and herders.

Releasing the UN 2006 Human Development Report, Kevin Watkin said safe water and sanitation were fundamental to human development.

"When people are deprived of these, they face diminished opportunities to realise their potential as human beings." He said it was hoped that the extensive report would galvanise leaders to address "what amounts to a humanitarian emergency".

The report contains this year's human development index, a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and living standards for countries, which is taken seriously by governments. SA was rated 120 out of 177 countries, behind the Seychelles, Libya and Mauritius, but ahead of other sub-Saharan countries. The top six countries were Norway, Iceland, Australia, Luxembourg, Canada and Sweden. The last three countries were Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Niger.

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