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| Goal 6: Ensure the availability of water and its sustainable management and sanitation for all

While substantial progress has been made in expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation, billions of people (mostly in rural areas) still lack these basic services. Worldwide, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water,  two in five people lack basic facilities to wash their hands with soap and water, and more than 673 million people still defecate in the air.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vital importance of sanitation, hygiene and adequate access to clean water to prevent and contain disease. Hand hygiene saves lives. According to the World Health Organization, hand washing is one of the most effective actions that can be taken to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus. Still, there are billions of people without access to clean water and sanitation, and funds are insufficient.


Response to COVID-19  


Availability and access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are essential to fighting the virus and preserving the health and well-being of millions of people. COVID-19 will not disappear without access to clean water for people living in vulnerable situations, according to United Nations experts.

  The effects of COVID-19 can be considerably more severe for the urban poor who live in the suburbs and do not have access to clean water. UN-Habitat is working with partners to facilitate access to running water and hand washing in informal settings.

UNICEF is urgently asking for funds and help to reach more children with basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, especially those children whose clean water supply is interrupted because they live in remote areas or in places where the water is untreated or contaminated, or because they are homeless and live in a neighborhood or on the street.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is adjusting its WASH services to prevent the spread of the disease. This includes ongoing support to affected, at-risk, weak or fragile countries to ensure WASH services and infection control and prevention in health facilities.

Learn about the work in response to COVID-19 by UN-Water members and partners.


| Notable Data  

  • 3 in 10 people do not have access to safe drinking water services and 6 in 10 do not have access to safely managed sanitation facilities.

  • At least 892 million people continue the unhealthy practice of open defecation.

  • Women and girls are responsible​​ by collecting water in 80% of homes without access to running water.

  • Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the world's population using an improved source of drinking water increased from 76% to 90%.

  • Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world's population and this percentage is expected to increase. More than 1.7 billion people currently live in watersheds where water consumption exceeds recharge.

  • 4 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation services such as toilets or latrines.

  • More than 80% of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or the sea without any treatment, which causes contamination.

  • Every day, around 1000 children die from diarrheal diseases associated with poor hygiene.

  • Approximately 70% of all water extracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation.

  • Floods and other water-related disasters are responsible​​ for 70% of all natural disaster-related deaths

| Goal 6

6.1  By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe drinking water at an affordable price for all

6.2  By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene services for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and people in vulnerable situations

6.3  From here to 2030, improve the quality of water by reducing contamination, eliminating spillage and minimizing the emission of chemical products and hazardous materials, reducing the percentage of wastewater without treatment and considerably increasing the amount of recycled and reuse without world level

6.4  From here to 2030, considerably increase the efficient use of water resources in all sectors and ensure the sustainability of the extraction and supply of fresh water to face the scarcity of water and considerably reduce the number of people who suffer from lack of Water

6.5  By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through cross-border cooperation, as appropriate

6.6  By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including forests, mountains, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

6.a  By 2030, expand international cooperation and support to developing countries for capacity building in activities and programs related to water and sanitation, such as water collection, desalination, efficient use of water resources, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

6.b  Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management

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