UN drinking water: some progress, a lot of catching up to do!

Summary of the UNICEF-WHO JMP Report (2020-2022).

Children walking to a nearby river for water in Laos @ADB

The “Progress Report on Drinking Water and Sanitation and Hygiene” is the reference document for monitoring Goal 6 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015-2030. It is a survey of data from as many countries as possible, carried out jointly by WHO and UNICEF under the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP), which is the repository of global data on water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Every three years, the JMP produces a report on progress in this area, publishing reliable data.

The latest report, published on July 6, 2023, shows the progress made in terms of access to water, but also the progress that still needs to be made to achieve the MDGs, while also presenting the challenges that come under MDG 5 on gender equality. This summary follows the same structure as the report, providing an overview of the key data collected and putting them into perspective in relation to the 2030 targets.

Progress to be stepped up…

This report presents updated national, regional and global estimates of household access to water, sanitation and hygiene for the period 2000-2022. Universal and equitable access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN and its member countries.

To reach the targets of MDG 6 by 2030, it will be necessary to multiply by six the current rates of progress for safe drinking water, by five for safe sanitation and by three for the provision of basic hygiene services.

In low-income countries, achieving universal coverage of basic WASH services by 2030 will require a dramatic acceleration in current rates of progress.

…To achieve joint goals

Progress in drinking water, sanitation, health and hygiene is essential to achieving MDG 5, which aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, and this report focuses on gender to reflect this.

Indeed, there are many links between these two SDGs:

  • 1.8 billion people obtain their drinking water from sources outside the home, and in seven out of ten cases, women and girls are primarily responsible for collecting water.
  • In almost all countries with comparable data, the burden of water transport remains significantly heavier for women and girls than for men. The report’s estimate includes collection from both improved and unimproved drinking water sources.
  • More than half a billion people share sanitary facilities and water points with other households. Emerging data shows that among these people, women are more likely than men to feel uncomfortable or unsafe with sanitation facilities, particularly when walking alone after dark.
  • The absence of hand-washing facilities has a greater impact on adolescent girls and women, who are the main carers for children and household chores in many countries around the world.
  • Inadequate water-sanitation-hygiene (WASH) services limit the ability of adolescent girls and women, as well as other menstruating individuals, to manage their periods in safety and privacy.

Drinking water services

Since 2015, managed drinking water coverage has risen from 69% to 73%, from 56% to 62% in rural areas and from 80% to 81% in urban areas.

In 2022, one person in five lacked access to safe, managed drinking water, and this access varied widely around the world.

Some key data:

  • By 2022, 73% of the world’s population will be using safely managed drinking water services, 62% in rural areas and 81% in urban areas.
  • 2.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed drinking water, including 1.5 billion with basic services, 292 million with limited services, 296 million with unimproved services and 115 million with surface water.
  • Estimates of safely managed services are available for 142 countries and six of the eight SDG regions, representing 51% of the world’s population.
  • Achieving universal access to safely managed services by 2030 will require a six-fold increase on current rates of progress (20 times in least developed countries, 19 times in fragile contexts).

Sanitation services

Since 2015, sanitation coverage has risen from 49% to 57%, from 36% to 46% in rural areas and from 60% to 65% in urban areas.

In 2022, two out of every 5 people had no safe access to sanitation, and this access varied widely across the world.Some key data:

  • By 2022, 57% of the world’s population will be using safely managed sanitation services, 46% in rural areas and 65% in urban areas.
  • 3.5 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation services, including 1.9 billion with basic services, 570 million with limited services, 545 million with unimproved services and 419 million practicing open defecation.
  • Estimates of safely managed services were available for 135 countries and seven of the eight SDG regions, representing 86% of the world’s population.
  • Universal access to safely managed services by 2030 will require a five-fold increase on current rates of progress, a 16-fold increase in the least developed countries and a 15-fold increase in fragile contexts.

Hygiene services

Since 2015, coverage of hygiene services has increased from 67% to 75%, rising from 53% to 65% in rural areas, but has remained largely unchanged at 83% in urban areas.

In 2022, one in four people will not have access to basic hygiene services, but four regions do not have sufficient data on the subject.

In 2022, one person in four will lack access to basic hygiene services (some regions do not provide data).

Some key data:

  • By 2022, 75% of the world’s population will be using basic sanitation services, 65% in rural areas and 83% in urban areas.
  • 2 billion people lack basic sanitation services, including 1.3 billion with limited services and 653 million without facilities.
  • Estimates of basic services were available for 84 countries and four of the eight SDG regions, representing 69% of the world’s population.
  • Achieving universal access to basic hygiene services by 2030 will require a three-fold increase on current rates of progress (12-fold in least developed countries and eight-fold in fragile contexts).

Menstrual health and hygiene

53 countries had data for at least one menstrual health indicator in 2022, and three-quarters of these were low- or lower-middle-income countries.

Adolescent girls and women have access to sanitary protection and a private place to wash and change in most parts of the world. However, they do not participate in school, work or social activities during their periods.

Some key data:

  • 53 countries have data for at least one menstrual health indicator in 2022, and three-quarters of them were low-income or lower-middle-income.
  • Adolescents and women living in rural areas are more likely to use reusable menstrual equipment or no equipment at all.
  • Adolescents and women in the poorest wealth quintile and those with material difficulties are more likely to lack a private place to wash and change at home.
  • Many adolescent girls and women do not participate in school, work or social activities during menstruation, but there are significant differences between and within countries.

Where do the study data come from?

This is an important question, as not all countries take the same measurements, and some regions of the world are unable to provide data on specific issues. There is a disparity between countries according to their level of wealth, but also by theme. As a result, there is not the same amount of data available, measurable or accessible in all areas.

Ultimately, there is still a great deal of progress to be made to achieve the goals by 2030.

The UNICEF/WHO JMP Report has the immense merit of existing and indicating what remains to be achieved to reach Goal 6 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) decided by UN member states in 2015. Will the World Summit on the SDGs, to be held in New York on September 18, meet the expectations and proposals of water stakeholders to achieve these goals, without forgetting anyone! To be continued in a future issue of Défis Humanitaires.


This summary presents the main findings of the study, while the full report is available here: https://washdata.org/reports/jmp-2023-wash-households-gender-pullout-launch

Summary by Camille CHAMBON

Global food crisis: will we learn from our mistakes?

An ongoing food crisis in Somalia. EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

Fear. This is the feeling that we, as humanitarian actors, have when faced with the unprecedented global food crisis that is shaking the planet. The situation is clear and the projections are each more frightening than the last.

The number of people in need of food aid is increasing everywhere, even in high-income countries. In 2021, global hunger levels surpassed all previous records, with 828 million people suffering from hunger, 150 million more than in 2019*. The year 2022 is already shaping up to be a new record: it is estimated that just over half a million people will be facing starvation and death by the end of the year**, the equivalent of the entire population of the city of Lyon facing starvation… And it will get worse in the coming years if we don’t act.

Let’s be clear, humanitarian organisations are struggling to meet these growing needs, especially as assistance is becoming increasingly expensive to implement, whether because of the increase in the price of food or the price of oil to transport it. Faced with this situation, our NGO, like other organisations, tries to adapt by, for example, composing the food baskets distributed with less expensive foodstuffs. But sometimes no alternative is possible. Humanitarian actors are then unfortunately obliged to reduce the number of people benefiting from their actions. Richard Ragan, the director of the World Food Programme in Yemen, described the situation in the country in an interview with Reuters: “We are taking food from the poor to feed the hungry”.

So what can we do to get out of the vicious circle in which we have been stuck for so many years? 

We have come to this point through a combination of crises: intense droughts, endemic poverty, armed conflict, and flash floods have slowly combined to endanger entire populations. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted food systems around the world, leading to widespread increases in food prices. The war in Ukraine has only exacerbated this situation. Disruptions in the supply chains of grain, fertilisers and oil have led to speculation and price hikes. In practice, people are losing purchasing power for food, while farmers are struggling to produce the food they need.


EU humanitarian funds are helping to provide food aid to families still suffering the effects of Cyclone Idai, one year after it made landfall in Beira. 2020 European Union

It is therefore a question of rethinking agriculture and food practices.

Julie Mayans, Head of Food Security and Livelihoods at SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, explains: “For a long time now, many economists and environmental specialists have agreed, for different but complementary reasons, that the way the world grows, markets and consumes food is not sustainable in the long term. We need to reappropriate local food, not consume too much meat or dairy products, fight against food waste, diversify agricultural production and develop these sectors locally, use organic fertilisers, set up less energy-consuming irrigation systems, etc. These sustainable solutions exist and are known. It is frustrating to see that they are rarely implemented, even though they prevent food insecurity and famine!

At SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, we train farmers in the production and use of biopesticides and compost in the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Myanmar and Venezuela. We also help fishermen to better process, preserve and market their fish locally in Bangladesh and South Sudan. In addition to enabling more sustainable agriculture, these solutions help combat climate change, which is a major factor in the current crisis.

But these projects often require a certain financial investment and, above all, a real desire to change our fundamentals. They are therefore preferred to the perpetuation of current systems, which are disastrous in the long term. Governments must rethink their agricultural policies and must aim to achieve food sovereignty***. We can see it clearly today, food is globally available but prices are going crazy and it is the weakest who are still paying the price.

We are playing with fire. The world has shown its fragility and people are paying with their lives for the consequences of this crisis. After an unprecedented peak in grain prices in May, the trend is downwards. However, this lull is misleading because it does not change the underlying problem. It should not be used as an excuse for inaction, as it risks perpetuating a dangerous global food system.

It is time to act, together. Food is a right for everyone.


Antoine Peigney, President de SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL


*State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 Report (SOFI) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 | FAO | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

**According to the projections of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) in its IPC (Integrated Food Security Classification Framework), which allows for the development of scenarios of the number of food insecure people in the world.

***Food Sovereignty is “the right of people and countries to determine their own food and agricultural policies, which must be ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate” (World Food Summit in Rome, 2002).

Full article published on Solidarités International. 

Registration for the Talk Humanitaire 1st edition (6 December 2022): “Global food crisis: will we learn from our mistakes ? ” 

Antoine Peigney


President of Solidarités International, Antoine Peigney has also been director of the health department of Expertise France since early July 2017. He was previously the Director of International Relations and Operations at the French Red Cross from 2002 to 2016. He is a graduate of the Bioforce-Développement school in Lyon (where he was a member of the Board of Directors for 14 years, until the end of the year). A for 14 years, until 2016), Antoine Peigney carried out several humanitarian missions between 1989 and 1994: in Romania, Lebanon, Bosnia (SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL), South Sudan (Action Contre la Faim), Ethiopia (Médecins du Monde), Somalia (ACF), Mauritania (MDM), Serbia and Kosovo (Secours populaire français), Angola (Terre des Hommes) and Haiti (France 2 programme “les ailes de l’espoir”).