A global action plan under G8 leadership is urgently needed to resolve a growing water and sanitation crisis that causes nearly 2 million child deaths every year, according to the 2006 Human Development Report released on Thursday in Cape Town.
The report launching ceremony was attended by South African President Thabo Mbeki and Kemal Dervis, administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
It said that 1.1 billion people do not have access to water, and 2.6 billion lack access to sanitation, thus delivering clean water, removing waste water, and providing sanitation are three of the most basic foundations for human progress.
Across much of the developing world, unclean water is an immeasurably greater threat to human security than violent conflicts, said the report entitled Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis.
According to the report, 1.8 million children each year die from diarrhoea that could be prevented with access to clean water and a toilet. About 443 million school days are lost to water- related illnesses and almost 50 percent of all people in developing countries are suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by the lack of water and sanitation.
To add to these human costs, the report said, the crisis in water and sanitation holds back economic growth, with sub-Saharan Africa losing five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) annually, far more than what the region receives in aid.
Yet unlike wars and natural disasters, this global crisis does not galvanize concerted international actions, the report note.
Kevin Watkins, lead author of the report, said, "National governments need to draw up credible plans and strategies for tackling the crisis in water and sanitation. But we also need a Global Action Plan with active buy-in from the G8 countries to focus fragmented international efforts to mobilize resources and galvanize political action by putting water and sanitation front and center on the development agenda."
"I fully support the call for a Global Action Plan to tackle the growing water and sanitation crisis," said UNDP Administrator Dervis.