A total of 880 million people around the globe do not have access to clean water, while 2.7 billion lack proper sanitation facilities, the Red Cross said Monday.
Climate change, rapid unplanned urbanisation and migration are increasingly having a negative effect on the poorest communities in the world, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in Kuala Lumpur.
Timed to coincide with the March 22 United Nations' World Water Day, the IFRC statement called for more activities regarding water use, sanitation and hygiene.
“The time to act is now,” said Jane Edgar, the group's water, sanitation and hygiene promotion coordinator for South-East Asia.
“Access to clean water, sanitation and health education should not be all about luck, depending on where you were born. It is a human right that should be given to everyone, rich or poor.”
The society estimated that 2.7 billion people, including 980 million children, currently lacked access to proper sanitation facilities.
More than half of the population in the Pacific Islands do not have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation, it said.
According to the IFRC, 50 percent of all hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by patients suffering the consequences of unsafe water and sanitation.
Across Africa and Asia, “women walk an average of six kilometres every day just to collect water”, the statement said.
The IFRC society called on all countries to contribute to its Global Water and Sanitation Initiative, which aims to reach seven million people with vital programmes before 2015.
This year's World Water Day, coordinated by the UN Environment Programme, is dedicated to the theme of water quality.