United Nations: Some 2.4 billion people -- one out of every three inhabitants of the planet -- still have no access to sanitation facilities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef said on Tuesday.
Of those, 946 million continue to defecate outdoors, a very problematic practice, because in many places it creates a continuous source of disease and pollutes the water supply.
"Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases," said Maria Neira, director of the WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.
The UN, which refers to adequate sanitation as an entire system that hygienically separates human excrement from the population, set as one of its Millennium Development Goals the reduction by half of the number of people without access to such a system by 2015.
That means that 77 percent of the world population should now have access to sanitation, a goal that will not be met by some 9 percentage points, or 700 million people.
According to Unicef and WHO, the lack of progress in this area also threatens to undermine child survival and the health benefits that were expected to be achieved by improving access to drinking water, another Millennium Development Goal that, in this case, has fortunately been achieved.