The United Nations has already met one of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) ahead of the 2015 deadline: access to safe drinking water. This was one of the 21 sub-goals or “targets” folded into the eight larger goals: eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; achievement of universal primary education; promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women; reduction of child mortality rates; improvement of maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and undertaking a global partnership for development. The MDGs were agreed upon in the Millennium Declaration circa September 2000.
The specific MDG target achieved is worded as follows in the Declaration, relative to the base year of 1990: “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” According to a report from the World Health Organization and the UN Children’s Fund, 89 percent of the world’s population had access to improved water sources at the conclusion of 2010, up from 76 percent in 1990—exceeding the goal of 88 percent. A BBC article also notes that although an estimated 800 million people worldwide still drink dirty and unsafe water, in the past 20 years two billion people have accessed improved drinking supplies—a feat that should be celebrated.
The drinking water access, however, has improved unevenly: of the 11 percent in the world’s population without access to safe drinking water, 40 percent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.