Facts and figures about the UN Millennium Development Goals

In its 2000 Millennium Declaration, the United Nations set 8 goals for development, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals set an ambitious agenda for improving the human condition by 2015.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  • Problems of poverty are inextricably linked with those of water - its availability, proximity, quantity and its quality. Improving the poor’s access to water has the potential to make a major contribution towards poverty eradication.
  • In the early 1990s, nearly 80% of all malnourished children lived in developing countries that produced food surpluses.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

  • Water factors, such as the need to collect domestic water, play a large part in school attendance. Many girls are prevented from attending school because of the lack of separate toilet facilities. In addition, many school days are lost due to illness as a result of water-related factors: improved environmental health is essential increasing school attendance.
  • As well as providing an understanding of the issues surrounding water resources, a good educational base is essential if suitable professionals capable of monitoring and managing water resources are to emerge. In the past 30 years, developing countries have made enormous strides in expanding enrolment at all levels: in 1960, fewer than half of the developing world’s children aged 6 to 11 were enrolled in primary school, compared with 79% today.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

  • Women are most often the collectors, users and managers of water in the household as well as farmers of irrigated and rainfed crops. Because of these roles, women have considerable knowledge about water resources, including quality and reliability, restrictions and acceptable storage methods, and are essential to the success of water resources development and irrigation policies and programmes.
  • On average, women and children travel 10-15 kilometers per day collecting water and carry up to 20 kilos or 15 litres per trip.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

  • Every 8 seconds a child dies from drinking contaminated water (that is 10,000 a day).
  • Malaria is Africa's leading cause of mortality for children under the age of five (20%). This disease kills an African child every 30 seconds.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

  • In developing countries, there is one chance in 48 for mothers to die during childbirth, although many countries have now implemented safe motherhood programmes. Access to safe water and sanitation is essential in reducing the maternal mortality rate.
  • Pregnant women and their unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to malaria, which is a major cause of perinatal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anaemia.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

  • People weakened by HIV/AIDS are likely to suffer the most from the lack of safe water and sanitation, especially since diarrhoea and skin diseases are two of the more common infections.
  • Today, approximately 40% of the world's population, mostly those living in the world's poorest countries, is at risk of malaria.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

  • Drinkable water is becoming increasingly scarce. By the year 2025, as population growth and development drive up water demand, it is predicted that water abstraction will increase by 50% in developing countries and 18% in developed countries. Effects on the world’s ecosystems have the potential to dramatically worsen the present situation, and current assessments suggest that existing practices are not adequate to avert this.
  • Around 50% of the world’s wetlands in 1900 had been lost by the late 1990s, with conversion of land to agriculture being the main cause of loss.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

  • In order to reach the development goals defined in the Millennium Declaration, countries will need to unite their efforts and attend the special needs of those least developed. Achieving the MDG on drinking water supply coverage will represent a major expenditure in all countries, requiring between US$10 billion and $30 billion a year in addition to the amount already being spent.
  • This global partnership between nations will need to focus on dealing with developing countries’ debts in a comprehensive way, through national and international measures, to make the debts sustainable in the long term. During the last decade, many governments, preoccupied by debt and deficit reduction, have significantly reduced their expenditures on environment-related infrastructure and services.

Information from:
[World Water Development Report 'Water for People, Water for Life'
The Millennium Development Goals and Water website from the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)]