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The number of people with no safe drinking water is shocking

GENEVA — Nearly a third of the world's population does not have access to uncontaminated drinking water and more than half lacks adequate toilet facilities, which increases the risk of diseases, U.N. agencies said on Wednesday.

In a first global report on the global sanitation problem, the World Health Organization and the U.N. Children's Fund acknowledged that billions of people had gained access to basic water and sanitation since 2000.

They pointed out, however, that these services often still do not provide clean water or hygienic disposal of human waste.

There are 2.1 billion people without safe and readily available water supplies and 4.5 billion without safely managed sanitation.

The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, the researchers found.

"Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centers," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Poor sanitation helps to spread diarrheal diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as well as hepatitis and typhoid.

Every year, more than 360,000 children below the age of 5 die of diarrhea.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest lack of safe drinking water. Less than one in four people have access to clean water in this region of the world.

Around the world, 892 million people have to relieve themselves outdoors because they have no toilets.

This problem is especially widespread in Central and Southern Asia, but there are also worrying trends elsewhere.

"Due to population growth, open defecation is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania," the report said.

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